I usually take questions from followers on this write-up, but today I’ve got something a little bit different in mind. I’ve been thinking a lot with the NHL trade deadline approaching, and the Olympics, and just so many crazy topics to discuss. Instead of answering questions, I’m just going to spitball my thoughts on everything into one big mashup. I hope you all enjoy.
1. Derick Brassard
I think Derick Brassard is a hell of a player. He’s an offensive-oriented center that would thrive behind Crosby and Malkin. It’s no secret why 3C’s hit career highs in Pittsburgh. Brandon Sutter, Nick Bonino, and Riley Sheahan are all decent players, but put them behind two of the very best centers in the game and they’re instantly twice as effective. Brassard is better than any of the three that I just listed. He would put the Penguins on a new level. They would be scarier and better on paper than the Penguins previous two rosters, which won the Cup (obviously). However, I’m torn on acquiring him. He’s got an extra year on his deal, so the Penguins would have to take on $5M for the rest of this season and all of next year’s campaign.
The Penguins are already cap strapped. They’ve got Patric Hornqvist to re-sign, young players who will be due for new deals soon, and a ridiculous free agent pool to choose from this summer, which doesn’t require giving up assets. Would I give up a first round pick and potentially a mid-range prospect or additional pick for Brassard? Absolutely. Would I give up a first rounder, Daniel Sprong, plus another piece? Not a chance in hell.
The Penguins interest in Brassard is definitely real. Multiple reputable sources have confirmed it, so I wouldn’t be shocked to see him end up in Pittsburgh. I’d love to see him in black and gold, but I just hope the price isn’t too steep if Rutherford decides to pull the trigger.
2. Tomas Plekanec
Another name that the Penguins have been connected to a lot recently is Tomas Plekanec. He’s got a $6M cap hit, but Montreal would likely eat money, since he’s a rental and they’re selling. It would be interesting to see what the Canadiens would ask for in a Plekanec trade. I’d give them a second round pick in a heartbeat, maybe more if they eat a lot of salary. Plekanec has definitely lost a step, but he’s still a really effective defensive center, and he could probably rekindle his offensive touch playing with someone like Phil Kessel. If Brassard is too rich for Rutherford’s blood, and the Canadiens decide not to re-sign Plekanec, I wouldn’t mind seeing the infamous turtleneck playing behind 87 and 71.
3. Michael Grabner
Grabner is the final name that has been connected to the Penguins for certain. First things first, Michael Grabner is fast as hell. He’d be an ideal fourth liner on a Penguins team that already includes Carl Hagelin. Grabner’s 25 goals are deceiving though. He’s wracked up a league-high seven empty netters. Don’t get me wrong, Grabner definitely has a nice goal scoring touch, and he’d thrive on the Penguins fourth line. He’d be one of the very best fourth liners in the game. He’s just not worth a first-round pick that the Rangers want. Absolutely not. If the price drops, then go get him, it’s a low-risk, high-reward deal. I just can’t imagine that the Rangers will give the Penguins any discounts, but I hope they prove me wrong.
4. Trading Daniel Sprong
A lot of people ask me, “Would you trade Daniel Sprong?”, and that’s a loaded question. Both yes and no. Would I trade him for Derick Brassard? No. Would I move him in a package for a young player like Alex Galchenyuk? Yes. Daniel Sprong is going to be an NHL-caliber player. He’s almost certainly going to be an above average NHL winger. I would prefer to keep a talent like Sprong, I think he’s going to be deadly as an everyday fixture on Crosby or Malkin’s wing.
With that being said, the Penguins want to win now. If there’s a really good player out there, then I’m not against using Sprong to get them in a Penguins sweater. The Crosby/Malkin era is something that we will never get back. Maximize the chances of winning while we have two of the best players in history. There’s not a day that goes by where I regret losing Kasperi Kapanen.
Tanking is better than being a borderline playoff team that has no chance of winning a championship.
The Penguins have mastered this craft. After the Lemieux era was all but over, they didn’t pretend the hope was still there. Finish last, get Evgeni Malkin, get Sidney Crosby, and profit. Look at the Rangers, they kept lying to themselves. They added rental after rental at the deadline, when they were never good enough to actually beat the best teams in the league. Now, they’re blowing up their roster much too late, and Henrik Lundqvist will never get a real chance at winning a Stanley Cup in New York. I just don’t understand why teams are too proud to do this. If my team didn’t have a chance of competing during the McDavid and Matthews’ draft years, I’d sell every player with value and tell the rest of my guys to shoot for our own net all 82 games.
6. Olympic Hockey
I love watching Olympic hockey.
As an American Penguins fan, there’s such a cool dynamic to it. I root for team USA, but Crosby plays for Canada and Malkin plays for Russia. This Olympics I would’ve been extra patriotic with two-time Stanley Cup champion, Pittsburgh Penguin, Phil Kessel playing, too. I just really enjoyed the dynamic of all of the best players split up onto different teams, playing at a playoff-style intensity. It’s like the all-star game, but the players actually care and the goalies make saves.
This Olympics, I didn’t make it through one game. I’m sorry, but I just don’t care to watch Mark Arcobello and Jim Slater play. Nothing against those guys, and I appreciate them representing my home country, but I just don’t care. The NHL really dropped the ball on this one. Sometimes I wish the league was run by competent individuals, I really do.
7. Women’s Hockey
I should specify, I didn’t make it through one men’s Olympic hockey game. The women have definitely been the real stars of Pyeongchang. Hilary Knight, Amanda Kessel, Monique Lamoureux have all been killing it for the USA. If there’s any good to come of the NHL being stubborn about sending its players this year, it’s the fact that the women are getting most of the spotlight. They are talented as hell and fun to watch. Plus, the Canada vs. USA women’s hockey rivalry is incredible stuff. Those two teams absolutely despise one another. It’s certainly the best hockey that the Olympics have to offer.
8. Erik Karlsson
I feel for Senators fans; I really do. As a Pirates fan, I know what it’s like to have an owner whose primary focus is profit within winning coming in at a distant second. There’s no way a player like Erik Karlsson should ever be traded. He’s the most talented defensemen of our time. No matter what the Senators get in return, it won’t be enough.
The scary thing is that Tampa Bay seems to be the frontrunner to land EK65. The current asking price has been rumored at ‘seven high-quality assets’. That’s just ludicrous, and there’s not many teams that could make that deal. However, the Lightning are one of them. It might take some good talent off of their roster to get a deal done, though. Brayden Point, Mikhail Sergachev, plus much more? I’d certainly ask for a king’s ransom if I was Ottawa. If the Lightning acquire Karlsson, that would make for one hell of an Eastern Conference Final with the Penguins.
9. Trust the Insiders
Look, I understand that trade rumors are fun. They really are awesome. If you’re a sports fan, there’s almost nothing better than finding out that your team is interested in adding a great player from another team. On the other hand, please only get your rumors from people that actually know what they’re talking about. I mean, the ‘rumor accounts’ on Twitter are just out of hand. If Bob McKenzie or Pierre LeBrun hasn’t heard the rumor, then the chances are pretty high that @HockeyRumors39849 is probably making it up. Do people really believe that guys with 100 followers and a new rumor every fifteen minutes have better sources than the guys who get paid six figures to do the exact same thing? All in all, just stop giving these people attention, and please don’t forward the rumors to me, because I will lose respect for you, undoubtedly.
10. Zach Aston-Reese
This guy is a net-front beast. With Patric Hornqvist’s contract up at the end of the year, it’s encouraging to see ZAR do what he’s doing. After the first couple net-front goals, I said, “Okay, this guy’s going to the right areas. He wants to stay up at the NHL level.” Now, it’s, “Another goal in the blue paint? I need to order my Aston-Reese jersey right NOW!”
Aston-Reese reminds me so much of a younger Chris Kunitz. He’s not fast, he doesn’t have a ridiculous shot, or great hands, but he gets the job done. He goes to the tough areas, he wins puck battles, and just overall plays a really solid two-way, straight-line game. I love this kid. The talented college kids continue to thrive in Pittsburgh. This is especially encouraging, because I know the current college standouts are seeing this. If any of you are reading this, don’t sign with the team that drafted you. Come to Pittsburgh, and success will follow!