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Pittsburgh may look to add forwards to bottom six

Penguins NHL Trade Deadline outlook

by Wes Crosby / Correspondent

Bennett's backhander beats Berra

PIT@COL: Bennett buries backhander behind Berra

12/9/15: Penguins forward Beau Bennett fires a nice backhanded shot past Colorado Avalanche goalie Reto Berra

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With the 2016 NHL Trade Deadline approaching at 3 p.m. ET on Monday, Feb. 29, is taking a close look at what moves teams might be looking to make and whether they'll be buyers or sellers. Today, the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Record: 28-19-7; 5th in Metropolitan Division; 3rd in Eastern Conference Wild Card

Unrestricted free agents: Ben Lovejoy, D; Matt Cullen, C; Jeff Zatkoff, G; Kevin Porter, LW

Restricted free agents: Olli Maatta, D; Sergei Plotnikov, LW; Beau Bennett, RW; Bryan Rust, RW; David Warsofsky, D; Scott Wilson, LW; Tom Kuhnhackl, RW

Projected 2016 Draft Picks: 6 (0 first)

Projected 2017 Draft Picks: 7 (1 first)

Needs: Bottom-six forwards

Surpluses: Young forwards with potential

Players Potentially in Play: Plotnikov, Bennett, Ian Cole

Likely Status: Buyer

Skinny: General manager Jim Rutherford has likely made his two most prominent moves this season, bringing in defenseman Trevor Daley and left wing Carl Hagelin in the past two months, so Pittsburgh shouldn't be expected to make a big splash at the deadline, nor does it need to. Daley's addition filled a gaping hole in the top-four of the defense. Hagelin has added necessary speed onto the second line alongside center Evgeni Malkin and right wing Phil Kessel. It seems Pittsburgh has all of its bases covered, but recent injuries to centers Eric Fehr and Nick Bonino have crippled its bottom six, specifically down the middle. The Penguins have recently played without three of their centers (Malkin is recovering from a lingering lower-body injury), which has forced top-line center Sidney Crosby to carry the load. Though Crosby has performed extraordinarily well in the face of that pressure - and Matt Cullen, Kevin Porter and rookie Oskar Sundqvist have each filled in admirably at the remaining three center positions - the Penguins likely would not want to enter the stretch run in their current offensive condition. Malkin will be back, and that no doubt will help, but depending on how much time Fehr and Bonino miss, Rutherford could want some insurance to avoid an overreliance on his top two lines, something that has doomed the Penguins in past postseasons. What parts the Penguins move in order to make that happen is more difficult to decipher. Pittsburgh has leveraged draft picks in the past, leaving it without a first-round pick for the third time in four seasons, and have parted with noteworthy parts (center Brandon Sutter, forward David Perron, defenseman Rob Scuderi and 2014 first-round pick Kasperi Kapanen) in less than a year, so Rutherford may have to get creative if he feels the need to make even one move.

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