LIVE BLOG: 2015 NHL Trade Deadline Day 3/2

Monday, March 2, 2015
What does the future hold for Brian Dumoulin? Photo credit: @ItsJacki
It's that time of year again. It's Trade Deadline Day in the NHL. Every year is a different story and entering the day this year's story is that most of the big names that were talked about as being available to trade have already been moved.

Starting with the Evander Kane blockbuster trade on February 11th, there have already been 20 trades involving 44 players and 20 draft picks exchanging hands between 24 NHL organizations. Here's a list of all the trades made this season from the TSN Trade Tracker.

The Penguins organization themselves has made several moves already. It started with Philip Samuelsson being traded to Arizona for Rob Klinkhammer back on December 5th, who was later traded from the Penguins along with their 2015-First Round pick to Edmonton for David Perron not even a month later on January 2nd.

Then there was the Marcel Goc/Maxim Lapierre swap with St. Louis on January 27th and most recently it was Zach Sill (along with a 2016-Second Round and 2015-Fourth Round pick) to Toronto for Daniel Winnik on Febraury 25th. The two draft picks were necessary to send to the Maple Leafs as it was the bargaining chip to get the Maple Leafs to retain half of Winnik's $1.3 million cap hit this season. Winnik is a pending unrestricted free agent (UFA) at the end of the season.

What the Penguins are left with is $349,167 in salary cap space, with no first, third or fourth round picks in this summer's 2015 NHL Entry Draft and no second round pick in 2016. Any further trades to help Pittsburgh down the stretch will almost have to include NHL roster players and prospects with enough salary heading out (or retained by the trading partner) to cover the salary coming in. I wrote about the basics and some possibilities the Penguins could pursue to save some cap space on Friday, and to add to that some further thoughts/insights in case it's a slow morning/afternoon.

Follow @H_P_Hockey on Twitter for the latest AHL Penguins related trade news and @TonyAndrock_TCG for trades in the Philadelphia Flyers organization affecting the Lehigh Valley Phantoms.

Some things the Penguins should consider at the deadline after the jump, including making decisions on the future plans of three upcoming restricted free agents, acquiring some draft picks lost in trades this season and more.
EDITORS NOTE: No rumors from "sources" just an examination of the situation. 

Things You & The Penguins Should Consider

The Penguins have 23 total pending free agents this summer in the organization, and while they are in a win-now mode for the postseason, it's never a bad idea to invest into the future as well.

Make Decisions on RFA's Bortuzzo, Bennett, Dumoulin

As evidenced by the photo of today's live blog, I think Brian Dumoulin is at an interesting point in his career right now heading into this year's deadline. He's playing very well in the AHL with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton this year, especially of late with 11 points (one goal, 10 assists) in his last 10 games. He didn't look out of place in eight NHL games with Pittsburgh this season either, yet it appears that Derrick Pouliot and Scott Harrington are ahead of him in the organization's depth chart.

There are five defensemen signed through next season ahead of Dumoulin of the depth chart (Letang, Maatta, Despres, Scuderi & Pouliot), six if you include Harrington who is also in the AHL with the WBS Penguins. Dumoulin loses his waiver exemption status at the start of next season and will need to clear waivers to play in the AHL in 2015-16, so what exactly are the Penguins plans for Dumoulin's future in the organization?

Pens GM Jim Rutherford is no stranger to Dumoulin, as in 2009 as GM of the Carolina Hurricanes Rutherford selected Dumoulin with his 2nd round pick in that '09 draft before later including him, along with Brendan Sutter and the first round pick that turned into Pouliot in the infamous Jordan Staal trade in the summer of 2012.

Keep in mind the Pens also have Robert Bortuzzo as a pending restricted free agent (RFA) after this season too, who can be qualified for $660,000. Dumoulin's qualifying offer from the Penguins this summer in order to retain his rights moving forward would be roughly in the $873,250 range (players making up to $1 million must be given 105% of their salary from the previous season).

And then there's Beau Bennett, who has had an injury-filled career with the organization and is bouncing around between the Penguins' current bottom six and as an occasional healthy scratch. Same deal for Bennett in regards to qualifying him this summer, 105% of his salary would be for $945,000 to retain his rights.

The fact the Penguins currently only have seven forwards signed through the 2015-16 season and Bennett's rights can be retained for less than $1 million for a season probably factors into Bennett's future in the organization as well. Guys like Craig Adams, Blake Comeau, Steve Downie, Maxim Lapierre and Daniel Winnik are all pending UFA's this summer leaving Rutherford with a lot of decisions to make this summer with nearly half the organization's players on an NHL contract this year unsigned for next season.

Acquire Some 2015 Draft Picks

Obviously easier said than done, but the Penguins are thin on picks this summer - just a 2nd, 5th, 6th and 7th round choice - and while winning now is important, investing in the future to continue to replenish the prospect pool is also important. While drafting players is no sure thing, having more picks in what is supposedly a deep 2015 draft class gives more chances to add future players to the roster.

I stand by what I wrote on Friday in that the Penguins should look to trade Thomas Greiss, a UFA this summer, to get back one of the mid-round picks they traded away for this year's draft. And for two reasons, neither related to his own play:
1. Jeff Zatkoff is a more than capable backup goaltender already signed through next season at $600,000 - $400,000 less than Greiss' one-year $1 million contract pays him this season. Cap space is cap space, and the move would give the Pens roughly $750,000 in wiggle room.
2. Rookie Matt Murray is proving he can handle the load in the AHL with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, leading the league in goals-against average (1.65), save percentage (.936) and shutouts (8). Eric Hartzell, a pending RFA this summer, has been in the ECHL with the Wheeling Nailers most of the season, going 12-10-1 with a 2.74 GAA, .909 SV%, 1 SO in 23 appearances.
Any potential Greiss trade and $750,000 in cap space could enable the Penguins to package together one roster player (likely one with an expiring contract, which are generally easier to move) and a prospect for a rental-type depth addition (be it forward or defenseman) and use the prospect as the driving force to make their trading partner retain the necessary salary to keep the Penguins salary cap compliant.

The possibilities are nearly endless, but if the Penguins trade for a defenseman at the deadline - Edmonton's Jordan Petry ($3.075 million) is a name still floating around - and an NHL roster defenseman is not included in the package, then Derrick Pouliot could be on his way back to the AHL if other corresponding moves aren't made - it would leave the Penguins with eight healthy defensemen.

In fact, don't surprised if he's re-assigned Wilkes-Barre/Scranton as soon as today anyway, as he needs to be on the AHL roster on deadline day to be eligible to play in the AHL at all the rest of this season.

As Texas Stars beat writer at Wrong Side of the Red Line reports in a detailed explanation of the rules regarding AHL eligibility, "NHL clubs can essentially pick four — usually waiver exempt — current players on the NHL roster and make them available for the AHL playoffs with a paper transaction.”

Basically, Pouliot is re-assigned tomorrow as insurance that he can play in the AHL the rest of the season if the Penguins add another defenseman at the deadline. Pouliot can easily be recalled right back up Tuesday.

I'm not trying to spread rumors but adding a defenseman like Petry and his $3.075 million cap hit isn't impossible if some salary is retained and the Penguins dip into their pool of highly-touted blue line prospects.

Just an example to show how the dollars and cents work but:
A Griess trade and Zatkoff call up gives Pens roughly $750k in cap space.
Packaging together a roster player with an expiring contract (i.e. a Beau Bennett at $900k or a Robert Bortuzzo at $600k) and a prospect or two (i.e. Scott Harrington/Brian Dumoulin on defense and Jayson Megna, Adam Payerl and Tom Kuhnhackl at forward) to sweeten the pot enough to have the trading partner retain salary seems like the path of least resistance to net another addition to the roster.
With most of the big names already moved, the uncertainty level for today's deadline is a little higher than in years past. There likely won't be a shortage of surprises across the league, but I'll be focusing on the Penguins and Flyers' organizations and the #AHL league-wide impact of this year's trade deadline in particular.