The Pittsburgh Penguins are finding themselves in a tight race for the playoffs in the Eastern Conference and that's usually when general manager Jim Rutherford pulls a rabbit out of his hat and makes a blockbuster trade to get his team going and securely into the postseason and beyond.
However for this year's trade deadline on Monday, the Pens are expected to pull a first in a very long time...
Rutherford has traded his first rounder every year he’s been GM of the Pens, but he might decide to do otherwise this time around... According to the Pittsburgh Tribune Live, the Penguins GM "doesn’t want to trade away his first-round pick in June’s draft and he doesn’t have a ton of salary cap space to work with."
However, you know the drill: under the right conditions, it’s certainly possible.
“That’s why I’m not sitting here saying I’m doing something or I’m not doing something,” Rutherford said. “I do think there will be a scramble at the end of names that will pop up. So I’m not closing the door to say I’m not doing anything.
“It will be very difficult for me to trade our first pick, certainly in a rental situation. Now, if it’s for another good young player, like guys we’ve acquired, then I guess that’s a different story. But my preference is to keep that pick. We’ll see where it falls. I’d only be guessing at this point.”
There are a lot of big names on the market at the moment, Ottawa’s Mark Stone and Matt Duchene and Columbus’ Artemi Panarin, along with Philadelphia’s Wayne Simmonds, the Rangers’ Mats Zuccarello, Ottawa’s Ryan Dzingel, New Jersey’s Marcus Johansson and Carolina’s Micheal Ferland, and the Penguins have expressed interest in a few of them over the recent weeks.
Several of these players are expected to fetch at least a first rounder, which means the Penguins could lose out on them.
With Olli Maatta's injury, Rutherford was asked about the possibility of acquiring a blue liner for the postseason. He was also questioned about Jack Johnson and how the veteran defender needs to get better to help the crew, but maintains that he is not trying to aggressively reshape a blue line that he is largely pleased with.
“Jack had an adjustment period early in the year, but I think when he played with (Marcus) Pettersson, even playing on his off side, I thought he played well,” Rutherford said. “He’s played really well with (Justin) Schultz, which is easier for him because he’s playing on his natural side. I don’t think he’s been given a fair shot and overall I’ve been fine with his play.”
While he could still add a rental blue liner, for now, it seems like Rutherford might take it easy on Monday...