Pittsburgh Penguins Most Likely to Be Traded in 2013-2014
Although the Pittsburgh Penguins' roster has been finalized and the 2013-2014 regular season has already begun, Penguins fans should know by now that Penguins general manager Ray Shero and rest of the front office are already looking at potential moves down the road.
With the uncertainty in net due Tomas Vokoun's injury and with 10 pending unrestricted free agents and two pending restricted free agents on the roster, the Pens will have to make some decisions this season, and trades will be one of the options the team explores.
Although the trade deadline seems a long way off, let's take a look at the current Penguins who are the most likely to be traded.
Although the trade that brought Jussi Jokinen to the Penguins from the Carolina Hurricanes may have been the least lauded of Ray Shero's moves at last year's trade deadline, it may have been the most effective.
Having filled in for the injured Sidney Crosby during the last month of the regular season, Jokinen was able to keep the Pens' top line together, and the team never missed a beat.
Dubbed the "Finnish army knife" by Pens announcer and long-time Pen Phil Bourque for his versatility, Jokinen can play anywhere in the lineup and is invaluable in regular-season shootouts.
That being said, he is also entering the last year of a three-year deal and counts $2.1 million against the salary cap.
If Beau Bennett shows enough development to earn a spot on the second line, the Pens may decide that Jokinen may be too expensive as a third-line player and choose to move him.
However, given the recent injury history of Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby, Jokinen would probably be the least likely player on this list to be traded.
Chance of being traded: 20 percent
When the Penguins drafted Simon Despres in the first round of the 2009 NHL entry draft, they envisioned a complete defenseman who can play well in all three zones and be a fixture on the blue line for years to come.
Unfortunately, after two seasons of trying to earn a regular spot in the Pens lineup, Despres has yet to make that vision a reality.
Having been unable to secure a spot in Pittsburgh this year, Despres will begin the season in the AHL and now must wait for an opportunity to once again try to convince the Pens that he is the player they thought he would be.
With Olli Maata having earned a spot with the Pens and with other top-notch defensemen such as Scott Harrington, Derrick Pouliot and Brian Dumoulin ready to take the next step in their development, Ray Shero may decide that Despres would be more valuable as a trade asset at the deadline.
Chance of being traded: 40 percent
Possessing the kind of toughness that Ray Shero looks for in defensemen and a willingness to drop the gloves with anybody in the league if called upon, Deryk Engelland has been an ideal seventh defenseman the past few seasons for the Pens.
Unfortunately for him, that time may be over, as he has been passed by Robert Bortuzzo on the depth chart and will be an unrestricted free agent this summer.
Given the Pens' organizational blue-line depth, Engelland may not be in the team's long-term plans and could find himself on the trade block.
While Ray Shero may choose to hold onto him to offset the loss if Brooks Orpik signs elsewhere this offseason, Engelland's toughness and playoff experience would make him an attractive trade target for a team looking to solidify their blue line.
Chances of being traded: 40 percent
As Dustin Jeffrey has found out, if you are a playmaking center playing for the Penguins and your last name is not Crosby, Malkin or Sutter, you're not going to see much ice time.
Having spent the last six seasons bouncing between the NHL and the AHL, Jeffrey has become a forgotten man on the Pens roster despite the skill he has shown in his limited opportunities.
With 27 career NHL points in 91 NHL games, Jeffrey has shown that he has the ability to produce at the NHL level and just needs the opportunity to do so.
As he will be a restricted free agent this offseason, the time may have come for the Pens to trade him to a team looking for players with the ability to play on the top two lines.
Depending on who else is available at the trade deadline, Jeffrey could bring a good return for the Pens in a trade with a team looking for offense in the midst of a playoff run.
Chance of being traded: 60 percent
When he was acquired by the Penguins in the 2011 trade that sent Alex Goligoski to the Dallas Stars for James Neal, Matt Niskanen was seen as the player to be named later.
After two solid years in Pittsburgh, the player to be named later has made a name for himself as a reliable two-way defenseman.
Unfortunately for Niskanen, the Pens have a lot of talented defensemen waiting in the wings for a chance to make a name for themselves as well.
As he is entering the final year of a two-year, $4.6 million contract and counts $2.3 million against the salary cap, Niskanen may not be in the Pens' long-term plans, and moving him for an emergent need seems like a strong possibility.
However, with Kris Letang out with an injury, don't expect Shero to try to move Niskanen just yet since he will be needed to man the point on the power play, so he may be safe in the meantime.
How long he's safe from the trade block remains to be seen.
Chance of being traded: 75 percent