Trade Options With Term Remaining On Their Contracts That Penguins Should Consider

At this point, we all know that the Pittsburgh Penguins need help in a lot of different areas, and a lot of the trade speculation seems to center around rental options. In terms of young NHL prospects and players, the Penguins don’t have a ton of assets to trade with, and general manager Ron Hextall seems at least a little hesitant to trade his first-round picks (which, in my opinion, , it’s a mistake).

If the Penguins are going to trade from their limited asset closet, they better look for players who still have a term left on their deal beyond this season.

For starters, the Penguins have a lot of money on the books next season.

Jason Zucker, Brian Dumoulin, Teddy Blueger, Danton Heinen, Josh Archibald and Tristan Jarry are unrestricted pending free agents, and aside from Zucker or Jarry, there aren’t many names worth re-signing. And even then there could be arguments against it due to age (Zucker) and injury/price concerns (Jarry).

The Penguins have roughly $19 million in salary cap space this offseason with 15 players already under contract for next year. Even if they don’t part with any other contracts, that could give the Penguins a lot of flexibility this offseason. Especially after Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang signed with lower salary caps in their most recent contracts.

When it comes to utilizing that future salary cap space, the free agent market tends to be a fool’s paradise, so why not target some players at the deadline who are signed beyond this season at rates What could be better than the free agent alternatives?

Let’s take a look at some potential names that might be worth calling out,

Jake McCabe, Chicago Blackhawks

Defense has become an increasing concern as the season has progressed, and with Dumoulin set to be a UFA, an additional corps will be needed on the blue line after this season.

As far as the Blackhawks’ trade options go, McCabe is probably the only player I would have a serious interest in. Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews look cooked to me, and I’m not sure Max Domi moves the needle enough to want it.

But McCabe could be a nice sneaky addition at a very good price.

He’s still signed to two more full seasons after this with a salary cap of $4 million per year, but the Blackhawks are willing to eat up to 50 percent of that in a trade.

He’s been one of the few bright spots on an otherwise horrible Chicago team, and he’s a stable enough defender that if you could get him on a lower salary cap, he could provide solid value against the cap. Inferior players like Erik Gudbranson and Ben Chiarot typically make $4-5 million a year (for longer years) on the open market. So if you can get someone like McCabe for a couple million, it might be worth looking into if the trade cost is right.

The Penguins have backed into their defense with some big long-term contracts there, but they could make room for McCabe. And they probably could use it.

Adam Henrique, Anaheim Ducks

I saw Josh Yohe mention Henrique’s name in his recent Q&A email on The Athletic and it intrigued me a bit.

He’s another player on the wrong side of 31, and would be counting over $5 million against the salary cap next season, but he’s also still a pretty good player who would fill an absolutely HUGE void as a potential third-string center. He’s still a 25-goal, 50-point player in 82 games, while his underlying numbers are among the best on a terrible team. Much like Rickard Rakell a year ago, he could be someone who could benefit from a change of scenery and more talent around him.

He would be a massive offensive upgrade over the last six while also being a capable defensive presence.

I think he has more left in the tank than Toews or Ryan O’Reilly, and is potentially more impactful than a cheaper rental like Max Domi or Sean Monahan.

Timo Meier, San Jose Sharks

This is probably an unfair name to include here because Meier’s contract technically expires after this season, but as a restricted free agent he would still be under team control.

I already wrote about this option a couple of weeks ago, but the Penguins absolutely have the ability to give him their $10 million qualifying offer or the flexibility to sign him long-term.

In the short term, it would add another impact presence to the lineup and allow them to push Jason Zucker or Bryan Rust into the third line (which should improve that line), while also giving them an out-of-the-box replacement in the lineup. the top six for this offseason if/when Zucker leaves as a free agent.

Because of the contract situation with him, there’s a chance the price to acquire him in a trade is less than it should be for a player of this caliber (look at Alex DeBrincat’s return), and if that’s the case you’re just not doing your job as a general manager if you’re not at least making the decision.

Thatcher Demko, Vancouver Canucks

Let’s get wild.

The Penguins’ goaltending situation has been their biggest undoing in the previous two postseasons, and there’s a chance he could play a big part in that again this season due to Jarry’s injury and Caasey DeSmith’s inconsistency. It’s a hugely important position that the Penguins have neglected in recent years.

Demko is currently in the second year of a five-year contract that carries a salary cap of $5 million per year.

That’s not cheap. So it would probably require one of two things: let Jarry go as a free agent and roll the dice on Demko as their new No. 1, or find a way to get Vancouver to keep Demko’s salary, re-sign Demko Jarry and roll with them as platoon 1A and 1B.

Which could actually be really productive.

Demko has struggled this season, but he’s also an incredibly small sample of games (just 15 games) behind an absolutely ugly team of defensive dogs.

In the two years leading up to this season, as well as the 2019-20 playoffs, he was outstanding, even finishing in the top 10 in Vezina Trophy voting a year ago.

There was a report that he requested a trade out of Vancouver (he denies it), but even if he hasn’t asked out, the Canucks are in a position where something is probably on the table.

The pending goaltending market in free agency is horrible, and if the Penguins can’t re-sign Jarry (or decide against it for whatever reason), a trade should almost certainly be their backup plan anyway.

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