The New York Islanders got Bo Horvat from Vancouver. The New York Rangers got Vladimir Tarasenko from St. Louis. Chicago’s Patrick Kane and San Jose’s Timo Meier are going somewhere. There are trades to be made.
Problem is, the Penguins can’t make ‘em.
In Pittsburgh, we reminisce about deals that win Stanley Cups, like getting Ron Francis and Ulf Samuelsson in 1991. Or Rick Tocchet in ’92. Or Bill Guerin in ’09. Or the flurry of five trades then-GM Jim Rutherford made to set up consecutive Cups in ’16 and ’17.
But that can’t happen this season.
The Penguins are squeezed tight against the salary cap.
Nine players on the NHL roster have full or limited no-movement clauses.
The Penguins have no prospects a potential trade partner would want. Their rostered players that don’t have NMCs aren’t real marketable, either.
GM Ron Hextall says he won’t trade a No. 1 pick. That’s wise. The deal made wouldn’t fetch enough to make a major difference, and the Penguins would have to overpay to get the trade partner to retain cap for who’s acquired. (That "overpay to retain cap" part applies to most swaps the Penguins might make.)
Hextall is in a bad position, though it’s one he created. The Penguins would be better off with cap flexibility created by not signing Jeff Carter, Kasperi Kapanen and Jan Rutta than they are with those players.
Except for making maybe a very minor deal, the Penguins must do the best they can with what they got. But most of the teams proximate to them in the playoff race figure to get better, or already have.
So, Hextall won’t make headlines between now and the March 3 trade deadline. Not unless he makes a player-for-player blockbuster. But the NMCs minimize that possibility. That kind of deal doesn’t get made much these days, anyway.
Then-GM Craig Patrick sent two Hall-of-Famers packing in that ’92 deal for Tocchet, namely Paul Coffey and Mark Recchi. But the Penguins won the Cup, so Patrick won the deal.