Michael Grabner is the piece the Penguins need

Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford has himself an interesting six days ahead as he looks for way to improve a team that’s done nothing but win since the calendar changed to 2018.

For one, the Penguins need for an another center is paramount. While Riley Sheahan seemingly has played his way into the third-line center, an upgrade is needed. Whether that comes in the form of another third-line center or the Penguins go the cheaper fourth-line center route remains to be seen.

Most can agree that Carter Rowney wouldn’t be a horrible guy to play sparingly if injuries happen down the middle for Pittsburgh. But the problem would be standing pat come Tuesday and hoping any one of the trio of Sheahan, Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin stay healthy.

The Penguins will add a center and that’s not really an issue or even a question at this point.

To me, the pressing issue becomes acquiring New York Rangers forward Michael Grabner in a trade.

Wednesday, reports came out that the Rangers dropped their asking price on Grabner from a first round pick to “a second round pick and something else”. In hockey, “something else” is usually a mid-level piece. If the Rangers, who are in complete blowup mode, wanted more value they wouldn’t have dropped their asking price.

So, what exactly could the Penguins offer to make such a deal happen and would the Rangers consider it being that they’d be dealing with a divisional rival?

The Penguins do still own their second round selection for the upcoming draft so they meet that criteria. Could they swing the Rangers on another pick? Most likely not as the Rangers would like a younger player likely to accelerate their rebuild.

If the Penguins will part with a second round pick, it won’t cost a player of Jake Guentzel or Daniel Sprong‘s caliber. Even Conor Sheary seems like a stretch.

To me, that “something else” would likely be more of a Dominik Simon if the Rangers wanted an NHL ready player immediately. This wouldn’t be a problem at all as Grabner would be an immediate upgrade over Simon right away.

If the Penguins didn’t want to trade off the current roster, which seems unlikely given the Rangers situation, they could try and persuade them to take a player like Teddy Blueger or J.S. Dea, two guys who have been on the NHL roster this season.

Some people may ask whether the Rangers would deal with the Penguins. They’d be foolish not to. The Rangers aren’t dealing from a surplus as they head towards the playoffs. They’re hitting the reset button on a core that hasn’t gotten them anything noteworthy and would be wise to take the best deal even if it meant helping make the Penguins an even faster team.

Just imagine:

Guentzel-Crosby-Rust

Sheary-Malkin-Hornqvist

Hagelin-Sheahan-Kessel

Grabner-(new 4C)-Aston-Reese

Those are just a crack at the lines as obviously they may not shake out exactly that way. But the depth on the team, regardless of the assembly of the lines, couldn’t be denied.

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