Pittsburgh Penguins GM Jim Rutherford managed to squeeze in some last minute Christmas shopping earlier this week, swinging not one but two deals prior to Tuesday evening’s trade freeze deadline. First, Rutherford picked up veteran netminder Michael Leighton from the Arizona Coyotes, minutes later he scooped up hulking defenseman Jamie Oleksiak from the Dallas Stars. But according to NBC Sports’ James O’Brien, Rutherford may not be done dealing yet.
In his latest article, O’Brien speculates on the team’s next move and offers some intriguing names for consideration. It’s no secret that the Penguins have been looking for another center to play on the third line, given how the Riley Sheahan experiment has worked out so far. How about Toronto Maple Leafs pivot Tyler Bozak? The pending UFA is a rock solid choice in a third line position and has the skill necessary to move up in the lineup if needed. He even has a built in connection to the team and proven chemistry with Pens winger Phil Kessel from their days playing together on a line in Toronto.
The challenge in any deal that would send Bozak to the Penguins has to done with the return heading to Toronto. As O’Brien points out, the Leafs aren’t likely to give Bozak up for nothing, as he plays an important role in their attempt to make a run this postseason. While his future as a Leaf is in doubt, there’s no denying his impact on the team currently. The Penguins could make an offer with Ian Cole as the center piece, but would that entice the Leafs enough to make a move?
Cole has struggled to stay in the Penguins’ lineup this season and, while the Leafs could use an upgrade on their third defense pairing, Cole is no sure-fire solution for any team’s defensive woes. Instead, if a deal does go down look for the Penguins to pony up picks and prospects if they expect to nab a player of Bozak’s skill and pedigree.