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Surprising Penguins in intriguing NHL trade deadline spot


Sorry about that, but I just noticed an unaccountable typographical error in my preseason prediction column. Somehow Mike Sullivan was named as the first coach most likely to be fired, when I know I wrote that he would win the Jack Adams Trophy.

Bringing it way back to a New York baseball analogy, this should have been the season that the Penguins became the 1965 Yankees. Instead, they could become the 2000 version.

Yes, the Panthers have emerged after decades of irrelevance, apologies to the Puddy Tats’ most ardent public defender, Denis Potvin, and doesn’t that somehow fit perfectly, and of course Florida’s Joel Quenneville will merit consideration for coach of the year.

But Sullivan has directed a Penguins team to contention that has had spotty goaltending, waves of injuries that at different times decimated its back end and forward units, had its three-time Stanley Cup winning general manager, Jim Rutherford, step away seven games into the season, and had Evgeni Malkin beaten down and beaten up much of the time.

Then again, these are some of Sidney Crosby’s finest hours.

Jordan Staal is still in Carolina and a critical piece of the attempt to bring the Cup to Candyland, but the prospect out of Boston College, who was obtained by Ray Shero, then Pittsburgh’s GM, in return for Staal in that 2012 draft-day trade, remains an essential part of the Penguins.

That onetime prospect is defenseman Brian Dumoulin, without whose presence on the blue line Pittsburgh would not be close. Because he has a contract with a cap hit of $4.1 million per that runs for another two seasons, that represents one of the NHL’s finest deals.

The ownership mandate is to win now. The Penguins do not have a first-, third- or fourth-round pick in the 2021 draft. Their pool of prospects is dry. Ron Hextall, who succeeded Rutherford as GM, was all about building from the bottom up in Philadelphia.

Mike Sullivan and the Penguins have defied the odds so far this season.
Mike Sullivan and the Penguins have defied the odds so far this season.
NHLI via Getty Images

As sands rush through the hourglass, would Pittsburgh consider further depleting its future prospects by offering next year’s first-rounder in order to bolster this group’s chances? Jake Guentzel has been a more than worthy left-side partner for Crosby, but could the Penguins take a shot at the Sabres’ Taylor Hall?

Would the opportunity to play for a contender for the first time in his career rouse Hall from perhaps the worst season proximate to a Hart Trophy Award in NHL history? Or is Hall not Sullivan’s kind of player?

Is Calgary’s Sam Bennett (a player the Rangers should investigate this summer) more of their kind of player, who fills more of a need? Is the Devils’ Miles Wood in play and if so, would he constitute a better fit?


At some point, the Devils are going to stop divesting and instead consolidate their roster. GM Tom Fitzgerald did well in acquiring the Islanders’ first-rounder (plus) in exchange for pending free agents Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac, even if that pick figures to be in the late 20s or early 30s.

The question is whether the Devils could have gotten more in return for Palmieri if the team had wheeled him at last year’s deadline, when the winger would have been under contract for two playoff runs. Probably so, but the desire was to sign No. 21 to an extension.

Which brings us back to Wood, the 25-year-old winger with one year remaining on his deal at a $2.75 million cap hit. Ideally, Wood would become part of the Devils’ core, but if Fitzgerald is not confident the team can sign him to an extension, now is the time to deal him for a maximum return. Wood is the type of support player who invariably winds up with his name etched on the Cup.


In recognition of Colin Blackwell, rating the Rangers’ Harvards: 1. Adam Fox; 2. Dominic Moore; 3. Jimmy Vesey; 4. Blackwell; 5. Ted Donato.

If Vesey had Blackwell’s self-confidence, he not only wouldn’t be on his fourth team in three years, but he would still be in New York and having the career anticipated when he went onto the open market out of school.

You know what, if a contender comes after Blackwell and has a No. 3 in mind to exchange, as much as the Rangers probably wouldn’t want to do it, they’d have to, right?

But our best information is that no such interest has been expressed. That does not mean it won’t be before Monday’s 3 p.m. deadline bell rings.

Who was it who said, “It only takes one phone call?” Oh, that’s right. Everybody.


Equal time. The Blueshirt Yalies: 1. Bob Brooke; 2. Christopher Higgins; 3. Rob O’Gara.

Is Carter Hart more Tom Barrasso, who was sent to the AHL for a spell by the Sabres in his second year after winning the Calder, the Vezina and being named to the first All-Star team as a rookie, or is the Flyers’ young netminder more in the Jim Carey category?

Was going to pose Blaine Lacher as an alternative, but that would probably have represented a low blow.


In the era of parity, a reminder that the Panthers have not won a playoff round since 1996, the Maple Leafs since 2004, the Sabres since 2007, the Canucks since 2011, the Devils and Coyotes since 2012.


Love Florida’s acquisition of Brandon Montour, the right defenseman out of Buffalo.


Again: When did the NHL instruct its officials to ignore slew-foots? And if the answer is supposed to be never, it sure seems like a mighty strange coincidence that just about none are called.


Finally, don’t look now, but I believe the Islanders have just acquired Sergei Brylin.



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