Calvary From the West: Part Two of Solving the Penguins Fourth Line

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Jacob Punturi

Jacob is a freelance writer and playwright that loves Pittsburgh sports, August Wilson, and The Flash comics. Life-long Pittsburgher.

As I stated in part 1, I believe a trade for a third or fourth line center is a priority. Depending on the health of players like Zucker and McCann, the top six could become the focus. For the sake of this post, I’m assuming the top six is healthy. Here are four players who I would target to improve the Penguins fourth line:

Luke Glendening- Detroit Red Wings

Luke Glendening is exactly the type of gritty fourth line center this team needs. The longtime Red Wing is a leader in the locker room and a model two-way player. His scoring is not going to impress (only 3 goals and 8 points this season), but he is the top face-off winner in the league this year (at just under 67%). In addition, he is a top-notch penalty killer, and a great skater. His contract expires at the end of this season and he’s only making $1.8 million against the cap.

Glendening is likely worth a mid-round pick, something Pittsburgh lacks for this upcoming draft. That could be the roadblock for this deal, unless Detroit would be willing to take a young player back. The Penguins have glut of 7th round picks, perhaps a combination of a young player and late-round picks would work. There’s already lots of buzz about this player and there likely will be more as the deadline approaches, but look for the Penguins to be involved in the race.

Danton Heinen- Anaheim Ducks

From Getty Images

Rickard Rakell is getting all of the buzz surrounding Anaheim trades, but this other forward might be a better option. This could be one of those “take a flyer” situations for the Penguins. The Boston Bruins drafted Danton Heinen and he showed promise there before he was swapped for Nick Ritchie. Since his trade, he has struggled in his time in Anaheim. He is in the last year of his contract and he will be restricted at the end of the year. With the emergence of young centers Trevor Zegras and Isac Lundestrom in Anaheim, Heinen is expendable and has low trade value. The Penguins might be able to land him for cheap and immediately have an upgrade on the fourth line. At only 25, he may be an under the radar player that’s worth a shot.

Radek Faksa-Dallas Stars

I have a deep fascination with this player. Watching him during the 2020 playoffs has given me a case of recency bias, but I love his two-way game. He’s a strong penalty killer and defensive player, he wins face-offs, and he’s been a consistent 10-20 goal scorer in his career. He is great fit not only because of his defensive acumen, he can also drive play on the offensive side. At 27 he’s young enough to contribute for a few more years. The biggest question mark is how to make the cap work.

Faksa just signed a 5 year contract extension beginning this season with a $3.25mil cap hit. For what he does, he’s worth every penny. I’m not sure if the already cap-strapped Penguins could afford to invest so much money into their bottom six forwards. The Stars are on the outside of the playoff race currently but have games in hand to make up the difference. If they do commit to being sellers at the deadline, the Penguins should be calling Jim Nill immediately. 

Calle Jarnkrok- Nashville Predators

Nashville is looking to unload their roster, and I think the most intriguing option for the Penguins is Calle Jarnkrok. Like Faksa, Jarnkrok has a sneaky ability to score. He is a little more affordable, with just a $2 million cap hit that runs through 2022.  Jarnkrok also has more positional flexibility, as he’s currently being deployed as a top 6 RW. He has 4 seasons of 15+ goals scored, is a reliable penalty killer, and frequently on one of Nashville’s power play units. They value him highly in Nashville for his versatility, and I think his acquisition would cost a premium. Nonetheless, he would bring a sorely needed skillset and scoring touch to an offensively needy Penguins fourth line. 

Time will tell what GM Hextall will do as we approach the April 12th Trade Deadline. I believe bolstering the bottom six will put this team in much better shape to make a long playoff run. We’ll see if the Penguins agree. One thing is certain: the trade buzz and anticipation will continue to build for the next month. I can’t wait to see what Ron Hextall, Brian Burke, and the management of the Penguins do.

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Episode 89