As the Pittsburgh Penguins head into the home stretch of the regular season, all eyes are on General Manager Jim Rutherford to swing a trade or two to bolster his team and set them up for postseason success.
A few names have been thrown around as possible trade bait, but one that consistently gets included is that of veteran defenseman Paul Martin.
According to Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, however, no such trade is on the horizon.
Per Mackey, Rutherford stated very clearly that he believes Martin is too important for this team, and thus will keep him in black and gold.
“I have absolutely no interest in trading him,” Rutherford told Mackey. “I am not pursuing a conversation with anyone.”
Martin has certainly been reliable on the back end this season.
Through 52 games, the blue-liner has posted 12 points while ranking as a +17.
As pointed out by Mackey, he also leads all Pittsburgh defenders with a GA/60 of 1.53 (a measure of how many goals are allowed through 60 minutes of play while said player is on the ice).
Martin’s 1.53 also ranks fifth among all NHL defensemen.
With Martin staying put, the Pens defensive pairings remain fairly fixed.
Kris Letang has formed an elite duo with Martin, meaning the pair will most likely remain together through the rest of the regular season and playoffs.
With Rob Scuderi and Simon Despres also looking set to remain together, head coach Mike Johnston will be forced to make some tough decisions regarding who stays and who goes once Christian Ehrhoff returns to action.
Also crucial in the news of Martin staying put in Pittsburgh is the fact that his salary is staying put as well.
Martin’s annual cap hit sits at $5 million, making him the second-highest-paid defender behind Letang, and the fifth-highest-paid Penguin.
If the Pens hoped to make a meaningful move at the deadline, Martin’s $5 million looked like the best bet to shed enough salary to fit in a quality player.
With him seemingly locked in, the only other viable options would be Ehrhoff’s or Scuderi’s own $4 million cap hits.
However, both seem unlikely to be moved. Scuderi has provided defense-first steadiness on the back end, and Ehrhoff remains one of the Pens’ only true top-four defenders.
That being the case, it seems that unless Rutherford is willing to gamble on destabilizing his defensive corps right before the postseason, it’s unlikely Pittsburgh makes a play for a big name at the deadline.
With the financial situation looking as it currently does, the Pens simply would not have room to accommodate any player worth moving assets to acquire.