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NHL Trade Buzz: Penguins eye more help on defense

After acquiring Ron Hainsey from Hurricanes, Pittsburgh seeking additional depth

by Tom Gulitti @tomgulittinhl / Staff Writer

Welcome to the NHL Trade Buzz. There are six days remaining until the 2017 NHL Trade Deadline (3 p.m. ET., March 1), and the Pittsburgh Penguins might try to add another defenseman after acquiring Ron Hainsey on Thursday. Also, the Washington Capitals and Minnesota Wild are looking for insurance but are unlikely to mess with chemistry that has been working.

Here's a look around the League at the latest deadline doings:


Pittsburgh Penguins

After acquiring defenseman Ron Hainsey from the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday, Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford said he'd like to add another defenseman and will make a decision on that "in the next 24 hours."

"You can look at that two ways," Rutherford said. "You add another NHL defenseman and then you're totally healthy, and then you have a situation you have to deal with where you have one or two guys who aren't happy to be sitting in the stands. Then you look at it the other way where you never have enough and you're hurt all the time, so you may need one. We're thinking about that right now."

Video: CAR@NYI: Hainsey rifles home second goal for OT win

Rutherford was looking to solidify the Penguins' depth on defense even before they were hit by a rash of injuries during the past week. The trade for Hainsey, which cost the Penguins a second-round pick in the 2017 NHL Draft and minor league forward Danny Kristo, was announced minutes after they disclosed that defenseman Trevor Daley is expected to miss six weeks after having knee surgery. Kris Letang is also day to day with an upper-body injury.

The Penguins already were missing defensemen Justin Schultz (concussion) and Olli Maatta (hand), who were injured against the Winnipeg Jets on Feb. 16. Schultz returned to practice Thursday and hopes to be cleared for contact Friday, but Maatta is expected to be sidelined for five more weeks.

Hainsey, 35, can become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, so there is no long-term commitment for the Penguins, who are bidding to become the first Stanley Cup champion to repeat since the Detroit Red Wings won in 1997 and 1998.

Rutherford reiterated on Thursday he'd prefer to keep goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, but said he'd talk with Fleury again before the deadline to see exactly how he feels. Fleury, 32, and Matt Murray have been sharing the goaltending load for the Penguins this season, but it's clear Murray will be the No. 1 in the playoffs again.

Rutherford likes having two No. 1 goalies in Murray and Fleury in case there is an injury, so even if Fleury would like a chance to play elsewhere, he could remain in Pittsburgh at least through the end of the playoffs.

Video: PIT@ARI: Fleury stretches to deny Perlini's breakaway

"It doesn't work out ideally for both goalies because they both want to play," Rutherford said. "When one goalie was hurt and the other one was playing, they played extremely well. When you have a No. 1 goalie sitting as long as Marc has, there's a frustration level, so it doesn't work ideally for those guys. In the long run, certainly if we get another injury, it'd be the right thing to do. With playing a lot of games, it's always good to have depth at that position."


Washington Capitals

GM Brian MacLellan said Thursday he usually checks in with captain Alex Ovechkin and center Nicklas Backstrom before the NHL Trade Deadline to get their thoughts about what the Capitals think they think he should do. Their answers usually differ as much as their personalities.

"Ovi's like, 'Just get someone.' Nick's 'Wait, wait, wait, wait, don't,'" MacLellan said. "It's kind of a fun dynamic. Our team, they're the key guys -- those two and [goaltender Braden] Holtby. We're trying to do everything around them. Make their lives easier so they can compete hard."

With the Capitals in first place in the Eastern Conference and League at 40-12-7, the consensus among them is they don't want mess with what has been working so well, and MacLellan said they've made that clear to him. MacLellan believes the Capitals have their "most complete team" of the Ovechkin era, which began in 2005-06, and they have "a tight group."

Still, there is pressure for them to advance past the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 1998, so MacLellan is wisely monitoring the trade market to see if there's anything available to help. MacLellan said he has been trying for a while to add a third goaltender with NHL experience.

Other than that, any move he makes would probably be similar to the trade for defenseman Tom Gilbert he completed with the Los Angeles Kings on Feb. 15, which cost a conditional 2017 fifth-round draft pick.

"We're exploring opportunities," MacLellan said. "We go through the same process as we've always gone through, but if something makes sense, we're going to pursue it. We're not going to mess with lines or defense pairs. If we could upgrade on the fringes, we might do it."

Video: PHI@WSH: Niskanen rips a slap shot into the net

For now, Gilbert will remain in the American Hockey League with Hershey as insurance for any potential injury in the playoffs. Defenseman Matt Niskanen sustained a lower-body injury against the Philadelphia Flyers on Wednesday but MacLellan said it's not serious. The Capitals called up defenseman Aaron Ness and forward was called up after Barry Trotz said earlier that Gilbert probably would remain with Hershey so he can play regularly.


Minnesota Wild

Like the Capitals, the Wild don't want to mess with chemistry on a team that is in first place in its conference. GM Chuck Fletcher told the Minneapolis Star Tribune if there's an area he'd like to upgrade, it would be depth at forward.

"If we do anything, it would be to add to that depth or maybe add some pieces around the edges to give us some more insurance," Fletcher said. "I want to add to our depth, not take away from it, so I don't think we'd be cutting out any core pieces at this point."

The Wild might consider making a deal similar to the one the Capitals made for Gilbert, which will cost Washington nothing if the Capitals don't reach the Eastern Conference Final and Gilbert doesn't play in half of their playoff games. One option might be forward Drew Miller, who has been playing for the Detroit Red Wings AHL affiliate in Grand Rapids since Feb. 6 after clearing waivers.

Video: BUF@DET: Miller fires puck past Lehner from doorstep

Miller, 33, is a veteran of 551 NHL games and, like Gilbert, would be able to remain in the AHL as an insurance policy until he is needed because he has already cleared waivers. Miller, a potential unrestricted free agent on July 1, told MLive he'd like to be moved before the deadline to get a chance to play in the NHL again.

"Hopefully, I get traded," he said. "I want to be in the NHL -- everyone wants to be there -- so we'll see how it goes."


New York Islanders

Center Casey Cizikas was placed on injured reserve with an upper-body injury he sustained in a 3-1 win against the Red Wings on Tuesday. With Shane Prince (upper body) also out, GM Garth Snow might have to intensify his efforts to add another forward.

Newsday reported the Islanders have long had interest in Matt Duchene, but it remains to be seen whether the Colorado Avalanche will move the 26-year-old center before the trade deadline or wait until the offseason when more teams might become involved in the bidding. Though the Islanders hold the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference, they are in a three-way tie in points with the Boston Bruins and Florida Panthers and have eight games remaining on a nine-game road trip that continues Thursday at the Montreal Canadiens (7:30 p.m. ET; SNE, RDS, MSG+, NHL.TV).

Video: TBL@COL: Duchene ties the game late with pinball goal

With 16 of their remaining 23 games on the road, the Islanders have plenty of work left if they are going to qualify for the playoffs for the third consecutive season, and Snow has some pressure on him to upgrade his roster after firing coach Jack Capuano on Jan. 17. Snow has held onto his prospects prior to past trade deadlines. Would he change that philosophy this year and be willing to part with their 2015 first-round pick (No. 16), center Mathew Barzal, in the right deal?


Calgary Flames

Defenseman Dennis Wideman said no one with the Flames has approached him, but he would be willing to waive the full no-movement clause in his contract if they have the opportunity to trade him.

"If that's something that [the Flames] want to do, then they can call and I definitely would be open to it," Wideman told the Calgary Herald. "I think, as a player, you don't want to be anywhere that you're not wanted. So if they want to move you and someone wants to take you, then it's nice to go somewhere like that if that's the case. … And if I don't hear anything, then I guess I'm here."

Wideman, 33, has been pushed out of a regular role with the Flames after they signed defenseman Matt Bartkowski on Feb. 16 and traded for defenseman Michael Stone from the Arizona Coyotes on Monday. 

Wideman is in the final season of his contract, which carries an NHL salary-cap charge of $5.25 million, so he'd be a rental player for any interested team.

The Flames probably wouldn't mind opening some salary cap room by moving Wideman. With Ladislav Smid on long-term injured reserve, Calgary has $2,849,204 in cap space to use at the deadline (per, but would have more flexibility without Wideman even if they had to pick up some of his salary cap charge.

The Flames might have interest in upgrading their goaltending. Ben Bishop of the Tampa Bay Lightning is a possibility. He is on an expiring contract that has $1,487,500 in remaining cap charges and includes a modified no-trade clause and a no-movement clause. Calgary will not face Bishop when it plays Tampa Bay on Thursday (7:30 p.m. ET; SUN, SNW, NHL.TV); Andrei Vasilevskiy will start for the Lightning.

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