Part 1, regarding the highest-valued Penguins, was Tuesday, and Part 2, regarding the lowest-valued Penguins, was yesterday. Today we’ll go over the Penguins who are most likely candidates for a trade.
Rust has been bounced around the depth chart all season and hasn’t missed a beat as a result, although his productivity has shifted from balance, keyed by a very good shooting percentage, to mostly assists, as he is tied for second on the team (with some guy named Crosby) in even-strength assists. So which Rust do we prefer: the one whose shooting percentage from last season would lead the team this season, or the one who is getting the offense going in other ways? One thing’s for sure, Mike Sullivan likes Rust’s flexibility and that bodes well for Rust to hang around in Pittsburgh beyond this year. Speaking of which, Rust is an RFA after this season, so it stands to reason that he’ll be extended sometime soon.
Letang is the eighth-most expensive defenseman in the League, and while he’s very good at generating offense, he has long gone through bouts of streakiness and mental absenteeism. Additionally, his health is often a concern; there was a stat that showed that Letang has missed ~20% of regular season games, which also says nothing about him missing two of the last three postseasons. It was a bit damning to see the Penguins win the Stanley Cup last season completely without his services. Letang does have a limited no-movement clause, so moving him won’t be as easy as that, but there are just twelve teams on his no-trade list. Letang’s poor start this season could be overlooked as the whole team struggled, and if the second half is better for the Penguins it certainly could be due to a resurgence from Letang.
Jarry’s performance in half as many games as Murray has made people think that he shouldn’t just have been Murray’s backup from the beginning of the season, some think the Penguins should have let Murray go in the trade deadline and have Jarry be Marc-Andre Fleury’s heir apparent. Of course, then you have games like against Boston on Sunday, when Murray came in and helped keep the Penguins in the game and snatch two points back. With all due respect to Fleury, having a tandem like Murray and Jarry is much more comforting. I can’t say Jarry is completely untradable, as the depth chart behind him is still quite good (DeSmith, Gustavsson), but he’s the next-most experienced and reliable goaltender after Murray (sorry Leighton), and he’s been quite good as Murray’s backup, which is a lot more than we could have said about Antti Niemi.
With the Penguins scuffling along offensively, the front office had no choice but to call up the 20 year old Sprong, who left Wilkes-Barre/Scranton as the team leader in goals and points. It’s been a brief but mostly positive second stint for the franchise’s top forward prospect, with a two goal, three point outburst against the Islanders on January 5. Following in the footsteps of Guentzel, Rust, and Sheary, he’s slotted in on Crosby’s wing for the time being, and the duo manhandled the Islanders in that matchup. All the talk about Sprong’s defensive game will probably not be a worry as he’s paired with someone as aggressive for the puck as Sid. Sprong has been the subject of many trade rumors, but if he can provide a jolt of offense to the Penguins lineup, there’s no way the Penguins can let him go without getting something substantial in return.
Dumoulin has taken on more of a defensive role this season, notching just two assists which is way down from the fourteen he had last season (though he’s doubled his career goals total, from two to four). His possession numbers are quite good, but the luck just hasn’t been there for him. Dumo was never going to be the guy the team leaned on for his offensive contributions, but the team could probably use a bit more production out of him; after all, his primary pairmate is Letang. Otherwise, Dumoulin has been pretty steady and has the second-most minutes amongst defensemen on the time. So while I don’t imagine the Penguins trading Dumoulin (who has five years left on his $4.1M/yr contract), the second half has to see more from him.
Meanwhile, Sheary recently has seen his ice time diminish, possibly a reflection (and an admission by Sullivan) that he hasn’t been producing as well as he had been. Unlike his compatriot Rust, who has managed to look good on pretty much any line, Sheary hasn’t shown himself to be as productive away from Crosby, which is not a useful attribute. The one thing that is going in Sheary’s favor is a high shooting percentage, good for second (sorry Oleksiak) on the team. The other saving grace for Sheary is that he’s one of two natural left wingers on the team (and the other one is not impressing many either, see Hagelin), and there aren’t many left wingers behind him in the depth chart. But he’s only got five points (3G-2A) since December 1, so he’d better rediscover his scoring touch or his position won’t matter for long.
Surprisingly to me, Simon has found himself as a linemate for Crosby more often than not thus far. Simon has not played his natural center position much for the Penguins in his brief and scattered stints, but as you would probably expect, he’s gotten three of his four assists with #87; I guess that Crosby guy can make anyone a decent hockey player! In all fairness, Simon was called up ahead of other natural centers in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Jean-Sebastien Dea and Teddy Blueger, so the coaching staff must be happy with his flexibility. It’s a small sample size for the Czech, and I’d like to see what he can do centering his own line, but I guess if they’re getting offense out of him and they can spread out the production that way, he can stay on Sid’s line for a while.
Cole is the lame duck of the defensive group; supposedly he’s fallen out of favor with Sullivan, which could be evidenced by the decline in ice time, and just generally Cole has taken steps back from his play last season. But he’s still a solid defenseman, and I think there’s a few teams out there that could use a lefty on the blueline. If Cole continues to be a healthy scratch for Sullivan, then Cole is anticipated to be on his way out of Pittsburgh. Case in point: he played ~20+ minutes in five games, was a minus for three of those games and they were each losses. I’m sure the front office is working hard to find a possible landing spot for Cole.