NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Brandon Sutter appeared in his 109th game Tuesday night for the Penguins.
It’s far from certain he’ll make it to No. 110.
Sutter is a key piece in the package the Penguins have offered to Vancouver for center Ryan Kesler — the Canucks apparently insist in picking up a quality center in any deal for Kesler — and realizes he could be working elsewhere by 3 p.m. today, when the NHL trade deadline arrives.
“It’s tough,” Sutter said after the Penguins’ game-day skate. “You just want to go out there and play and try not to worry about it too much. It’s a little tricky, but you try to stay focused and worry about my job. It’s kind of out of my control, so I just go out there and try to play.”
By Tuesday, the Penguins and Philadelphia had seemed to emerge from a pack of a half-dozen or so suitors as the favorites to end up with Kesler, although Vancouver still had not committed to trading him and there was some sentiment on the far side of the Commonwealth that the Flyers were interested mostly in driving up the price the Penguins would pay.
Kesler’s contract, which has two years remaining with an annual salary-cap hit of $5 million, includes a no-trade clause, which effectively means he can select the club to which he is dealt.
Sutter has no such leverage.
He turned 25 Feb. 14, and will be a restricted free agent this summer.
He is the Penguins’ third-line center and had 10 goals and 11 assists in 60 games before Tuesday night when the Penguins faced the Nashville Predators.
Sutter already has been traded once — the Penguins got him from Carolina in the 2012 deal that sent Jordan Staal to the Hurricanes — but he had no hint that move was coming.
“I never knew anything, so it’s definitely a different feel,” he said. “This is kind of dragging on, and we don’t really know what’s going to happen.”
Precisely how general manager Ray Shero felt about where his trade discussions stood Tuesday isn’t clear, because he has declined to speak with reporters until the deadline has passed.
If the Penguins lose out on Kesler, it’s not out of the question that they would seriously explore the chances of adding another forward such as Edmonton’s Ales Hemsky, Thomas Vanek of the New York Islanders or Buffalo’s Matt Moulson, all of whom have contracts that expire after this season.
The Penguins also are believed to have at least considered the possibility of adding a veteran defenseman such as New Jersey’s Marek Zidlicky as a short-term rental.
Taking nothing for granted
The Penguins entered the Nashville game in a 0-1-2 skid, matching their longest winless streak this season. That doesn’t mean the Predators, who have slipped into 12th place in the Western Conference, were taking a point or two for granted.
“When you look at a team like Pittsburgh, you’re always worried, that you know they’re going to bounce back,” Nashville center Matt Cullen said. “You’re always aware of that.
“Maybe they’ve hit a little bump in the road here, but you look at their lineup and they’re still a really good team.”
Brodeur’s future a hot topic
New Jersey’s Martin Brodeur, the winningest goalie in NHL history, made what could have been his final start Tuesday night for the Devils.
For while general manager Lou Lamoriello has not committed to trading Brodeur before the deadline, he hasn’t publicly ruled it out, either.
Indeed, there was rampant speculation that Brodeur was bound for Minnesota until the Wild acquired Ilya Bryzgalov Tuesday.
A series of moves involving goalies might have removed any market that existed for Brodeur. Meanwhile, several Penguins players acknowledged that it would be stunning to see Brodeur in anything other than a Devils sweater.
“That’d be really strange,” defenseman Brooks Orpik said. “I don’t think there’s any player in the league who’s still playing who means more to his franchise or is connected to his franchise more than [Brodeur].”
Orpik, by the way, has appeared in 684 NHL games — all with the Penguins.
Right winger Chuck Kobasew was in the Penguins’ lineup about eight hours after clearing waivers. “It’s over with,” he said. “I’ll kind of leave it at that.” … Defenseman Deryk Engelland was the Penguins’ healthy scratch.
First Published March 4, 2014 2:14 PM