The Pittsburgh Penguins are considering potential trades for a third-line center, general manager Jim Rutherford told the Post-Gazette on Wednesday.
"There's a couple of guys I could acquire right now," Rutherford said. "I feel like there's another group of guys that could possibly be available here soon. Kind of just waiting to see if that happens. Something could happen in the very near future or this could drag on for a little while."
The Penguins were likely to pursue a trade even if center Matt Cullen, who agreed to a one-year contract with the Minnesota Wild on Wednesday, returned to play for Pittsburgh this season.
Unrestricted free agent center Nick Bonino signed a four-year contract with the Nashville Predators on July 1, leaving the Penguins with multiple roster openings. Bonino and Cullen helped the Penguins win the Stanley Cup in back-to-back seasons, playing behind centers Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
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"It's about getting the right guy," coach Mike Sullivan told the Penguins website during his day with the Stanley Cup in Massachusetts on Thursday. "I think Jim feels the same way. Jim has a knack for maintaining patience."
Sullivan, who said the Penguins also would miss the leadership Cullen, 40, provided in the locker room, said forwards Jake Guentzel and Carter Rowney could shift to center and that "there are a number of other options within the organization."
Rutherford expressed confidence in Rowney, who had seven points (three goals, four assists) in 27 games last season.
"He came on in the second half of the season and he played in the playoffs," Rutherford said. "He's a good, solid player there. Now that he's played in the League a little bit last year, trying to get a little more production out of him would be good. But even if he doesn't, he's a reliable player at that position.
"When these things happen, other players just fill that role. Obviously Matt Cullen has a lot of experience, he's won championships, but there's guys sometimes that are sitting back and don't want to jump ahead of veterans or things that are looking to fill those roles. My experience is that over time, usually somebody steps up and fills in on and off the ice."