Trade Bait: Are Pittsburgh Penguins Trying to Move Plotnikov?


With only a week before the trade deadline, rumors are running wild about who will be moved and who won’t. The Pittsburgh Penguins have been mostly removed from those rumors, but there are some guys you just have to expect they’re shopping. Like Sergei Plotnikov.

The trade deadline is Monday, February 29th, at 3 pm Eastern time. Several trades of major magnitude have already happened, like the Dion Phaneuf marquee move. Rumors are flying faster than a Shea Weber slapshot.

For the most part, the Pittsburgh Penguins have been under the radar. General manager Jim Rutherford made a lot of moves in the offseason and early on this year, picking up players like Phil Kessel, Carl Hagelin, and Trevor Daley, so he might be done unless a great opportunity presents itself.

Still, the Penguins are carrying a lot of deadweight right now. Head coach Mike Sullivan has stuck with the same lineup for quite some time, leaving the same players on the outside looking in.

Ian Cole, acquired at the last trade deadline in exchange for Robert Bortuzzo, is one of those. Another is forward Sergei Plotnikov. It’s reasonable to think that Rutherford is shopping players like these, even if it’s not making news.

It’s a problem the Penguins – and every NHL team – have encountered repeatedly over the years. They have players who aren’t being effective and want to get rid of them, but no one else wants to take them.

Of course, that’s how a lot of Penguins fans felt about Rob Scuderi, and Rutherford adeptly got rid of him. Scuderi is languishing in Rockford right now with the Chicago Blackhawks‘ AHL affiliate, where he hasn’t exactly made a big impact either. It could always happen again.

Related Story: Pittsburgh Penguins, Trevor Daley, and the Scuderi Deal

There were high hopes for Plotnikov coming into the season. Though a rookie in the NHL, he played several seasons in the KHL, most recently for Yaroslavl Lokomotiv. He won a gold medal with Russia in the 2014 World Championship, finishing the tournament third in scoring.

I saw him at one of the pre-season open practices, and he looked great. He had chemistry with his countryman Evgeni Malkin, and scored some beautiful goals in a scrimmage. I was very excited to see what he could do.

Unfortunately, that hasn’t been much. Playing in the NHL is a major adjustment for any player, whether they’re kids straight out of juniors or coming in from an international professional league.

In the 32 games Plotnikov played this season for the Penguins, he posted two assists and 20 penalty minutes. Even for a fourth-line player, that isn’t good. It’s no wonder he’s found himself watching his team from the press box for a while.

It is important to note that Plotnikov’s contract is two-way, meaning he could easily be sent down to play for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. If the Penguins were looking to keep him around, sending him down to actually play and develop would make sense.

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Especially with the number of Baby Pens on Pittsburgh’s roster right now who are actually playing and producing, there would be plenty of room for him in WBS.

Instead, the Penguins have kept him up as a perennial healthy scratch. That way, they can still watch his play in practice and make it easier to slot him in if need be. It also makes it easier for the front office to gauge when his time’s up – something I’m sure they’re scrutinizing now more than ever before.

Plotnikov is a restricted free agent at the end of the season, so if he was traded it would have to be to a team that actually believes in his talent – or, if not quite so faithful in his skill, are at least desperate enough to pick up a large, physical forward and see what he can do.

To me, keeping Plotnikov up in Pittsburgh means the Penguins are at least exploring their trade options with him. If he can’t even fit into the lineup when it’s depleted, then it’s unlikely he’ll ever find a spot here.