Since trade chatter started to get really loud, and that only weeks into the 2017-18 season, the Pittsburgh Penguins seemed to be in the middle of all rumors. The defending champions did not complete the first half of the campaign as everyone expected them to, and now, with just over a month to go before the trade deadline, many experts wonder what blockbuster move GM Jim Rutherford will pull, to push his team into playoff contention and become, once again, Stanley Cup champions.
And you've heard the rumors! The one that shook Pens fans to the core involve star defenseman Kris Letang, who was said to be available for a trade on several occasions. The blue liner, who has struggled with his health once again this year, was rumoured to be on the move to land help up front, or even at some point another goalie, and the Penguins needed to address the speculation that made many rival teams pick up the phone and get in touch with Rutherford.
Once the rumors were put to rest, fans noticed how the Pens still needed to fight for a playoff spot. Pittsburgh currently sits in the last Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference with 47 points, but the Carolina Hurricanes are surely putting pressure to steal that spot with 46 points. The Hockey News podcast discussed the possibility of another monster move by Rutherford to allow his team to three-peat in the summer, but they soon came to the conclusion that the aggressive general manager might surprise everyone this time around...
"A team that knows how to win"
While Rutherford is known to be ready to pull major moves, Ken Campbell does not believe one is in the works in Pittsburgh. The team has won three of their last four games, after a rough start to the season with the players admitting they were tired. So now, after the Holiday break, and the All-Star one coming up, Campbell believes the Pens are going to rely on what they already have.
"Malkin is being Malkin, Crosby's starting to be Crosby, Letang isn't minus 5 every game, he is staring to be a plus player and he has come around; you basically put your faith in what you have. I don't think they're going go out and get another goalie at the deadline, to me, this is a team that knows how to win, that knows exactly what it takes, and this is a team that you can say: all they have to do is get in."
Can't go on and mortgage the future
Rutherford was able to build, for two seasons in a row, a championship team by making major moves that have brought, for example, Phil Kessel and Patric Hornqvist to the club. But, several important pieces to build a strong future have been lost in the making of this championship team, and fortunately for the GM, it has worked.
But how much longer can you mortgage the future to win another championship now? Ryan Kennedy wonders if the Pens are willing, once again, to trade future assets, to push for a third consecutive championship.
"If you wanted to rebuild bolster up in the middle, what are you giving up in return? Because right now, Pittsburgh has a really thin system, and with good reasons, they've been too busy winning Stanley Cups, so you mortgage the future for the present, you get Cups, and that's why you do it. But you can't do it forever!"
Bet on Sprong and young kids?
Daniel Sprong is proving to be a good fit with Penguins in early stages of call-up. In five games, he has recorded two goals and three points, and is showing that the Pens can count on him for games to come. Why not trust the younger players to bring the added support for a third Stanley Cup run?
"Maybe that's the addition we are talking about," Campbell added after Kennedy explained Sprong's success so far with the Pens.
The Hockey Team crew strongly believes that if the Penguins can make the playoff, they will find a way to head to the finals. They will need to beware of the Tampa Bay Lightning, but they could manage to shock everyone, especially the Washington Capitals, who cannot seem to beat Pittsburgh in the postseason.
They might add some depth, but Rutherford might be done making monster moves...