The Pittsburgh Penguins’ off-season is going to be intriguing for a number of reasons, none more so than the notion they could, and probably should, explore trading centre Evgeni Malkin.
After being eliminated by the New York Rangers in five games, the Penguins must make some bold roster decisions and they’d be doing themselves a disservice if they don’t seriously explore moving Malkin and his $9.5-million cap hit.
Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman agrees with that notion.
“If you can get two or three pieces including a guy that can play with Crosby, don’t you have to think about it? At what point do you look at it and say yeah, we won the Stanley Cup, but that was six years ago? These two guys together make $18.2 million, and we keep losing in the playoffs because we don’t have enough support pieces. I think if you’re the Penguins you at least have to have that conversation,” Friedman told Boomer & Rhett on told Sportsnet 960 The Fan Monday.
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“There are teams that could pull it off. I’m looking at a Florida, a Nashville, a team with young assets that could do this," Friedman surmised. "I’m not saying if you’re the Penguins you should do it 100 percent, but I’m saying you really have to sit down and think about it.”
The 28-year-old didn’t register a single point in the playoffs this season, but the Penguins woes can’t be blamed solely on Malkin. General manager Jim Rutherford said he has no interest in trading him, but a lot can change if a generous enough offer presents itself.
Malkin also has a full no-movement clause so he’s not going anywhere he doesn’t fully approve.
With that in mind, here are six possible trade destinations for the Russian superstar should Rutherford change his mind and do something drastic.
St. Louis Blues: The Blues are one team that could potentially afford to give up a handful of quality roster players and still be a contender next season. They’re in the process of trying to lock up restricted free agent Vladimir Tarasenko, but maybe a package including Jaden Schwartz, T.J. Oshie even captain David Backes would be doable. It was a blockbuster trade with the Colorado Avalanche in 2011 that helped St. Louis become an elite NHL force. Perhaps a blockbuster with the Pens would take things to a new level and lead to playoff victories.
Potential trade chips: Jaden Schwartz, T.J. Oshie, David Backes, Patrik Berglund, Alexander Steen, Jay Bouwmeester, Robby Fabbri, Dmitrij Jaskin, Ivan Barbashev, Petteri Lindbohm
Nashville Predators : Last summer these teams showed they’re not averse to making bold moves with one another after the James Neal for Patric Hornqvist and Nick Spaling deal. This would also be a chance for Malkin to be reunited with Neal, who he flourished beside in Pittsburgh. The Predators, who haven’t had an A-list star forward in his prime since Paul Kariya a decade ago, seldom get point-per-game production from any of their players and Malkin is 12th all-time -- second to only Sidney Crosby among active players -- in career points per game. Would a piece like Roman Josi or Seth Jones be enough to pry Malkin away from the Pens and is that even something GM David Poile and the Predators would be interested in considering?
Potential trade chips: Roman Josi, Seth Jones, Ryan Ellis, Kevin Fiala, Colton Sissons, Craig Smith, Colin Wilson
San Jose Sharks : Like the Penguins, the Sharks have an interesting off-season ahead of them and are in need of a bold roster shakeup. A name that could be out there in trade talks given his recent rifts with Sharks management is Joe Thornton. Jumbo Joe is still a top-shelf offensive centre who should provide significant offence until his contract expires two seasons from now. A new franchise centre and a new coach added to a roster that has Joe Pavelski and Logan Couture could be what the Sharks need to get back into the playoffs and actually make an impact there.
Potential trade chips: Joe Thornton, Tomas Hertl, Matthew Nieto, Vlasic, Marc-Edouard, Mirco Mueller
Calgary Flames: Bob Hartley’s team has been one of the feel-good stories this season and how deep they go in the playoffs will determine what type of moves Brad Treliving makes this summer. Calgary took many positive steps this season, but they still might need to consider a risky trade to avoid plateauing or taking a step back – according to the stat nerds, success with their possession numbers is simply unsustainable. The Flames have plenty of cap space and a number of young, talented pieces both up front and on the blueline that could entice the Pens into trade talks.
Potential trade chips: Sam Bennett, T.J. Brodie, Dennis Wideman, Joe Colborne, Tyler Wotherspoon, Mikael Backlund
Vancouver Canucks: Take a deep breath…Malkin straight up for the Sedins. How does that sound? It seems like the type of outlandish trade only completed in video games or fantasy leagues, sure, but what better way to shake up both franchises? Being on a Sedin-less Canucks team would finally give Malkin a chance to be the face of a franchise and it would add some more depth to the Pens. From the Canucks perspective, the team hasn’t been anywhere close to a contender since making the Cup final in 2011 so a major move might be in store. Even if the Sedins weren’t part of the deal, the Canucks would have plenty of other pieces to offer up.
Potential trade chips: Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin, Jake Virtanen, Brendan Gaunce, Nicklas Jensen, Jared McCann, Sven Baertschi, Hunter Shinkaruk
Florida Panthers : If the Pens explore a Malkin trade, a team with a surplus of young players and cap space would be a fit and the Panthers fit that mould. Florida looks like a team that will be a force in the East for years to come and sacrificing a few prospects to land a fish like the 2012 Hart winner would expedite the process. The only untouchables would be franchise blueliner Aaron Ekblad and probably centre Aleksander Barkov.
Potential trade chips: Nick Bjugstad, Jonathan Huberdeau, Vincent Trocheck, Dmitry Kulikov, Erik Gudbranson, Michael Matheson