A quick, trade-related update on a snowy Wednesday in Pittsburgh, where the Penguins did not practice and are scheduled to depart via charter plane for Philadelphia. The Penguins will play at the Flyers on Thursday night.
= Reports out of Columbus, by the esteemed Aaron Portzline of that city’s Dispatch, have the Blue Jackets dismissing any interest in moving D Jack Johnson.
Again, as noted in the previous blog post following the Penguins-Lightning game on Monday night, the Blue Jackets had their three senior members of hockey operations at Consol Energy Center, and a Blue Jackets scout or member of management has attended the last three Penguins games in Pittsburgh.
(No, that is not limited to Craig Patrick, the former Penguins general manager who is a senior advisor with Columbus. Patrick still lives in suburban Pittsburgh.)
= Johnson has always been a player liked by some members of this Penguins management group, but not at the expense of Kris Letang. However, there has been a belief in the organization – for some time, which explains the pursuit last summer of free-agent Ryan Suter – that Letang should have an elite-skill defense partner.
Also, with Letang eligible for an extension this summer, there is a want to have an insurance policy in the form of a potential top-pairing defenseman – preferably one with power-play quarterback qualities – in the fold, in case talks with Letang do not prove fruitful and he, like C Jordan Staal, must be traded to restock the roster.
Johnson could fill any of those roles for the Penguins, though that hardly means his journey is guaranteed to result in a move to Pittsburgh.
= Rookie D Simon Despres is available, and other NHL clubs have known that for months. However, the Penguins do not plan to move him for anything other than a long-term piece – as they did in 2009 with D Ryan Whitney for LWs Chris Kunitz and Eric Tangardi, and in 2011 with D Alex Goligoski for RW James Neal and D Matt Niskanen.
The Blue Jackets are interested in Despres.
= The Penguins have talked with and are talking to several clubs. The most consistent conversations have been with Minnesota, St. Louis and Columbus.
The NHL trade deadline is April 3. The Penguins would like to bolster their defense, add some grit and lower-line scoring, and are looking for a potential impact forward.
However, it should be noted that management is much more comfortable with the current state of this squad than the general public.
The view by some within the organization is that the Penguins, though far from perfectly constructed, still are a formidable matchup for any club in the Eastern Conference, and that the conference is without a clear favorite for the first time since 2008.
Coincidentally or not, that is the year GM Ray Shero made several moves at the deadline – acquiring RWs Marian Hossa and Pascal Dupuis, and D Hal Gill – to establish the Penguins as a favorite to reach the Final, which they did.
= There continues to be buzz from people around the league, agents mostly, that the Penguins will be in play for RW Jarome Iginla if he decides to leave Calgary.
= Josh Yohe has the club on Thursday and Friday. Catch up with yinz from Toronto, the finest hockey city in North America according to this blog’s author.