Pittsburgh Penguins general manager (GM) Ron Hextall was recently asked about the March 21 NHL Trade Deadline and what he thought about the team’s current state of affairs. Hextall’s response was one that has typified Penguins’ management over the past half-decade. The team’s brass seems set on the roster they currently have at their disposal and do not seem primed to make any big splashes, even for a team not known for making such moves in recent seasons. It is not necessarily expected that the Penguins will make many big deadline moves, if any at all.
Instead, Hextall’s recent comments suggest the Penguins are good enough to “stay the course” and stay quiet at the deadline. The team is indeed good enough not to need a move for a big-name player, but they should nonetheless look into a few rental options, given some of the inconsistencies that have infiltrated the team at various point this season.
Penguins Have Had Scoring Depth Issues This Season
Although the Penguins remain one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference, they have nevertheless shown weaknesses that may need to be addressed come deadline day. Depth scoring has been an issue for them at times this season, and has only just recently started to improve. Knowing this, it is perhaps no surprise that the Penguins’ top scorers are players on their top line, with leading point-getter Jake Guentzel playing on a line with the player immediately following him on the scoring list, captain Sidney Crosby. The hot hands in the Penguins’ lineup, Bryan Rust and Evgeni Malkin, are two-thirds of the team’s second line. Given the lack of consistent production from players down the lineup, it may be wise for Hextall and company to explore one of the many talented rental forwards on the market.
Enter… Jake DeBrusk.
DeBrusk currently occupies the Boston Bruins’ second line alongside Brad Marchand and Thomas Nosek. He’s put together a respectable campaign, with 15 goals and 10 assists to his name. He’s been on a tear recently, which may make it more difficult for any team to snap him up. Bruins’ coach Bruce Cassidy has singled out DeBrusk and his linemates, saying:
“I don’t have a problem with the way Jake’s playing,” said coach Bruce Cassidy. “I think that whole line is just not getting rewarded for their effort. Good feed, I think it was from (Charlie) Coyle, (Tuesday) night. Might have been in the middle of a line change. Not sure how it played out that way. But he got his shot off in a hurry. Rebound just pops over his stick. It just seems like Marshy the other night. Just before he drew a penalty, it looked like he was going to have an open net. That’s just the way it’s going for that group a little bit. They just have to stay with it. They’re all good pros. They know eventually, if you keep knocking at the door, it’s going to happen for you. That’s the message to them. I like his game. He’s helping that line. Hopefully they get rewarded soon.”
Bruins’ coach Bruce Cassidy on the play of Jake DeBrusk and his linemates. (from ‘What I’m hearing about the Bruins’ pursuit of a Jakob Chychrun trade, plus the latest on Jake DeBrusk and more,’ The Athletic, 17/03/2022.)
GM Don Sweeney may not want to trade him, but DeBrusk wants to be traded. Back in November, DeBrusk publicly stated his desire to leave Boston after he was repeatedly made a healthy scratch. For the right price, which in this case would be a player of similar calibre who the Bruins could slot in without much difficulty, he could join the Penguins and complement what is already a strong roster.
Penguins Should Look Into Goaltender Market
For a team as successful as the Penguins have been this season, it’s quite surprising to find that the Penguins have been wonting for a consistent goaltender to suit up behind 2021-22 All-Star Tristan Jarry. The most sensible option(s) also happen to be on teams looking to sell at the deadline from the jump. The most appropriate choice seems to be…
The Ottawa Senators are once again among the league’s poorest-performing teams and still in the midst of one of the most extensive rebuilds the league has ever seen. Forsberg has been extremely consistent despite the poor performances, establishing a 13-12-2 record alongside a 2.84 goals-against average and a .916 save percentage in 30 games. These are quite obviously backup goaltender numbers, which is exactly what the Penguins are looking for.
Forsberg compares better to the Penguins’ current backup netminder Casey DeSmith in every category, which says quite a lot given the talent DeSmith has in front of him. After all, Erik Brannstrom isn’t exactly on the same level as Kris Letang. Given that Forsberg is one of the few bright spots for the Sens this season, GM Pierre Dorion will most likely expect a decent haul in return. (from ‘Garrioch: As trade deadline approaches, the Ottawa Senators have a decision to make with Anton Forsberg,’ Montreal Gazette. 04/03/2022). Despite this scenario, Forsberg’s current contract is incredibly team-friendly, possessing a $900,000 average annual value. The terms don’t necessarily matter in this case, as Forsberg will be an unrestricted free agent at season’s end.
Although the Penguins seem poised to do very little when the 3 p.m. Trade Deadline hits on Monday, they nevertheless have rental options available to explore should Hextall decide to do so.
Covering the Pittsburgh Penguins and other topics for The Hockey Writers. Also a big fan of the Chicago Cubs and progressive rock music.