The moves keep on rolling in Pittsburgh. There was an important signing on Tuesday that appears to have changed the game when it comes to the Penguins' trade plans. Josh Yohe of The Athletic notes the Penguins’ re-signing of forward Bryan Rust yesterday to a four-year, $14-million contract leaves them with just over $4 million in salary-cap space.
A plan has been set in motion, as general manager Jim Rutherford will likely re-sign center Riley Sheahan and defenseman Jamie Oleksiak, while he is hoping to add another forward and defenseman to his roster. Yohe lists winger Conor Sheary ($3 million annually), defenseman Matt Hunwick ($2.25 million), winger Carl Hagelin ($4 million) and center Derick Brassard ($5 million cap hit, $3.5 million in actual salary) as potential trade candidates for this summer.
And it seems that the Pens have managed to move TWO of these targets as Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman and TSN's Darren Dreger reveal that the Penguins and Buffalo Sabres have completed a trade. Sheary and Hunwick have been moved to the Sabres in return for a pick.
As confirmed by Bob McKenzie, the Pens gets a conditional fourth round pick in the 2019 NHL draft in return. Pittsburgh makes a clean salary dump in the moves.
The Penguins have been actively working the phones to find some interest for their trade candidates. Now that Sheary and Hunwick have been moved, Brassard is expected to also attract interest. There’s a market for quality centers and Brassard might be the next best thing once things settle on John Tavares and Paul Statsny on the unrestricted free agent market.
Pittsburgh is looking to dump salary to be able to sign a veteran defenseman. There was recent chatter that unrestricted free agent defenseman and Crosby's old friend Jack Johnson was gathering loads of interest in the office of Rutherford.
Johnson requested a trade this season from the Columbus Blue Jackets as he looked to move to a team to better his future as a veteran blue liner in the NHL, for his financial situation and his family's needs. The Jackets ended up holding on to the defensive defender and there seems to be little doubt he will sign elsewhere on the opening of free agency on July 1st. The plan might be to offer Johnson a short-term deal in hopes of improving his value and image after sitting out all six of the team’s playoff games. The Penguins are known to be great remedy for defensemen who has been known to struggle. Mackey points out the evolution of players like Justin Schultz and Oleksiak with the Pens, and how it might work as well for a blue liner like Johnson.