LATEST PENS TRADE DEADLINE BUZZ
WHITNEY REMAINS ON RADAR: Phoenix Coyotes 39 Year old winger Ray Whitney continues to emerge as the Penguins most likely top target at the winger position in the team’s pursuit of a top-6 winger as the NHL Trade Deadline inches closer, league sources tell Inside Pittsburgh Sports.
The Penguins have heavily scouted the Phoenix Coyotes in the past 3-to-4 weeks and internal discussions surrounding Whitney have been on-going since the Penguins pro scouting meetings last month. The Coyotes though have yet to entertain offers for Whitney and are still considered at least two weeks away from seriously listening to offers forÂ Whitney. Phoenix is currently 12th in the Western Conference with 54 points, trailing 8th place Minnesota by four points. The next two weeks will dictate whether Whitney is moved as a budget team like Phoenix can’t risk not moving an asset if they are out of the playoff hunt.
The Coyotes 3-4-3 in their last ten games, begin a tough stretch of games starting tomorrow night against Detroit where they play the Red Wings, Stars, Flames, Blackhawks and Canucks in a span of seven days (2/6 – 2/13).
Whitney has 16 goals, 29 assists and 45 points on the season (team-high), including a +15 rating, ranking first on the team. He carries a cap hit of $3 million and has a no movement clause. At age 39, Whitney continues to show no signs of slowing down, riding a four game points streak (2G-4A) and is averaging 18:20 of ice time on the season.
Where Whitney would provide a significant boost over lets say a Steve Sullivan is at even strength, an area of concern for the Penguins.
Whitney’s 35 even strength points (t-13th NHL) would rank second on the Penguins behind Evgeni Malkin who leads the Penguins with 41 even strength points.
Talk among scouts is that five prominent teams with strong interest in Whitney include the Boston Bruins, Pittsburgh Penguins, New York Rangers, San Jose SharksÂ and Los Angeles Kings.
PENS NOT IN ON RUUTU?: The Penguins like Carolina’s Tuomo Ruutu just like 8-10 other teams do,Â and view him as an excellent fit who could fill a second orÂ third line role. The Penguins though are considered a big longshot to become a top contender for Ruutu.
The Penguins like many teams interested in Ruutu, don’t like the current asking price of a first round pick and a prospect. Sources believe the Penguins won’t be involved in the bidding for Ruutu.
While Canes GM Jim Rutherford is shooting high right now for a first round pick, talk around the league is that Rutherford is also interested in NHL ready prospects and could end up going in that direction. Rutherford resigning Ruutu also still remainsÂ an option.Â Pittsburgh has attractive mid-tier NHL ready prospects in Robert Bortuzzo, Brian Strait, in-addition to Dustin Jeffrey and Eric Tangradi, but (always subject to change) sense around the league is that Ruutu is unlikely to become a Penguin come Feb 27th.
Top Scouts Clancy, Savard Scouting Lightning: When it comes to depth forwards, the rumor mill for the Penguins continues to center around the Tampa Bay Lightning and Montreal Canadiens as potential trade partners.
Despte questions about Dominic Moore filling a particular need, sources say the Penguins continue to see Moore as great insurance as the team’s third line center in case Sidney Crosby is not able to make it through a playoff run. Although the Penguins fully believe Crosby will play this season, no one knows if he will go symptom free once he returns.
Where team’s send their scouts at this of the year is overblown but of note this week, the Penguins sent two of their top scouts to Tampa Bay this week. Damian Cristodero of the Tampa Times writes, “Eight teams had scouts credentialed for Thursday’s game with the Jets, including the Penguins, who reserved seats for pro scout Andre Savard and director of pro scouting Derek Clancy.”
“There have been plenty of rumors about whom the Lightning might be willing to move, with D Pavel Kubina, LW Ryan Malone and C Dominic Moore most mentioned. Kubina has been linked to the Rangers and Flames, Malone to the Kings (with the speculated return being G Jonathan Bernier) and Moore to the Penguins and Senators.”
The Lightning are said to be asking for a top-4 defenseman for Malone or a potential No. 1 goaltender in return.
Pens – Habs Trade Talk: Pittsburgh had scouts in New Jersey this week believed to be scouting the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday night. Prior to Thursday’s game, a Penguins representive and Habs GM Pierre Gauthier were seen having a 10 minute conversation as trade speculation continues to center around the Penguins making “feelers” out to the Habs about gritty forward Travis Moen who is also drawing heavy interest from Detroit and Vancouver. Billy Guerin has been scouting out of the New York/New Jersey area of late for the Penguins.
Could the Penguins also be targeting another Hab? It depends on who you talk to.
There continues to be speculation among scouts that the Penguins will make a run at former Penguin Hal Gill who played a shutdown role for theÂ team during their 2009 Stanley Cup run.
Despite scouts around the league making the Gill/Penguins connection, indications coming out of the organization is that the Penguins are comfortable with their top-6 and depth, and have no plans to overpay for a possible 3rd pairing defenseman and aren’t in the market for a defenseman.
“Any defenseman with a pulse nets a second-round pick, ” a Penguins source joked when asked about the high demand of defenseman right now.
Gill, 36, turns 37 in April and is on the decline of his career and his minutes have been down in the past couple weeks, playing under nine minutes in two of the Canadiens last seven games. Several teams though are interested including the Boston Bruins, Philadelphia Flyers and Washington Capitals among others.