If Nashville is selling, the Pens should at least be weighing in to be checking it out
On TSN (video autoplay warning) Pierre LeBrun and Darren Dreger talked about the climate around the league and what names could be in the mix.
The first name they talked about was Vancouver’s Jake Virtanen. Virtanen has been in the trade rumor mill heavily, played less than 7 minutes in the Canucks’ last game and has 1 goal and 0 assists in 14 games this year. Virtanen also has a $2.55 million salary cap hit this season and next, and if he was drafted sixth overall there wouldn’t be much remarkable about him.
Dreger mentioned the Canucks seeking a young NHL caliber forward in return, and given the Penguins and Vancouver’s similarly sketchy salary cap situations, a fit doesn’t look in place either on the ice for what Virtanen could actually contribute or for either team’s objectives.
However, LeBrun moved on to talk about the Nashville Predators turning into a seller, possibly soon and that is what should make ears perk up in Pittsburgh. At 6-9-0 after 15 games, Nashville is in seventh place in the Central and falling out already. LeBrun mentioned two sure-fire candidates for change in center Erik Haula and winger Mikael Granlund as two players on one year contracts.
As mentioned here, the Penguins have a big problem in not having four lines figured out. They have the Crosby line, doing great. The Buzzsaw looks better than ever. The Malkin line is not performing well, but all the ingredients are in place.
That “other, other” line though, is in shambles. Jared McCann is hurt. Mark Jankowski played a couple strong games to start the season and has proven to be below replacement-level for the last 10+ games. Sam Lafferty only stands out for the wrong reasons in games — meaning lately making poor decisions that have ended up in his net. Colton Sceviour has been OK, but he’s the definition of “a guy on a team” that isn’t moving the needle much in either direction.
If the Preds are wanting to mix up their team, and send out players for youth or prospects or picks, the Pens should definitely be interested in players on the level of Haula or Granlund.
The main knock on Haula has been his health with a couple of recent knee injuries. He’s played 14 of the 15 games this season, and though he doesn’t have a goal Haula does have four assists and has a track record of being a nice depth center, and he has won 55% of his faceoffs this season.
Granlund would be an even bigger prize, though he also has a $3.75 million cap hit that would take some finessing (either by NSH retaining and/or taking back a player like Sceviour in the deal). Granlund has seven points (2G+5A) in 12 games this season and a 55% Corsi For% that ranks well relative his teammates so far.
New GM Ron Hextall has only been on the job for a few games and is still probably in the evaluation stage, and it’s not like Nashville has hung a for sale sign out either. They’re a few winning games away from being right back in the thick of the chase.
As Hextall continues his evals and process, getting a boost for that extra supporting line is going to have to take a priority with the stated goal of competing immediately. Most of the material left on hand for that line (Jankowski, Sceviour, Lafferty, Evan Rodrigues) has not been able to make it work, or one reason or another.
With the national-level whispers are already out there that Nashville could be a team interested in shedding NHL caliber forwards. If the Pens could get either Haula or Granlund to pair with McCann, suddenly they would have the makings of a much, much more improved 3rd line (or 4th line, however you want to look at it).