Pittsburgh Penguins: Early Trade Deadline Possibilities

Jan 23, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; General view of snow on the Mario Lemieux statue outside before the Pittsburgh Penguins host the Vancouver Canucks at the CONSOL Energy Center. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 23, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; General view of snow on the Mario Lemieux statue outside before the Pittsburgh Penguins host the Vancouver Canucks at the CONSOL Energy Center. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

With the NHL trade deadline only three weeks away, what are some potential moves the Pittsburgh Penguins could make to improve their team?

Now that we are past the NHL All-Star break, it is time to turn our attention to the trade deadline. Between now and February 29th, teams are going to be evaluating talent and determining if they will be buyers or sellers. Let’s take a look at who the Pittsburgh Penguins could possibly pursue.

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The Pens certainly appear to be ready to move as the trade deadline nears. The team sits fourth in the Metropolitan Division with 59 points. However, they are only 4 points behind the second-place New York Rangers, and only four points ahead of the seventh-place Philadelphia Flyers.

Unfortunately, the Penguins’ cap situation dictates that they cannot only be buyers at the deadline. According to generalfanager.com, the Pens only have about $1,660,000 in cap space.

Team Needs

The Penguins are currently very weak in their bottom six. While Eric Fehr and Nick Bonino are out for extended time with injuries, the team has struggled to replace them.

The current bottom six, featuring newcomer Oskar Sundqvist, has only accounted for a combined 10 points this season. While not everyone has had ample playing time, that still makes the team precariously top-heavy as the playoffs approach.

I think a bottom-six forward would be critical for the Penguins success. Even once the injured Fehr and Bonino return, the play on the wings needs to improve to balance the scoring threat throughout the team.

Possible Targets

Andrew Ladd – LW – Winnipeg

Ladd would be a big acquisition for the Penguins, and his days in Winnipeg may be near an end. James Mirtle, a Hockey Analyst with TSN, tweeted that the Jets’ extension of Dustin Byfuglien likely means they will trade Ladd.

The Penguins would have to pick up what is left of Ladd’s $4,500,000 salary, which could be tough, and he’d require more to get. Maybe a combination of picks and the teams younger talent would get it done, but there will be competition.

Ladd’s 13G 17A slash would be very beneficial for depth offense, but he would be a rental that could complicate the Pens’ cap issues. However, Winnipeg has the most cap space in the NHL, so the Pens could get more creative to get a deal done.

Nino Niederreiter – RW – Minnesota

Unlike Ladd, Niederreiter would not be just a rental for the Pens. He is also under control for next season at just under $2,670,000. This makes him a better target for the Penguins, but also more expensive in terms of what they give up.

Niederreiter has a 9G-15A line, so he has good offensive value for the third line. Minnesota is also enduring a rough season and is near the cap too, so they may be looking to shake up their roster.

Minnesota’s poor results and cap situation may mean they are open to getting the Penguins young players or draft picks. Trading the future hasn’t always worked for the Pens, but they might not have an option, as much of their top six is too expensive to trade.

Linden Vey – RW – Vancouver

Vancouver is in the middle of a disappointing .500 season and finds themselves out of the playoffs and up against the cap. They could be looking to build with picks in order to save money.

Vey is a restricted free agent after this year, but is much more affordable with only a $1,000,000 salary. His 2G-6A may not jump off the page, but that’s nearly as many points as the Pens entire bottom six.

Vey also has a very good rate of assists per 60 minutes at 1.37. This could prove beneficial when Pittsburgh’s more talented centers return from injury.

Next: Should the Penguins Trade Crosby or Malkin?

The Penguins have been playing much better in recent weeks, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be active at the trade deadline. The team is still in a precarious situation in the standings and any edge to improve the Penguins should be taken.

Things will continue to develop over the next three weeks. Teams that continue to struggle may decide to sell, which will put more interesting names on the block.

The suggestions in this article are simply a combination of what the Penguins need and which teams are in a situation to send them to Pittsburgh.

As the trade deadline looms closer, some of these storylines may develop further. In the meantime, comment below with any players you would like to see join the Penguins, or ones you want traded away.