Pittsburgh Penguins' Trade Deadline Target: Conor Garland

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With every passing day, the NHL trade deadline inches closer. Monday afternoon at 3 P.M., the halt of trading goes into effect. 

Some teams began making moves Wednesday to get out ahead of their competition. The Florida Panthers paid a hefty price to acquire defenseman Ben Chiarot from the Montreal Canadiens. Calgary acquired Seattle Kraken forward Calle Jarnkrok for a couple of day two draft picks.

Meanwhile, the Penguins sit idle waiting for the right player, and acquisition price, to come along. Of course, with the Penguins nearly capped out, they may have to sit idle all the way through the NHL's imposed trade deadline. It will be interesting to see how they handle the next few days.

General Manager Ron Hextall will have some decisions to make as his team has a glaring hole on Evgeni Malkin's wing. They'd love to add someone with a scoring pedigree but those players don't come cheap.

One player I've began to think about over the past few days is Vancouver Canucks winger Conor Garland.  The Penguins and Canucks have been linked together quite a bit over the past few weeks and for good reason.

Jim Rutherford, the Canucks Director of Hockey Operations, is the former General Manager of the Penguins. His former assistant, Patrick Allvin, is the current General Manager of the Canucks. There isn't a team outside of Pittsburgh that knows the Penguins' personnel better than Vancouver.

Garland, 26, is hitting the prime of his career. In his fourth career season, he has 14 goals and 32 points in 58 games. He's scored 13, 22, and 12 goals respectively over his first three seasons. While those aren't eye-popping numbers, Garland has never played with line mates of the caliber that he would in Pittsburgh.

Garland spent his first three seasons in Arizona and then was traded, alongside Oliver Ekman-Larsson, to the Canucks this past offseason. Four days later, Garland signed a five-year deal that pays him $4.95 million annually. So any acquiring team would have his services for another four years following this season.

Something like that could certainly be enticing to a team like Pittsburgh with Bryan Rust set to hit free agency this offseason. Considering the Penguins' eternal cap crunch and franchise icons Malkin and Kris Letang due for new contracts too, something has to give. Trading for four more years of Garland could help soften the blow if Rust does in fact test the free agent market.

Garland would be a nice fit alongside Malkin and could slot into the Penguins' power play as well. The young winger only has two power play points this season but he had as many as ten in a season during his Coyotes career. With the lack of offense in Arizona, he played a more prominent role with the man advantage.

He's currently averaging 16:08 of ice time per night so he'd be essentially playing a similar amount of minutes in Pittsburgh. Garland scores exactly 1.0 Goals per 60 minutes (G/60) at 5-on-5, a number the Penguins would welcome to their lineup.

Garland has only participated in eight playoff games averaging nearly 12:30 minutes per game over that span. He posted two points in those eight games.

As far as the return the Canucks would expect, that seems fairly simple.

Garland's price tag likely won't be as expensive as that of fellow forwards Brock Boeser or J.T. Miller. His contract is a bit more team friendly, especially if he hits a new level in Pittsburgh. However, his offensive output hasn't been there enough for a team to be required to mortgage the future for him.

The Canucks have been looking to acquire a young defenseman in any trades they make at this deadline. John Marino fits that bill.

Marino is 24 and currently carries a $4.4 million cap hit so the money is fairly similar both ways. Rutherford acquired Marino for a sixth-round pick while he was in Pittsburgh so he certainly has a liking for the guy.

While the Penguins would like to keep Marino, they haven't seen the same Marino that showed up as a fresh faced 21 year old that received votes for Rookie of the Year. He's been okay, but for the $4.4 million they're paying him in the league's most expensive defensive unit, they need more.

Garland for Marino makes sense on the surface. But if it was that easy, the trade likely would've happened already.  Either way, the situation deserves monitoring as we head closer to Monday.

Keep Garland's name in mind. He'll certainly have interest from other teams as well so the Penguins won't be alone. But if they're serious about having a shot at the Stanley Cup, they're going to have to add a scoring winger and Garland fits that bill.


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