On the heels of 1-1-1 set with the New Jersey Devils, the Penguins are searching for answers. When will their glut of injured players return? How will management address team needs before the trade deadline? Are they really a Stanley Cup contending team? With so many questions looming, I believe one thing is clear: the time to trade Marcus Pettersson is here.
What You Lose
Marcus Pettersson is a very good defensemen, and has been a solid option on the left side with John Marino. He would be an upgrade to many team’s defensive units. At only 24 years old, he has already amassed 198 NHL games. He has played well over the last two weeks, but he’s struggled this year and missed some games due to injury. At times, he looks miles apart from the promising player that Jim Rutherford signed to a 5 year extension. And while he has never been touted as an offensive defenseman, he has been praised as a steady, two-way defenseman. The leap forward to 2nd pairing anchor hasn’t occurred here, but maybe a change of scenery could unlock that.
Pettersson would be a loss to this team, especially if the injury bug continues to plague Pittsburgh. That being said, it might make too much sense to trade him at this point. The Penguins lack valuable trade assets, and Pettersson might be their best trade chip. Furthermore, the Penguins have depth in left handed defensemen. Three of them, Brian Dumoulin, Mike Matheson, and Pettersson, are signed for several years for at least $4 million per year. Combine that with the emergence of P.O. Joseph this year and the unattractive contract of Mike Matheson, it leaves management with little options. They are in significant need of upgrading their forward depth, and Pettersson could help acquire that help.
What’s the return?
The trade value for defensemen is a mixed one. Several high profile defenseman switched teams over the last year, and I’m using them as a basis for trade options. A comparison is Devon Toews. He’s a few years older and has less NHL experience but has more points in his career and a better offensive touch. The New York Islanders trader Toews to Colorado for two 2nd round picks. Going off of that, I believe Pettersson would fetch a 2nd and/or a 3rd round pick. With the team in win-now mode, I don’t get the sense this is the approach. Unless removing his salary led to the acquisition of a roster player in a later trade, don’t bet on this.
The acquisition of some much needed forward depth is a more likely option. Another recent Colorado trade sets an interesting bar. They traded Nikita Zadorov for Brandon Saad, along with a swap of AHL players. Zadorov, a 25 year old tough, reliable defensemen, has a bit more value than Pettersson does, but I don’t think it’s crazy to believe he could be swapped for a middle six forward. Maybe Pettersson is used to address the bottom six issue, or maybe he could be a piece to acquire another impact player for Geno’s line.
A modest proposal
A potential trade option for the Penguins is Danton Heinen of the Anaheim Ducks. The two teams have linked up for several trades over the past few years, and could be potential partners again. Heinen is a young player in need of change of scenery. He is a natural center and would provide a spark of offense and energy to the bottom six. Anaheim is in a rebuild and they are one of few teams that could take on a large salary. Maybe reuniting Pettersson with the team that drafted him could be a mutually beneficial option.
One very unlikely option that I would personally look into is a swap with the Boston Bruins. The two rivals have a potential trade fit here. How about a one for one swap for their disgruntled forward, Jake DeBrusk? Another name that could be on the radar is veteran Eric Staal of the Buffalo Sabres. I’m not sure if a Pettersson for Staal trade makes sense for the Penguins in a one for one trade. Maybe a package centered around Staal and a draft pick would entice GM Hextall.
The trade deadline is fast approaching and the Penguins are in a precarious position. I don’t believe the trade of Marcus Pettersson is a foregone conclusion, Coach Sully likes him and so does management. I do believe management is considering the possibility though, and they are smart to do so. If they want to make a splash and give themselves some financial wiggle room, the time for trading Marcus Pettersson is now.