Pittsburgh Penguins' Trade Deadline Target: Brock Boeser

 

Mark Zaleski/Associated Press


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Currently, the Penguins sit at 34-15-9 and in the thick of the Eastern Conference's Metropolitan Division. They're a virtual lock to make the playoffs but so are the rest of the eight seeds currently slotted in playoff position in the East.  This adds up to a lot more deadline sellers than usual. This could make for a fun NHL trade deadline as the sellers try to maximize all of their different movable assets.

As I stated in an article today for Gold Lot Sports, the Penguins trade deadline focus has shifted away from defensemen and goaltenders to strictly scoring middle-six wingers. They've got a litany of underperforming forwards that reside on their second and third lines. This should prompt the Penguins to be a bit more aggressive than they originally planned to be.

Jim Rutherford, the Penguins' former General Manager, has since moved on to Vancouver as the Canucks' President of Hockey Operations. His General Manager happens to be none other than Patrick Allvin, another former Penguins front office member. So if there is anyone in the league who knows a thing or two about the Penguins and their current roster makeup/prospect situation, it would be the Canucks.

Thus, over the past few weeks, the Penguins and Canucks have become a mutual trade partner when it comes to analysts playing armchair GM. Both teams have been scouting the other as the deadline approaches in a few weeks and they don't play each other again this season so they aren't scouting them as a future opponent.

A name that will perk Penguins' fans ears if the Penguins are serious about bolstering their middle six is winger Brock Boeser.

A former first-rounder in the 2015 NHL draft, Boeser would present a major upgrade and scoring boost to the wing for the Penguins. He just turned 25 in February so he's still a very young option going forward for Pittsburgh.

Boeser is in the final year of a three year, $17.6 million contract that pays a $5.88 million annually. He is a restricted free agent after this season so the Penguins would retain his rights even through the beginning of free agency if they couldn't come to an agreement right away. It's fair to assume he'd want just as much, if not a bit more, annually on another extension in Pittsburgh.

With Bryan Rust as an impending free agent, the Penguins could give Boeser the money they would've given Rust and allow Rust to walk in free agency. Boeser is nearly five years younger so the gamble would be worth the risk.

Boeser has played 304 games and scored 114 goals in his career. He is one of the more coveted pieces at this deadline. Most of his seasons have come on rather mediocre Canucks teams. Getting a chance to play on Evgeni Malkin's wing would be enticing to someone like Boeser who is likely craving a chance to play meaningful hockey on a consistent basis.

Boeser posted 29 goals in 2017-18' and hasn't quite reached that high point since, but he has scored at least 16 goals in every season since and looks to be on pace for close to 25 goals this year. He is everything the Penguins wish Kasperi Kapanen had been for them this season but his time in Pittsburgh has fizzled.

Of course, Rutherford won't be handing out gifts for the Penguins just because he used to work there. He's going to look out for the best interests of his squad so acquiring Boeser won't be cheap. That doubles if the Penguins expect the Canucks to retain any salary on his contract for the remainder of the season.

With the Penguins currently very close to the salary cap, they're going to have to send out salary in any hopes of bringing Boeser in. With a $5.8 million cap hit, the Penguins will have to send out just as much, if not more, to acquire Boeser's services. This is where things could get tricky.

Kapanen would be a wonderful subtraction from the roster. It seems that any hope of him getting going again has all but disappeared. His $3.2 million cap hit would be a nice start in any talks.

Keep in mind Rutherford has long liked Kapanen. He was one of the few first-round draft choices Jim Rutherford made as the Penguins' General Manager. He ended up trading him for Phil Kessel but then re-acquired him before last season. Enticing Rutherford to take him on might not be as hard as you'd think. Kapanen is also a restricted free agent after the season so Vancouver would own his rights until they agreed to a contract.

Unless Vancouver retained salary, which would drive up the draft pick compensation the Penguins would have to pay, the Penguins would need to shed more salary. Names such as Evan Rodrigues and John Marino have come up among insiders who cover the Canucks. Rodrigues has a $1 million cap hit that will disappear after this season. Marino's cap-hit is $4.4 million over the next six years.

While it's been said that the Penguins don't want to part with their next first-round draft pick, they may have to if they want Boeser. They only have so much longer with the core and I'm all for making them a deeper contender as long as the window is open.

As a fan, I'd love to see the Penguins in talks for Boeser. The Rutherford connection gives me more hope than most big time names at the deadline. The Penguins haven't made first-round picks often in recent years so why start now? With all the impending decisions this offseason, who knows what the Penguins' roster construction will be after this playoff run.

However, it must be noted that there are a few other contenders with more cap space and more to offer to the Canucks than Pittsburgh, including the Pens' potential first round opponent in the Rangers. So there could be a bidding war that drives the price out of the Penguins' range.

Acquiring Boeser would ultimately make the Penguins a better team and give them a legit scoring winger in their middle-six that they currently don't have. I expect the Penguins to at least do their due diligence on acquiring Boeser.



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