The Pittsburgh Penguins are entering the NHL draft with over $12 million in cap space and an opportunity to upgrade their winger situation via trade.
The Penguins have held preliminary discussions with a few selective teams, most notably the Carolina Hurricanes and Chicago Blackhawks in recent days. A source categorized the discussions as “inquiries”
Stan Bowman the general manager of the Chicago Blackhawks is actively shopping young forwards Dustin Byfuglien and Kris Versteeg in an attempt to clear salary.
Versteeg is very much on the Penguins radar a source confirmed, while indicating that the Penguins interest in Byfuglien is “lukewarm” at best.
According to a league source, the Blackhawks have tabbed the Penguins as a targeted trade partner. Two impact role players with low cap hits in Maxime Talbot and Tyler Kennedy are on the Blackhawks radar, Inside Pittsburgh Sports has learned.
Despite not having trade leverage due to their cap situation, the Hawks are looking to sell high on their young forwards. The Blackhawks are looking for at least two assets (impact roster player with low cap hit & high draft pick or mid-top tier prospect) in a trade for Byfuglien or Versteeg. It’s an asking price that many GM’s are currently balking at.
The Penguins I’m told are willing to move their 1st round pick for the “right player” but neither Versteeg nor Byfuglien fit the bill.
However, the Penguins are very high on Versteeg who they see as a great fit in their uptempo-system.
Versteeg, 24, had 20 goals and 24 assists last season. Versteeg is signed for two more seasons with a cap hit of $3.083 million. He is scheduled to become an Restricted Free Agent on July 1, 2012.
He’s a smallish yet shifty forward with excellent top end speed and soft hands in around the net.
Byfuglien, 25, is a wildcard. He’s a big power forward (6-3, 255 lbs) but scouting evalutors I’ve spoken too, including a professional scout in the Penguins system don’t appear too high on the Hawks playoff hero.
Byfuglien had 11 goals in the post-season and even drew some Conn Smythe Trophy consideration.
At times he can be a force on the ice but lacks consistency and has never scored over 20 goals or 36 points in three full seasons.
Byfuglien has one year left on his deal and is due $3 million per season.
As for Tyler Kennedy and Maxime Talbot, both are highly regarded inside the organization, most notably Kennedy.
Kennedy, 23, had an up and down season in 2009-2010. He battled through injuries scoring 13 goals in 64 games after a 15 goal campaign (67 games) in 2008-2009.
The Penguins believe he’s going to be a 20 goal scorer and many thought it was going to happen last season. Kennedy never appeared to rebound from a groin injury that bothered him at times for much of the season.
Talbot and Kennedy each have one year left on their deals. Kennedy has a cap hit of $725,000, while Talbot has a cap hit of $1.05 million.
Both are scheduled to become RFA’s on July 1, 2011.