The Pittsburgh Penguins already acquired an Atlantic player when they acquired center Riley Sheahan from the Detroit Red Wings earlier this year. Could GM Jim Rutherford double-dip into the division for yet another center? There are plenty of options available. As everyone knew they would, the Penguins have rebounded from some serious early season struggles and are back in the playoff picture. With 53 points, the Pens have tied up the New York Rangers and the two teams currently hold wild card berths. However, the Philadelphia Flyers, New York Islanders and Carolina Hurricanes are mere points behind and all have games in hand on Pittsburgh. In fact, the two-time defending Stanley Cup champs are actually last in the Metropolitan Division in points percentage. The Penguins undoubtedly have work to do prior to the NHL Trade Deadline, but this year they need help just to make the playoffs. The main issue for Pittsburgh continues to come back to third-line center, where nothing has worked this year. Sheahan has struggled on the third line, but has settled in nicely on the fourth line. Injured Carter Rowney is also better suited for an energy line role. Jake Guentzel is a competent pivot, but to have him center the third line is to remove him from his top-six wing spot where he has been so successful. Despite their many attempts, the Penguins still just need to replace Nick Bonino. Enter the Atlantic Division, home to two of the best teams in hockey as well as four of the worst. The Pens have already dealt with Detroit, sending Scott Wilson and a third-round pick their way for Sheahan. However, there are three more teams willing to sell and with pieces of interest to the Pens. The Montreal Canadiens, who themselves are desperate for help at center, are seemingly ready to move on from career contributor Tomas Plekanec, an impending free agent. The 35-year-old has years of experience and is perhaps the best two-way player on the Montreal roster. A rental deal for Plekanec to go to Pittsburgh has been talked about by many and would be no surprise. A less likely deal, but one that also makes sense is Canadiens center Paul Byron. Although he provides great value with a cap hit just over $1M for another season, if the Habs enter 2018-19 with Byron again as a top-six center, then they will have not done enough this summer. The team may as well move on now and get a good return from Pittsburgh, who could really use the late bloomers services at a bargain rate through next season.
Penguins a fitting trade partner for struggling Atlantic squads
Yardbarker | Jan 21