Penguins might try to make more moves before trade deadline today
February 29, 2016 12:00 AM
Adam Hunder/Associated Press
The Penguins are entertaining a few offers for backup goalie Jeff Zatkoff before the trade deadline closes at 3 p.m. today.
By Dave Molinari / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Jim Rutherford’s priority as today’s NHL trade deadline closed in was to add a defenseman.
Ideally, one who could skate and move the puck.
Rutherford, the Penguins’ general manager, figures he checked that off the list Saturday by sending a third-round draft choice to Edmonton for Justin Schultz.
But even though he doesn’t have a pressing wish list as the 3 p.m. deadline approaches, Rutherford does have some salary-cap space and a few assets he’s willing to deal, so he’s not ready to declare that he’s done trying to upgrade his depth chart.
He won’t guarantee that he’ll be able to pull off a move, but it probably wouldn’t be for a lack of trying.
Rutherford has earned a reputation as a willing and creative dealer at deadline time, so he figures to spend a lot of time exploring the market today, seeing if he can add a piece or two.
“We’ll keep the door open until 3 o’clock,” he said.
Going after Schultz gained urgency last week, after defensemen Ben Lovejoy was injured and will be out indefinitely.
Winger Conor Sheary missed the second half of a 4-1 victory Saturday against Winnipeg because of an undisclosed injury, but Rutherford said it won’t compel him to pursue a forward today.
“[Sheary’s injury] is pretty short term,” he said. “He’s going to be fine.”
Sunday was relatively quiet around the league — the New York Rangers made the biggest splash by acquiring center Eric Staal from Carolina — and the Penguins’ moves were limited to a few internal ones.
They recalled defenseman David Warsofsky from Wilkes-Barre, where he was on a conditioning assignment, and assigned defenseman Steve Oleksy to the Baby Penguins. Warsofsky subsequently was put on waivers to give management roster flexibility, if needed, leading up to the deadline.
The Penguins have traded away a number of early-round draft choices in recent seasons and there’s no indication Rutherford is actively shopping anyone who fills a regular role, but he appears to be entertaining offers for at least two players on the major-league roster, goalie Jeff Zatkoff and winger Sergei Plotnikov.
Although a few clubs are interested in a No. 2 goalie, it is a buyer’s market because several clubs have one to give.
Consequently, with Matt Murray having been recalled from Wilkes-Barre, Rutherford says he is prepared to carry three goalies for the rest of the season, if necessary.
“Three is not ideal, but at this point in the season, we’re not going to practice much,” he said. “We’re going to play 16 games in 31 days and there’s not going to be a lot of practice time, so in some ways, it can work.
“If [No. 1 goalie Marc-Andre] Fleury’s getting the bulk of the work — which he will — he may need days off, may need rest. I believe [carrying three] is manageable at this point of the season.”
Rutherford said there is “a little bit of a market” for Plotnikov, a healthy scratch for the past 20 games, and clearly hopes to send him elsewhere.
“I’d like to get this resolved, like to give him a chance to play somewhere,” he said. “I’ve certainly been trying to work with some teams to give him that opportunity.”
As the deadline closes in, almost anything is possible. Even deals that weren’t even a figment of the imagination a day or so earlier can come together quickly.
“Sometimes, the last 24 hours [before the deadline], a name or two pops up that you haven’t heard before,” Rutherford said. “Or something turns in a different direction that you thought was going somewhere else.
“We’ll just keep checking around and see what’s going on.”
Dave Molinari: Dmolinari@Post-Gazette.com and Twitter @MolinariPG.
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