The Pittsburgh Penguins faithful are anxiously awaiting some type of news regarding the team’s roster. The plan is now in place, as Jim Rutherford recently did an interview with Bob Pompeani of KDKA following his staff meeting and was pretty candid in his answers.
He again referenced the less-than-optimal free agent class this summer. But, when asked about Brandon Saad, a restricted free agent for the Chicago Blackhawks, he gave a fairly political answer and didn’t really tip his hat to what he’s thinking in that regard. There have also been multiple articles surrounding the possibility of Saad to Pittsburgh around the web.
Realistically, Brandon Saad will be a Chicago Blackhawk for many years to come. Chicago has cap issues this summer, but they’ll do anything possible to keep Saad around. Whether that means trading Patrick Sharp remains to be seen, but either way, they aren’t letting Saad escape the windy city.
Another name that has come up recently is Vladimir Tarasenko. Tarasenko had quite a season in 2014-15 while netting 37 goals and 73 total points in 77 games. Unfortunately for Pittsburgh Penguins fans and anyone outside of St. Louis, this is another name that won’t be leaving his current home. Prying RFA’s from their respective teams is very rare in this league, especially when it comes to players of this caliber.
There are some names out there in RFA land that the Pittsburgh Penguins could potentially land with a trade, however. I’ve discussed Mikkel Boedker at length already, but another name is Jonathan Huberdeau. Via Sportsnet.
Aside from his team-leading 54 points, he also boasted a 52.1 5v5 corsi-for percentage. A knock on the young forward has been his ability to play a two-way game, but his possession numbers show otherwise. He may not be the best back-checking forward in the league, but if you’re spending the majority of your shift in the opponents end you don’t have to be. Huberdeau is also very versatile and could likely fit on either wing.
If it’s true that the Panthers believe they’re very close to being contenders, a playoff performer like Brandon Sutter could be an attractive piece of a package that acquires Huberdeau. But, acquiring a young forward of this caliber won’t be easy, and there will be plenty of competition from other organizations vying for his services.
While there are numerous RFA’s that would look great wearing a Pens sweater next season, all of these options are long shots, including Huberdeau. As I mentioned previously, RFA’s of this caliber aren’t moved very often.
I believe that the most likely scenario for this summer is a package that includes Sutter and Beau Bennett‘s rights in exchange for a top-six wing. There may be other pieces involved of course. And, not to be a downer, but the acquisition likely won’t be a “sexy” or high-profile move. I’d imagine the biggest name you’ll hear rumblings of is Patrick Sharp, but taking on Sutter’s $3.3 million won’t be easy for Chicago considering that Sharp will be moved to free up cap space. The Pens don’t really have anything else that fits what the Blackhawks need.
It’s been reported that Pavel Datsyuk wants to move to wing at this point in his career. If that’s the case the Red Wings may be in the market for a center. Though unlikely, If there’s any possibility that they are willing to move Tomas Tatar to acquire a center, Rutherford should be willing to do anything possible outside of breaking up the core to snag him. He played very well alongside Datsyuk this past season and would surely improve the Pittsburgh Penguins top-six.
The Stanley Cup Finals kick off tonight, which means that we’re a mere two weeks away from the buyout period. Once the trophy is handed to it’s deserving captain, look for the rumor mills to start flooding and player movements to begin.