5 Landing Spots for Pittsburgh Penguins Captain Sidney Crosby
The Pittsburgh Penguins' recent hiring of Ron Hextall as their general manager and Brian Burke as president of hockey operations had NHL pundits pondering what changes lay in store for the roster. TSN's Darren Dreger went as far as raising the possibility of trading Sidney Crosby.
Colorado Hockey Now's Adrian Dater cited Dreger's Feb. 10 appearance on TSN's OverDrive discussing the Penguins' future under their new management. If they miss the 2020 playoffs, Dreger wouldn't be shocked if Crosby accepted a trade to a contender or a promising club for a return that would improve the Penguins within the next five years.
The idea of a Crosby trade seems absurd. Even Dreger admitted it's a long shot. Like Mario Lemieux before him, Crosby saved the franchise when it was at a low point. He led the Penguins to three Stanley Cups, earning numerous individual awards and cementing his legacy as this generation's greatest all-around player.
No one other than Crosby knows his intentions beyond this season. There's no indication he wants out of Pittsburgh if the Penguins are no longer a Cup contender. His contract expires at the end of 2024-25 and carries a full no-movement clause, giving him complete control over where he spends the next four seasons.
The same day Dreger suggested the idea, The Athletic's Rob Rossi reported Lemieux, now a Penguins co-owner, had told confidants and former general managers he wants Crosby and Evgeni Malkin to retire as Penguins.
Nevertheless, this might not be the last time we hear Crosby's name in the NHL rumor mill, especially if the Penguins struggle to remain a playoff contender. Here's a look at five teams with the assets to make a competitive bid if he hits the trade block in the offseason.
The Boston Bruins have been among the NHL's top teams for the better part of a decade. Perched atop the MassMutual East Division, they still look like a Stanley Cup contender. Crosby could be a good fit if the Bruins remain determined to keep their championship window open beyond this season.
Second-line center David Krejci turns 35 on April 28 and is slated to become an unrestricted free agent this summer. They could seek a replacement if they fail to re-sign him to an affordable short-term extension.
Crosby has ties to Bruins center Patrice Bergeron and winger Brad Marchand. They formed a potent line for Canada during the 2016 World Cup of Hockey. Crosby also played alongside Bergeron in the 2005 World Junior Championship and trains with Marchand during the summer. He could jump at the chance to chase a Stanley Cup with those two.
Acquiring Crosby will be expensive for any team. That's especially true for the Bruins, as they aren't as well-stocked in promising talent as other teams on this list. The package could risk their long-term future to maintain their Cup contender status.
A pitch for Crosby could include a winger such as Jake DeBrusk or Anders Bjork. Both have struggled to meet expectations in Boston and might benefit from a change of scenery. It could also cost the Bruins a promising player such as center Jack Studnicka or Urho Vaakanainen as well as one or two first-round picks. A young defenseman such as Connor Clifton or Jeremy Lauzon could also be included.
The Bruins will have $50.2 million invested in 14 players if they let Krejci walk this summer. That should be sufficient room to absorb Crosby's $8.7 million cap hit and leave enough to re-sign key players such as goaltender Tuukka Rask and defenseman Brandon Carlo.
The Carolina Hurricanes have steadily improved in recent years thanks to a strong defensive corps and first-line stars Sebastian Aho and Andrei Svechnikov. It's a promising team that could benefit from having an experienced superstar like Crosby.
Crosby could slot into the second-line center spot, with Aho remaining in the first-line role. Vincent Trocheck fills the second-line position, but he's due to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of 2021-22.
Moving Crosby to Carolina would also reunite him with Hurricanes captain Jordan Staal. The two were teammates during Crosby's early seasons with the Penguins, including their 2009 Stanley Cup championship run.
The Hurricanes have $53.4 million invested in 12 players for 2021-22. A healthy chunk of their cap space will be taken up by new contracts for Svechnikov and defenseman Dougie Hamilton. They must also re-sign or replace goalies Petr Mrazek and James Reimer. Still, they could free some dollars by offering up Trocheck and his $4.75 million cap hit as part of the return for Crosby.
Promising young players and draft picks must also be part of the deal. Center Seth Jarvis, taken 13th overall by the Hurricanes in 2020, could be part of the Penguins' asking price. If he's unavailable, they could ask for center Ryan Suzuki, who was selected 28th in 2019. Defenseman Jake Bean, 22, could also become a trade chip.
If the Hurricanes are reluctant to part with a top prospect, they might have to give up another roster player alongside Trocheck. The Penguins could seek a winger such as Martin Necas or Warren Foegele.
Dreger suggested the Colorado Avalanche as a possible Crosby trade destination: "Colorado makes a lot of sense to me, by the way.
The Avalanche would be a logical landing spot. As a rising force in the Western Conference, their Stanley Cup window is wide open. They're loaded with talent, with many of their players approaching or in their prime. Led by Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog, the Avs possess considerable scoring punch, plus they have a deep defensive core.
MacKinnon and Crosby are natives of Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia, and train together in the offseason. Crosby wouldn't supplant MacKinnon as the Avs' first-line center but would be a solid fit on their second line. An opportunity to help MacKinnon win his first Stanley Cup could be a strong enticement for Crosby.
Dater wrote he wouldn't want the Avalanche to move a blue-chip prospect such as center Alex Newhook or a promising defenseman such as Bowen Byram for Crosby. He instead suggested a package of Nazem Kadri, Erik Johnson and/or Ryan Graves, or J.T. Compher, Johnson and/or Graves and a first-round pick.
The Penguins probably won't be interested in Johnson. He turns 33 on March 21, carries a $6 million annual average value through 2022-23 and a long history of injuries. Brian Burke drafted Kadri during his stint as GM of the Toronto Maple Leafs, but the 30-year-old center's best seasons could be behind him.
Dreger suggested Crosby might accept a trade if the return would help the Penguins become a contender within five years. That package from the Avs might have to include Newhook, a young defenseman like Byram or Conor Timmins, along with perhaps a center such as Kadri or Compher and at least one first-round pick.
On Feb. 11, Dan Kingerski of Pittsburgh Hockey Now dismissed the Crosby trade chatter as "mostly ridiculous." He wrote one rumor had Montreal Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin broaching the subject with his friend, Lemieux, before the latter shut it down. However, Kingerski suggested that the notion of Crosby accepting a trade that would help the Penguins "doesn't seem insane in that context."
Bergevin has restocked his roster with promising young players such as centers Nick Suzuki and Jesperi Kotkaniemi. He also brought in some experienced talent last summer in goalie Jake Allen, defenseman Joel Edmundson and forwards Josh Anderson and Tyler Toffoli. His moves seem to be paying off, as the Canadiens are enjoying a strong start.
It's well known Crosby grew up as a Canadiens fan. They came close to winning the rights to select him in the 2005 draft lottery, using the fifth overall pick to select goaltender Carey Price. Acquiring Crosby could provide a big boost to the Canadiens' efforts to become a Cup contender.
The Canadiens are loaded with young talent, prospects and draft picks. They're unlikely to part with Suzuki and could be reluctant to move Kotkaniemi. They could, however, dangle two-way center Phillip Danault, who's slated to become an unrestricted free agent this summer. But the Penguins could seek assurances the 27-year-old Danault will sign with them.
Defenseman Victor Mete, 22, is having trouble cracking a deep Canadiens blue line and could also be included in the deal. A couple of promising prospects, such as goaltender Cayden Primeau, defenseman Kaiden Guhle or forward Cole Caufield could also become part of the Penguins' asking price.
New York Rangers
Forever Blueshirts' Anthony Scultore took note of Dreger's mention of the New York Rangers and Avalanche as possible trade partners if Crosby became available.
Dreger brought up the Rangers as an example of a promising team that could assemble a package of young assets that could help the Penguins rebuild. Scultore believes the Rangers would be interested if Crosby agreed to be moved.
Rangers general manager Jeff Gorton has built up the Rangers in recent years with promising youth. However, centers Mika Zibanejad and Ryan Strome are struggling and will become unrestricted free agents at the end of 2021-22. Crosby would improve their depth at center and provide invaluable skill and leadership to the younger Blueshirts.
Like the Hurricanes, Avalanche and Canadiens, the Rangers have plenty of youngsters with the potential to blossom into stars. They could put together a pitch that would prove alluring to the Penguins.
Scultore suggested the Rangers offer winger Pavel Buchnevich and right wing prospect Vitali Kravtsov. He also felt a prospect defenseman, such as Matthew Robertson or Zach Jones, plus draft picks could be included.
The Penguins could seek one of the Rangers' better-known young players as part of the return. They could have an eye on 2020 first overall pick Alexis Lafreniere or 2019 second overall selection Kaapo Kakko. They could also ask for young blueliner K'Andre Miller.
The Rangers could offer up Tony DeAngelo after Gorton told reporters his club was "ready to move on" from the 25-year-old following his altercation with Alex Georgiev at the end of January. Still, the Penguins could be unwilling to take on the rearguard given the situation.
Players contract and team salary info via Cap Friendly.