The problem that’ll plague fans the most over the course of the season is the undesirable wait for the Penguins to acquire a third line center.
More elite names like Matt Duchene and Jordan Staal have been thrown around. Lesser priced and less prestigious names have also been thrown into the rumor mill. Regardless, general manager Jim Rutherford won’t make a move unless he believes it betters his team.
So, why not just use Bryan Rust in that role?
I know what you’re thinking. That’s boring and that trades are always more fun. That doesn’t mean they’re more beneficial.
Everyone keeps talking about the plethora of wingers the Penguins have, not only on the NHL roster, but down in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton as well.
Guys like Tom Kuhnhackl and Scott Wilson were rotated in and out of the playoff lineup last season. Those are legit bottom six forwards. They acquired another winger, Ryan Reaves, for Oskar Sundqvist and a first round pick. Reaves wasn’t acquired for cheap so he’ll be in the Penguins lineup when he’s healthy. Guys like Daniel Sprong and Zach-Aston Reese are just about ready to join the NHL team.
What benefit does adding an outside player to the club have at the current moment?
The Penguins only winger lost in free agency was left winger Chris Kunitz. They just resigned Conor Sheary to an extension. Reaves, in a sense, is Kunitz’s replacement to an already crowded winger corps.
Moving Rust would open a spot on the wings for one of the Penguins’ young studs in Sprong and Aston-Reese. That’s an exciting thought for many fans as they’re itching to see what they can do at the NHL level.
Rust is a natural center so it’s not like they’d be throwing Joe-Schmoe to the wolves. He can capably handle the role. As big of a Carter Rowney fan as I am, he’s not quite ready to assume the third center role. And even if he is, that would likely force Dominik Simon into the fourth line center role. That isn’t terrible, but it hinders their depth.
The Penguins just repeated as Stanley Cup champions. While they lost a lot of key contributors, the Penguins still have one of the strongest cores in the league. They’ve got enough depth that their lack of centers won’t hinder them in the regular season. They’d have until March to strike a deal for a third line center if they felt it necessary. As Rutherford said, he’d be comfortable making a deal for the right price. But, he’s also comfortable with the “internal options”, whomever they may be.
Start the campaign: Bryan Rust for third-line center.