The NHL trade deadline is approaching ever so quickly, and while the Pittsburgh Penguins have already made some mid season adjustments, and it seems Jim Rutherford and company are looking to make even a bigger splash.
On Friday, Elliotte Friedman reported that the Pittsburgh Penguins were serious about acquiring Jean-Gabriel Pageau of the Ottawa Senators.
Remember back in December, when Ottawa said they were asking the entire squad to give them their trade lists? Well we were on Pageau then, and it looks like GMJR finally read my emails/listened to my voicemails/ saw my smoke signals.
It’s no surprise that the dumpster fire that is the Ottawa Senators would be looking to move some pieces around. They currently sit 29th in the NHL with a gentleman’s 39 points.
As for the Penguins, they are still battling for their playoff hopes in the uber tight Metro division. A new third line center would add depth and help solidify a lineup that has been trying different forward combinations with varying success.
Pageau makes sense for the Pittsburgh Penguins. Maybe he could fill that ‘Nick Bonino shaped hole’ in the team’s third line heart.
The right hander owns a respectable 53.1 face-off percentage, and leads all Ottawa forwards with 78 hits. He’s also managed to rack up 15 points while playing on a bad hockey team.
He’s not a big body, an honest 5’10”, 184 pounds. CapFriendly has his contract carrying a 3.1 million dollar cap hit, which isn’t too absurd for a ballpark 35 point guy.
An element of this scenario that is being overlooked is that the Penguins are playing well right now. If it ain’t broke, don’t try and fix it, right? The Pens are 7 – 3 in their last 10 and have seemingly been sparked by young guns like Dominik Simon and JS Dea. So while the addition of a legitimate third line center is enticing, it has to make sense to keep the club afloat in the long run.
It’s unclear what the market value for Pageau is. Ottawa fans love him, and he is an effective third line/ penalty kill guy. The Penguins would probably have to include a decent roster player or some combination of picks to get him out of Ottawa’s clutches.
With limited cap space, they would have to unload some salary. Ian Cole has been in the doghouse, and is not being utilized by the Pittsburgh Penguins coaching staff. He also has a cap hit of 2.1 million dollars. Getting rid of Matt Hunwick (2.25 mil) would be a dream, as his mediocre play has done nothing to butter my biscuit all season.
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But Ottawa doesn’t want Ian Cole. They definitely have no use for Hunwick. They are looking to rebuild, so youth is the name of the game. The Pen’s well of draft picks hasn’t been entirely drained just yet, so there are some to offer.
Simon and Dea have been solid, but their names don’t carry the weight to obtain a roster player like Pageau. I don’t want to imagine a world where Bryan Rust isn’t a Penguin, so let’s just cut that malarkey in its tracks. Carl Hagelin has reemerged on a line with Evgeni Malkin and is probably too old for Ottawa anyway.
But Conor Sheary is an interesting player.
Sheary for Pageau?
William Faulkner said, “In writing, you must kill all your darlings.”
Luckily in hockey, you just have to trade them. Or waive them. Or expose them to a expansion draft. (Still feels too soon to make Flower jokes, btw).
Conor Sheary has a contract very similar to Pageau’s in length and worth. His playing style contrasts Pageau’s greatly, but Ottawa ranks 29th in the NHL in total goals scored. They are looking for guys to net some rubber.
#43 also has experience playing with superstar talent, and flourished playing with Sidney Crosby in the past. Perhaps Sheary could slide into a spot on the side of Matt Duchene and help the former Colorado all-star find his mojo.
But I Like Conor Sheary
Hey, I do too!
Sid has played with a rotating cast of wingers all season. Simon has stuck the longest with success, and that kid is just happy to be here. Losing Sheary seems like it could be a scary blow, but it would not decimate the Pittsburgh Penguins offense. Sheary needs Sid a lot more than vice versa.
According to Natural Stat Trick, in 2016-2017, Sheary was assisted by, assisted for, or assisted with Sidney Crosby on 34 of his total 53 points. He and Jake Guentzel formed a killer duo flanking #87. I mean Sid and the Kids line was becoming household Pittsburgh jargon. It was the best of times.
This season, Sheary hasn’t found a consistent home riding shotgun with Sid, and has only reistered a disappointing 19 points in 50 games played.
If it comes down to it, and the Pens could swap Pageau for Sheary straight up, I say pull the trigger. The depth Pageau would offer at the center position would outweigh Sheary’s streaky scoring ability.
But as we mentioned before, this Pittsburgh Penguins team is playing at a higher level than we’ve seen all year. If weeks pass, and the Pens have jumped some teams in the standings and look fine approaching the deadline, they shouldn’t force a move. All in all, whatever Jim Rutherford decides to do will probably be the right answer. He’s Jim Rutherford after all.