The Pittsburgh Penguins raised more than a few eyebrows around the National Hockey League when they signed veteran forward Brandon Tanev as an unrestricted free agent this summer, a move that put them right up against the NHL's salary cap ceiling.
It is for this reason that there has been plenty of well informed speculation regarding a future move that is almost certainly on the horizon from the Penguins and their general manager Jim Rutherford. Rutherford himself acknowledged earlier this week that the Penguins cap situation was "tight" and hinted that some additional moves could be on the horizon for the franchise. Of course Rutherford did not openly dangle any of his players out to the media but multiple insiders are now reporting the names of some potential trade targets, and you will notice the same 3 names continue to be repeated.
Reporter Matt Vensel of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette had two names immediately pop into his head when he considered the possibility of players that could be moved purely for the purpose of creating cap room, while also fetching a reasonable return in a trade. From Vensel:
Two names quickly come to mind: Nick Bjugstad and Bryan Rust, who next season are set to make $4.1 million and $3.5 million, respectively, per CapFriendly.
Those are two forwards however and Vensel also touched on the possibility of a defenseman being traded instead. It will come as little surprise to our avid readers that the name mentioned by Vensel was none other than Penguins blue liner Jack Johnson, a player who was reportedly on his way to Minnesota until former Penguins forward Phil Kessel put a stop to that trade. Again from Vensel:
Maybe there is another way for Rutherford to keep the Penguins under the cap ceiling than dealing one of those two, such as trading Jack Johnson. It sure sounds like Rutherford is fine with Johnson being back on their blue line, though.
Reporter Shelly Anderson of Pittsburgh Hockey Now also touched on the offseason rumors surrounding the Penguins, and once again 3 familiar names were at the forefront of players who could be traded this summer. From Anderson:
That brings us to the three players most likely to be available in a trade.
Nick Bjugstad ($4.1 million) and Bryan Rust ($3.5 million) would seem to be at the top of the list among forwards, if only because there are less expensive options who, like those two, are versatile enough to play in various spots and roles.
Among defensemen, the Penguins have already tipped their hand that Jack Johnson is available.
It does have to be said that this is all just speculation at this time, informed speculation to be sure but speculation nonetheless, but there certainly is a lot of smoke here. I just wonder how long it is before we see the fire.