With the NHL season a little more than two months away, the Pittsburgh Penguins are still without the proper depth at center.
Nick Bonino left for Nashville, Oskar Sundqvist was traded for Ryan Reaves and Matt Cullen still hasn’t made a decision about his possible return to the league. And the Pittsburgh Penguins offseason has not made centers a priority, leaving the team with a large gap up the middle of the ice.
Thankfully, a high-quality option may still be available to GM Jim Rutherford and the Penguins as the team gears up for a run at a third-consecutive Stanley Cup: Leon Draisaitl
The 21-year-old forward from Germany is coming off a superb season with the Edmonton Oilers. Playing in all 82 games, Draisaitl tallied 29 goals and 48 assists for a total of 77 points. His scoring touch was second only to that of superstar Connor McDavid.
Acquiring Draisaitl would also represent a major upgrade over both Bonino and Cullen.
According to Own The Puck’s HERO Charts, Draisaitl would represent an upgrade over last year’s centers in every facet: goals, shots generated, shots suppressed, etc.
Draisaitl is clearly an elite player with substantial durability. The question then becomes why haven’t the Penguins already grabbed him?
Draisaitl is a restricted free agent.
That right there is enough for many to close the books on him. There has long been an unspoken code amongst NHL GMs that young RFAs are practically untouchable. Only one offer sheet hasn’t been matched in the last 20 years. Plus, the Penguins have less than $4 million to work with at the moment.
But the Oilers are somewhat ham stringed but the mammoth contract they just awarded McDavid. With an AAV of $12.5 million, the Oilers will find themselves unable to keep promising youngsters like Draisaitl around for long. If the Penguins pushed their limits, they may be able to make a run at him.
I will admit that this deal is a long-shot for Pittsburgh. Draisaitl is a promising young stud that the Oilers will work hard to keep. But with the season rapidly approaching, long-shots might be the Penguin’s best shot for finding depth at center.