Throughout the 2013-14 season so far, the Pittsburgh Penguins have constantly had their depth tested by injuries and suspensions. As the campaign rolls on and more dollars owed come off of current contracts, the Penguins are slowly finding themselves in a position to—perhaps—make a move to further add to their ranks.
During the lockout-shortened 2013 campaign, the team Cupped up in a big way leading up to the trade deadline, supplementing an already substantial roster with Jarome Iginla, Jussi Jokinen, Douglas Murray and Brenden Morrow.
The sequence of moves didn't pay off, as the Penguins came up short against the Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference Final.
Three of those four players have also moved on to different pastures, and Pittsburgh ended up shelling out some futures (Joe Morrow, two second-round picks for Murray, etc.) for the failed shot at the Stanley Cup.
If general manager Ray Shero can find a few cheap options—think along the lines of the Jokinen trade—or falls in love with a particular player, it wouldn't be surprising to see the aggressive manager add some more talent to this team for the stretch run.
It's important to keep in mind that this is speculation and that the Penguins aren't necessarily connected to any rumors surrounding these few players specifically. It's just an examination of who could help the team, given the injury outbreak.
All statistics appear courtesy of HockeyDB.com unless otherwise noted and are accurate through games played on December 28.
Matt Moulson has been rock solid for the Buffalo Sabres since getting traded away from the New York Islanders in late October. He played in his 25th game for the Sabres on Friday, and the team has seemingly improved over their last 10 games or so.
Since the 30-year-old arrived in Buffalo, though, the question has simply been whether or not he wants to endure another rebuild. He spent four years with the Islanders organization, and right when they appeared to turn a corner as a playoff team last season, he was traded to another bottom-feeding team.
There's no denying that John Tavares is an outstanding center and a good player. Moulson could do some serious damage skating alongside Sidney Crosby, though. Various sources, including Jimmy Hascup of USA Today, are reporting that Pascal Dupuis could be finished for the season.
That leaves a big hole on Pittsburgh's top line, one that Moulson could fill quite well. It would also be a bit of a homecoming for the sniper, who was a ninth-round selection of the Penguins back in 2003.
Since the beginning of the 2013-14 campaign, Kris Russell has had his name pop up in trade rumors for the Calgary Flames. Randy Sportak of The Calgary Sun listed the fleet-footed defenseman as possible trade bait before the puck dropped for game one of the season due to his status as an upcoming free agent.
The Penguins have relied heavily on young defensemen such as Olli Maatta and call-ups from the AHL level to push their way through the first months of the season, but as the playoffs draw near, it seems unlikely that Shero will stand pat with a top pairing of Maatta and Matt Niskanen.
Russell isn't a guy that could step in and be a defensive stalwart, but he's a talented and quick puck mover that would give Pittsburgh a nice checkdown for when Kris Letang is hurt. The 26-year-old showed some offensive flair when Mark Giordano was injured earlier in the year, and he could be a solid, cheap depth option for the Penguins.
They just haven't had any luck keeping a healthy blue line this season, and it almost seems like a given that at least one member of the top-six will be hurt at any point in time. Russell could help combat that issue, and it's likely that he'd be an easier asset to pick up than Michael Del Zotto or someone along those lines.
At the end of October, Bruce Garrioch of The Ottawa Sun wrote that the Florida Panthers were willing to move any and all of their veterans for the right price. One of the players that he listed was Tomas Fleischmann.
The journeyman winger has been one of Florida's most consistent forwards since he arrived back in 2011, putting up 115 points in 168 games for the Panthers. No disrespect to young centers like Nick Bjugstad and Aleksander Barkov, but at this point in their careers, they can't hold a candle to Crosby.
If the man they call "Flash" can score close to 30 goals while playing alongside Kris Versteeg and Stephen Weiss, what could he do with Crosby?
It's unclear at this point exactly what the Panthers would be looking for in exchange for the 29-year-old forward, but it doesn't seem likely that he'd come cheap. Florida general manager Dale Tallon appears to be building around youth, and Shero may feel that he already jettisoned too many futures away at the deadline last year to justify doing the same thing again for another rental that will walk over the summer.
Still, acquiring a sniper like Fleischmann could add a tough wrinkle to Pittsburgh's forward attack. With Dupuis out for the foreseeable future and Beau Bennett on LTIR, a deal for a top-six forward makes sense.
It seems like we do this every year, doesn't it?
To be clear, the New Jersey Devils haven't indicated that they're shopping Jaromir Jagr, and he's not rumored to be on the trade block. That's because the Eastern Conference is still wide open, and New Jersey is sitting just outside of the playoffs, both as a divisional seed and as a wild card.
If the Devils end up falling off, though, could they look to move Jagr for a late-round pick? His contract is up at the end of the season, and while he's been outstanding for the Devils, he isn't the future of the team.
After everything that Jagr and the Penguins have been through, would Shero consider bringing No. 68 back for one last hurrah in Pittsburgh? It isn't like the ageless wonder would be brought back in on a lift just to complete a farewell tour, though.
This is clearly a player that can still contribute on a nightly basis and score some goals if given the opportunity to do so. Jagr might appear to be an option based in nostalgia, but it's doubtful that the Penguins would have to give up as much for him as they would for a player like Moulson.
It's worth at least considering if the phone call comes, right?
Here's another long-shot option that's worth rolling around.
Dany Heatley has been the subject of trade rumors over the last two years, but the Minnesota Wild haven't been able to find a taker for his hefty $7.5 million cap hit. At least that was the case during the trade deadline last season and over the summer.
This season's deadline could be a bit different for the Wild, though, as money continues to fall off of Heatley's massive contract and cap hit. Pittsburgh doesn't have much wiggle room and wouldn't be able to swing a deal for the struggling former sniper if they get healthy.
If it's true that Dupuis won't be able to play again this season, though, that would give the Penguins $3.75 million to spend on a rental replacement. If Shero can convince the Wild to retain some of Heatley's salary while swinging some money in the direction, suddenly Pittsburgh could add a top-six forward that Minnesota is dying to get rid of.
He's been much maligned since becoming a member of the Wild, and the team reportedly wants to move him, but he's only 32 and is one season removed from his last 20-goal season. It seems like a long time ago, but this is the same guy that posted five straight seasons of near 40-goal totals while playing alongside Jason Spezza in Ottawa and Joe Thornton in San Jose.
Could he reignite and find that form while playing with Crosby or Evgeni Malkin?
It'd be a risky move, but it could pay huge dividends if Shero is looking for a bang-for-buck trade.