Pittsburgh Penguins’ Trade Deadline Target: Zdeno Chara

Kim Clement/USA Today

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As we know, the NHL trade deadline is approaching. The official deadline is on March 21 at 3 P.M., and NHL Network will host their annual deadline show that will last all morning and through the afternoon.

The NHL trade deadline has always been one of my favorite things to tune into because it is typically one of the more fun deadlines in sports. Deals trickle in all day long, and sometimes even shortly after the deadline as they pass through the NHL’s front office.

The Penguins are expected to be on the more quiet side of things this season unless something drastic happens over the next month. This leads me to believe that a certain in-division rival has a player the Penguins may potentially be interested in.

That man is none other than the behemoth, 6’9” Slovakian that is Islanders' defenseman Zdeno Chara.

Could you imagine Chara in a Penguins uniform? Most people will remember Chara as the guy who roamed the Boston Bruins’ backend for 14 of his 24 NHL seasons. His career, ironically, began with the Islanders and he made a pit stop with Ottawa before becoming a long term Bruin.  His prior two seasons were spent in Washington before a trip back to Long Island, seeing his career go full circle.

This season, Chara has posted eight points - all of them being assists - in 44 games with the Islanders. For his career, Chara has 674 points in 1,652 games. That amount of games is now a record for most played as a defenseman in NHL history. Chara broke that record this past week passing Chris Chelios who had previously held the record since 2010.

Playing 24 seasons in the NHL, or any professional sports league, is an accomplishment in and of itself. Congratulations to him.  “Big Z” will turn 45 just a week before the trade deadline. Is it far fetched to think the Penguins would trade for a 45-year old, much less one that plays for a division rival? I don’t think it is.

The Islanders won’t be participating in this year’s version of the postseason. You might remember that they defeated the Penguins last season in stunning fashion. In-division trades aren’t forbidden but they typically don’t happen. However, the Islanders wouldn’t be affected at all.  Chara is on a one-year deal and the Islanders could recoup some asset for a 45-year old defenseman. That feels like a win.

The Penguins would be acquiring a depth defenseman who has certainly been through the ringer over the course of his career. He has played in a ton of playoff games and won a few Stanley Cups, so he knows a thing or two about high pressure games.

It would be a solid trade for both sides.

Now the real question is how the Penguins would deploy Chara.

The notion that someone Chara’s age could play in the Penguins’ system is crazy. Mike Sullivan prefers younger, quicker players that have an ability to skate well. Chara’s quicker days are long gone. However, with bigger strides than most at 6’9”, Chara can still cover a lot of ground.

He’s a stay at home defenseman with a lot of experience that can even deter some cheap shots at guys like Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Not many teams have a piece to combat a guy standing at 81 inches tall. Many have tried and many have failed.

Chara wouldn’t be a splashy pickup. I’m not even sure most fans in Pittsburgh would be happy with the move, but you can win with guys like him. Experienced, hard-nosed players go a long way on the chase for a Stanley Cup.

The Penguins Mike Matheson went down with an injury on Friday afternoon and will be out week-to-week. No one knows when he’ll return but it figures to be a while.

In-house replacements like Pierre-Olivier Joseph and Mark Friedman are relatively inexperienced. While the Penguins would like to know what they have in those guys, many reports suggest the Penguins are interested in additional external defensive help. That would point to some veteran on a cheap deal coming in and helping take some of those minutes.

The Islanders said they weren’t going to look to move Chara until after he broke the record. Now that that’s out of the way, they can begin looking for a trade partner for Chara. Why not Pittsburgh?

The Penguins will be shopping for cheap depth on the blue line. They’re not going to find much cheaper depth than “Big Z” solely due to his age and contract status. It’s a move the Penguins will likely explore over the next few weeks.