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Insider Only Trade Deadline Buzz: Uncertainty of 87 has Pens looking hard at depth center options; Stewart/Kennedy viewed as a possible match & more tidbits

Uncertainty of Crosby

— There are just 22 games left in the regular season for the Penguins and the Sidney Crosby situation appears to be a roller coaster ride just like last season. He looks great on the ice but every time things appear to moving in the right direction, something comes up and that’s how these things are.


When Crosby was initially shutdown following the Bruins game on Dec. 5th, it was believed Crosby was dealing with minor headaches. Five to six weeks later when Crosby started skating again, there was more talk of him having balance and motion issues than headaches. Now last week when Crosby spoke, he mentioned the balance issues were much better but he was still having headaches, although more tolerable.
Nonetheless, the Penguins can’t count on a healthy Sidney Crosby and they have to attack the trade deadline that way, despite optimism that he will return this season.
The Penguins need to have some insurance down the middle regarding the possibility that when Crosby returns, he might not be able to get through a hard fought playoff series.
After failing to land Dominic Moore, sources say the Penguins continue to look hard at center depth options and the team has been scouting Blue Jackets centerman Samuel Pahlsson heavily in the past two weeks.
Pittsburgh sent two scouts to Columbus last night, and while Columbus is a regular scouting base for them, a source says the team has been looking at Pahlsson and could consider him at the right price (low draft choice). Pahlsson though carries a $2.65 million cap hit, which is steep. Acquiring him on the deadline would count around $570,000 against the cap for the rest of the season. (A scouts view on Pahlsson from last week)
Why is adding a checking line center important? No Sidney Crosby in the playoffs would put a strong focus on Jordan Staal as the second line scoring center and I’m told the Penguins feel adding an impact checking line center would take some of the defensive responsibilities away from Staal, as the Penguins are going to need two scoring lines to win in the playoffs.
A source tells me the Penguins regard a scoring forward and depth center as 1A and 1B on their priority list but it will likely be one or the other and in this market, they might come up empty in both areas.

It’s not clear if Pittsburgh intends to actively pursue Buffalo’s Paul Gaustad who is the best checking line center available. Gaustad showed his value in Sunday’s matchup vs Pittsburgh where he can frustrate a top line. Regarding Pittsburgh’s possible interest, I’ve heard the Penguins have concerns about his skating ability in Dan Bylsma’s system.
Gaustad though would add needed size, faceoff ability and is a type of big strong centerman top contenders will be coveting. Interest is expected to be very high and the asking price will be much steeper than Pahlsson.
He carries a $2.3 million cap hit.
Pierre LeBrun of ESPN lists the Red Wings, Penguins, Canucks, Rangers and Sharks as five fits. A scout on Gaustad via ESPN: “He had a slow start this year, I thought, but has picked it up in the second half,’’ an NHL scout, requesting anonymity, told this week.“He’s a big guy who can grind it out — you need those guys in the playoffs — but I’d be careful to make sure to pair him with better skaters. He doesn’t get up and down the ice too well. But he’s a good penalty killer, a good pickup for a good team that just needs to upgrade their size on their third or fourth line.”
— The Penguins have re-assigned goaltender Brad Thiessen who was up here on an emergency basis. The team though hasn’t ruled out Thiessen coming back up at somepoint. Look for it to be an evolving situation.
— One thing brought to my attention from a scout this week: Depth players seem to mesh right away in Bylsma’s system, while it’s a much tougher challenge for defensemen and even top-6 forwards coming from a different system.
— When it comes to Penguins being linked to depth center options, one name on the cheap who keeps popping up among league contacts is Tampa Bay’s Adam Hall who Shero has always been high on.
— The Penguins and Blues have been scouting each other quite frequently in the past couple weeks. A lot of time it means nothing but the Penguins like a number of other NHL team’s, surely wouldn’t mind having Chris Stewart on their roster. Stewart is available but at a high price and the Blues are seeking forwards in return.
He is a restricted free agent at seasons end and is currently making $3.25 million ($2.85 million cap hit). Stewart hasn’t meshed well with Ken Hitchcock and some feel the 24 year old needs a change of scenery. An NHL source believed (if healthy) a package from Pittsburgh centering around Tyler Kennedy would interest the Blues for three reasons: They had interest in him last summer and would be saving money and he is responsible defensively which interests St. Louis. I was told this past summer, the Blues were among two teams that called Kennedy’s agent Steve Bartlett on July 1 right around 12:00 p.m. to express interest and didn’t know he resigned right before noon.
— Talk out of the Penguins organization is that if they added a defenseman, it would be for a depth defenseman at a low price in the 4th or 5th round draft choice range. They have not been actively seeking a defenseman and have no interest in giving up a high draft choice for a blueliner.

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William DePaoli

TIOPS Insider

William DePaoli is the President/Founder of Inside Pittsburgh Sports LLC and can be reached at

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