What are the Pittsburgh Penguins actively searching to acquire in a trade to bolster their lineup?
All together now...
"A 3RD LINE CENTRE!"
Okay, that is obviously not the news here. Your two-year-old kid probably knows that Jim Rutherford is looking for that ever-elusive piece to add to his roster.
But what if the guy he goes after is someone who already filled that role well during the team's last two Stanley Cup runs?
Nick Bonino was an instrumental part of the team's Cup runs, and the team had to let him go because long-term, it seemed like a tough proposition to pay him what he deserved.
He ended up signing a 4-year $4.1 million deal with the Nashville Predators. He hasn't quite fit in to their system as well, and hasn't been very productive. He has 12 points in 38 games and is a -2. He's one of the few players on the team with a negative plus/minus differential.
The Penguins only have a shade over $1 million in cap space currently, so Rutherford would have to be creative if he made an attempt to bring him back. It would also have an impact on contract negotiations with the likes of Bryan Rust and Jake Guentzel in the future.
But is it possible? Maybe.
"For this year, yes, probably. GMJR was, and is, concerned about what that deal will look like long-term, whenever he has to pay Rust, Guentzel, Hornqvist (they hope) and Murray," Jason Mackey writes for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in response to a question about Bonino and the possibility of him returning to Pennsylvania. "That position is structured in such a way that the third-line center of the Penguins gets really good matchups. As such, it's not good business for the Penguins to overpay for that spot. Does that make sense? $4 million for Bonino is too much."
Mackey asserts that $4 million is too much to pay, yet for months, the reporter has been saying that the team needs a high-end 3rd line centre. Does he, or anyone, expect Rutherford to find someone with experience and proven skill at the position to come much cheaper than that?
If $4.1 million is too much to take on for that position, they probably won't find anyone worthwhile.
With Mike Fisher stepping out of retirement and the Predators loaded at the centre position, Bonino could be had at the right price. It would be a bit of a long shot given the fact that Nashville is all in. But it's not a move to be ruled out.
Rutherford has recently spoken on media outlets about the fact that he's stepping away a bit from acquiring a centre, but it's probably just a bit of a play in his bag of tricks.
"I guess this was GMJR on Cook and Poni? Believe me, it wouldn't be the first time Rutherford used the media to sandbag a little. They need a third-line center," Mackey said in response to a comment about Rutherford recently saying he doesn't need a centreman as badly anymore, with the team playing much better these days.
Whether it's Bonino, Matt Cullen, or someone else, it's just a matter of time before a move happens. There's just over three weeks until the trade deadline.