With the NHL’s February 26th trade deadline quickly approaching, all eyes are on Pittsburgh Penguins GM Jim Rutherford. The veteran manager has a history of making moves at the deadline and its expected that he’ll make a deal or two before things are said and done this year, as well.
According to one source close to the Penguins GM, Rutherford is “Getting itchy. The asking prices are so high right now, but he wants to make a move to help them make another run.”
Rutherford has made it no secret that he’d like to add another center to his team’s roster. “We would like to add someone there for insurance and to have some more depth down the middle,” he said in conversation with The Athletic’s Josh Yohe.
The departures of veterans Matt Cullen and Nick Bonino in the offseason are still being felt, regardless of how well Riley Sheahan has played as of late.
The good news is that Rutherford has options on the trade market and LeBrun breaks them all down in his latest column. At center, LeBrun expects Rutherford to be aggressive in pursuit of Cullen, now a member of the Minnesota Wild, the Edmonton Oilers’ Mark Letestu and Ottawa Senators’ pivots Derick Brassard and J.G. Pageau.
At first blush Cullen seems to make the most sense. The 41-year-old signed a one-year deal with his hometown Wild despite winning back to back Stanley Cup championships as the Penguins fourth line winger. With the Wild at risk of missing the playoffs entirely this season, could he return to Pittsburgh for one last run to cap off his career? It certainly seems to be a perfect match.
Speaking of former Penguins players… remember Letestu? The veteran was a popular player in the team’s locker room during his brief stint in the organization from 2008 to 2012. While he may not be as solid defensively as Cullen, Letestu is still a significant improvement on Carter Rowney.
As for the Senators duo… LeBrun almost immediately discredits any idea that the Pens are acquiring Brassard.
I've been told by many people in the organization that the Penguins are not likely to acquire the veteran center. It's not that they don't like him. Quite to the contrary, in fact.
The sticking point here is the asking price on Brassard, which Pierre LeBrun reports is a 1st round pick, a top prospect and a roster player. Ouch. So, while the Pens may think highly of Brassard, a trade to land him may prove too costly.
Pageau, however, is a more interesting case. Yohe describes the 25-year-old center as “a younger, more talented version of Letestu.” While the Sens won’t give him away for free, he could be had for a 1st round pick or a prospect like Daniel Sprong. Worth it?