We are now almost a month away from the trade deadline, and activity is expected pick up as the big day approaches. Over the years, the days leading up to the deadline have started to get filled with more and more trades, to the point where those hosting trade deadline frenzy shows have had little to discuss because a lot of the deals have already transpired.
Will the Pittsburgh Penguins be one of the teams to jump the gun and make a pre-deadline deal?
No one really knows that outside of the team's management - although it is one of Jim Rutherford's signature moves to act early, so we'll see.
But what has leaked out from various sources, according to The Fourth Period, is that the Penguins have been strongly connected with five of the top available players available on the market currently, and are expected to pitch offers for them.
Here they are:
Evander Kane is the hottest name on the market and there's zero doubt in anyone's mind that he will be traded by February 26th. He's ready for it, his GM is ready for it - everyone is ready for it. It's just a matter of when and where. The Penguins are one of the teams in hot pursuit of his services, as they are looking to bolster their forward depth, easing the load on Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby. It will take a king's ransom, as the price is a first round pick, prospect, roster player, and another pick conditional on the acquiring team signing Kane to a new deal.
He has 36 points in 46 games, and is on track for 64 points this year, a career high for the 26-year-old.
Green is the top available defenseman this year, and he provides a good punch of offense to any team he's on. His 26 points lead the Detroit Red Wings defensemen - and would be second only to Kris Letang (28 points) on the Penguins roster. The ask is probably a first round pick and a prospect for Green.
The Vancouver Canucks forward carries a very team-friendly cap hit, which subsequently boosts his trade value as more teams can afford him than not. Despite his characteristically "lazy" style of play, he has an efficient way of putting up points on the scoresheet.
Vanek has an impressive 32 points on the season, which is great value for his $2 million cap hit. The price will be lower to acquire him than the two players above, it's just a question now of whether or not he fits Mike Sullivan's system.
The Montreal Canadiens veteran is close to 1,000 NHL games in his career, all with the same team. His $6 million cap hit will be hard for any team to fully absorb, so if Rutherford targets him, salary will have to be retained on Montreal's end. He will probably only require a lower-round draft pick, and maybe a B-level prospect. He used to be one of the top offensive players on the Canadiens, but that element of his game has all but faded. Still, he's an effective faceoff man, can kill penalties and play with speed. He could be the 3rd line centre they've been looking for.
Letestu is the final name on The Fourth Period's report that is connected with Pittsburgh. He doesn't have Plekanec's pedigree, but would probably fill a similar role.
He's probably the cheapest player to acquire on the list.
Some other players have been connected with Pittsburgh that weren't mentioned by The Fourth Period. These include Max Pacioretty, Alex Galchenyuk, and Andrew Shaw from the Canadiens. There's also Jean-Gabriel Pageau from the Ottawa Senators. From the sounds of it, Rutherford made an offer on Pageau, but it wasn't accepted. He'll probably circle back there before the end of February.
So. A lot of names here. Who do you want to see in a Penguins uniform when all is said and done?