The trade winds are blowing strong and the latest rumor has the Pittsburgh Penguins looking at trying to acquire defenseman, Jack Johnson from the Columbus Blue Jackets according to Rob Rossi of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
Rossi reports that Penguins GM, Ray Shero would like to bolster his blueline with an offensive defenseman, someone who can be paired with Kris Letang. Johsnon would fill that role.
The flip side to acquiring a player like Johnson would be used as insurance in the event Letang is traded or the club loses him to free agency in the summer of 2014. Letang is set to make $3.5 million next season, a number that could double if he hits the free-agent market in 2014 reports Rossi. For this reason alone, Shero is cautiously optimistic that he’ll be able to re-sign Letang.
Johnson, a former third overall pick back in 2005 is off to a slow start this season in Columbus, scoring just 1 goal and adding 7 assists in 18 games. He’s also a minus-10 on the year.
The 26-year old is under contract through the 2017-18 season and carries a cap hit of $4.35 next season, a far cry from what many believe what Letang could potentially seek on the open market.
Rossi mentions Simon Despres as a trade bait, a young and promising blue liner who has 2 goals and 4 assists in 17 games with the Pens this season. To further support the claim that the Blue Jackets may be interested in completing a deal with the Penguins, Rossi reports that Columbus GM, Jarmo Kekalainen along with his assistant Chris MacFarland, and senior advisor Craig Patrick were in attendance Monday night to watch the Pens defeat the Tampa Bay Lightning.
It’s been confirmed by Rossi that Despres is available on the trade market, despite showing tremendous potential as a top-four d-man. Rossi is quick to remind readers that Shero has a history of moving promising defenseman leading up to the trade deadline if he receives a “long-term need” in return. Johnson appears to be that need based on his age, abilities and current contract.
Of course we’ve already heard about the rumors that Shero is said to be interested in trying to acquire Jarome Iginla of the Calgary Flames to play alongside Sidney Crosby. The two were line mates during the 2010 Winter Olympics and appeared to have instant chemistry.
For what it’s worth, Johnson is a long time friend of captain, Sidney Crosby so it’s clear that Shero likes to deal for players who will be immediately comfortable in Pittsburgh.