Pittsburgh Penguins Offseason Trade Ramblings: Who Can Bring the Best Return?


As the Pittsburgh Penguins begin an offseason of uncertainty, one thing remains clear. In order to properly add speed, skill, and depth they will need to clear cap space. They can achieve this in a few different ways this summer, whether it be trades or buyouts. But, it’s clearly top priority.

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When General Manager Jim Rutherford addressed the media yesterday he admitted that adding a top-six forward will likely require a trade. He spoke about an unimpressive free agent class and he’s 100% correct in that assessment. There are a few names out there that would be great fits for Pittsburgh. But, when a free agent class is lacking a lot of top-end skill, prices go up. Guys like Drew Stafford, who would be a great pickup for the Pittsburgh Penguins will get overpaid.

That is why a trade is all but guaranteed, and may mean multiple players on the move. What assets do the Pittsburgh Penguins have?

The obvious choices that you’d like to clear from the books are Rob Scuderi and Chris Kunitz. Scuderi will likely be a buyout this summer despite the cap hit they’ll suffer in doing so (1.29m and 1.79m over the next two seasons). But, Chris Kunitz is simply too expensive to buyout and add to that dead money, and there won’t be much of a market for a 34 year-old wing with his salary.

That brings us to Brandon Sutter.

Sutter is a bit of a fan favorite in Pittsburgh, so when his name is brought up in trade talk everyone sigh’s and cites his 21 goals as a third-line center. While his goal total is nothing to shake a stick at, he has been streaky in scoring and a liability defensively.  Consider that four of Sutter’s goals were short-handed, and while that’s impressive, it isn’t common.  Two more of his 21 came in the last game of the season against the NHL’s worst franchise, the Buffalo Sabres.

The greatest asset Sutter has is his ability to score in big games. He proved that again this post season. NHL General Managers tend to put a lot of stock in short-term success and small sample sizes. So, given Sutter’s 21-goal season and strong play in the playoffs, he’s clearly your best bet for a solid return in a transaction this summer.

Also, consider that you already have Nick Spaling signed for $2.2 million and he’s a very capable face off guy. He can center your third line, and given that you can add top-six talent in a deal to play wing, you’re likely looking at a third line of Chris Kunitz, Nick Spaling, and Pascal Dupuis. Not too shabby, right?

A better-case scenario would be Oskar Sundqvist anchoring that line. But, that of course depends on his development and ability to adjust to North American hockey.

In a perfect world, you wouldn’t have third line wingers that occupy $7.6 million in cap space. The Pittsburgh Penguins, however, are stuck in a bind with contracts handed out by Ray Shero and his team. The great thing is that you have young forwards like Kasperi Kapanen and Oskar Sundqvist that will hopefully contribute in a big way for little money. Pittsburgh is also fortunate to have a smorgasbord of young, talented defensemen that will give them a suitable defensive corps with multiple entry-level contracts.

Whatever happens, it will be fun to watch.  We’ll be sure to keep you updated with news and analysis on the trade front throughout the entire summer.

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