Some teams across the National Hockey League have been quite impatient with the Pittsburgh Penguins and general manager Jim Rutherford, who has been mastering the trade market in the past seasons as his club managed to win consecutive Stanley Cups in 2016 and 2017 with great rosters. It seems like Rutherford always finds a way to fill holes on his lineup, and his new target would be able to boost the Pens' offense down the middle. However, Pittsburgh is not the only team looking to land the coveted forward.
According to NHL insider Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet, the Canadiens and the Wild are both interested in acquiring Florida Panthers' Nick Bjugstad. The Athletic's Nick Kelly also believes the Penguins have become a suitor for Bjugstad and the Panthers could choose to make a move sooner rather than later.
Bjugstad’s agent, Ben Hankinson, joined KFAN on Sunday and Michael Russo that Montreal and Pittsburgh have looked at Bjugstad at points and that the Wild “have always been in the mix.”
The right time for the Panthers to try and move him is now as the veteran centre tallied 19 goals – second-best in his career only to his 24 in 2014-15 – and a career-high 49 points, which have increased his trade value on the market.
Bjugstad’s $4.1 million per year against the cap, with three years remaining on his current deal, could be easily absorbed by both the Wild and the Habs, who could surely benefit from the addition of a large centreman. It however could be the Penguins' downfall... And since Bjugstad has become so popular, the price has been raised.
“No player is untouchable,” Hankinson said. “If he gets the right deal, don’t get me wrong — he’s trading Nick Bjugstad. But the price has gone up.”
There might be another hurdle for the Penguins, as Bjugstad has mentioned he would like to play for his childhood team, the Wild. The veteran player is however happy with the Panthers and is not pushing to be placed on the block.
“I just know that right now down in Florida there are some good things happening,” Bjugstad said. “I would love to continue to be part of that future.”
The future might be different in the end though... Rutherford has always found a way to get what he wants.