Tag Archives: William Karlsson

Potential Third-Line Center Options

It seems like a tradition at this point to talk about third line center options for the Penguins.

Yes they acquired Riley Sheahan, but from the looks of it, it doesn’t seem like he is going to be the spark they needed. A spark that is desperately needed. I’ve been a firm believer that there should be no drastic moves or changes made, as it is early, but something has to be done.

It seems that a general consensus is that Carl Hagelin must go. His cap hit and very minimal production are far from adequate. Another consensus, is that Kris Letang is not playing up to par, but I do believe that will change as he gets more ice time. He had an injury that prevented him from even doing any sort of training for the main duration of the injury; however, I would not be too surprised if we somehow see Letang worked into a trade somehow.

Yes I know it seems crazy, but we have seen much bigger moves made that were unexpected, and the Penguins have proved they can win without him, but that is not the topic of this article.

The topic is on the last general consensus of Penguins fans, and that is that the Penguins are in need of a solid third line center. As the season has progressed, the options have greatly changed for the Penguins, so here are my potential options for a third line center.

William Karlsson

I still firmly believe that Karlsson is our best option for third line center.  Yes the Golden Knights are on a tear, but I do not think they will be able to keep up their pace, and they are already showing signs of slowing down. Karlsson has exploded offensively this year with 20 points in 21 games. I predicted he would have his best year to date in the offseason when I stated he was our best option, but we have yet to make an attempt at him. He will also fill our gap in the penalty kill as he is on Vegas’s first penalty kill line.  

However, with Karlsson’s recent offensive explosion, it won’t be easy to get him for cheap. One possible trade idea that might hit some nerves at first, and that is Ian Cole. Cole was an absolute rock on defense last year, and a huge part of our penalty kill. This year he has looked average at best 5v5, and good on the PK. The PK is still struggling though, and it seems to be the forwards that have a tough time on the Penalty kill.

Having Hagelin, Sheahan, and Greg McKegg as some of the PK forwards is far from ideal.

In addition, Cole is looking like he could demand a salary of $4-5 million dollars this offseason, which in my opinion needs to go to Patric Hornqvist more so than Cole. With all that in mind, I think it is worth it to trade Cole for Karlsson, as the Golden Knights weakest link is on defense.

Another option from the Knights which is good, but not as good as Karlsson is Erik Haula.  Haula has had 12 points in 21 games played, and would command a cheaper return.

Mikael Backlund

The next option is somewhat of a stretch, as Calgary is doing well currently, and will most likely make the playoffs. Backlund currently has 14 points in 21 games, which is very good for a third line center. He is also in the last year of his contract, with a cap hit of $3.75 million. This is not too bad as he will most likely be a rental center.

The reason that Calgary may want to move Backlund, is to allow Sam Bennett to move up as the second line center, and progress more. However, with a cap hit like Backlund’s, it would require the Penguins to move Hagelin’s $4 million cap hit. Calgary may have some interest, but maybe not with his recent struggles. This is why this trade may not be as likely, because Calgary is in a win now or soon mode, and giving up a solid center may not be a part of that plan.  

Antoine Vermette

This last option may come as a bit of a shock, as Vermette’s name hasn’t really been thrown out there; however, the 35 year old only has a cap hit of $1.75 million, is exceptional in the faceoff circle, and is a first line penalty killer in Anaheim. He may only have 7 points in 21 games, but his penalty kill ability and faceoff percentages are comparable to Matt Cullen. A trade will most likely be a low cost and low-medium reward trade, being as Anaheim is looking to be a fringe playoff team that needs some youth. Even if Vermette can’t fill the third line center position as well as Nick Bonino or Cullen did, at least he will be a better fourth line center than McKegg.

All in all, I believe the Penguins shouldn’t pull the trigger too eagerly and get the bad end of a trade, but I do believe a shake up could be coming soon.

The Penguins time to win is also now and after this year they will either lose Cole or Hornqvist, while other teams only get better and the Penguins get older. With this being the case, I think the Penguins should be open to trading prospects or one of their defenseman for some much needed offensive and penalty kill help. The only prospect that shouldn’t move is Daniel Sprong while all others should be open to move in trade negotiations.

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Realistic Third Line Center Options

Ever since the news of Nick Bonino’s departure to the Nashville Predators, Penguins fans and media have all been buzzing about who the Penguins new third line center would be.

Right off the bat names such as Matt Duchene, Jordan Staal, and Tyler Bozak were thrown out there with dream scenario trade proposals involving those players coming from every angle of the media.

However, after recent news arose that GM Jim Rutherford is not looking for any of those centers the potential options for the Penguins third line center have slimmed down to a few key options.  These options are all based on the salary budget of 2-3 million dollars that Jim Rutherford told the media.

William Karlsson, Vegas Golden Knights, $1 Million

The best replacement to fill all of Bonino’s roles would without a doubt be the young center William Karlsson.  William carries a very low cap hit of $1 million dollars and has one year left on his contract.  He put up 25 points in 82 games which isn’t stellar, but his biggest strength is that he was on the first line penalty kill for the Columbus Blue Jackets this past year.  Karlsson could slot in on the first penalty kill line for the Penguins and fill that third line center void.

Erik Haula, Vegas Golden Knights, $2.75 Million

Arguably the second best and most attainable center would be Erik Haula from the Vegas Golden Knights.  Haula had an alright 2016-2017 season and put up 28 points in 72 games.  He also just got locked into a 3 year deal with an AAV of $2.75 Million dollars.  Haula is a two way player, but his skill set leans a little towards the offensive side.

Adam Lowry, Winnipeg Jets, $1.25 Million

The last player that seems to present himself as a real option, is the big bodied Adam Lowry.  Lowry comes in with a solid 6’5 frame and was able to put up 29 points in 82 games this past year.  Although Lowry did not play penalty kill for the Jets, I can see him developing into someone that can take up penalty kill minutes in Sullivan’s system.

Why would Jim Rutherford Want a Player Only Worth $3 Million or Less?

Penguins fans have been spoiled with the wizardous moves that Jim Rutherford has pulled off during his time in Pittsburgh.  He has acquired so many big name players that to the average fan it would only make sense to go after someone such as Bozak, Duchene, or Staal.

However, to take everything in perspective we need to look at what the Penguins have been able to do over the past few years.  They have turned players into something from almost nothing.

They turned Ian Cole from a 7th defenseman to a top 4 defenseman, they turned Nick Bonino from mediocre to noteworthy, they took Justin Schultz from a scapegoat to an elite defenseman, and they turned a low-end prospect in Brian Dumoulin into a $4.1 million AAV defenseman.

It would make lots of sense for them to look at someone in Bonino’s price range from the 2016-2017 season, which was $1.9 million, and see how they can better that player in their system.

What Would it Take to Get One of These Players?

The two most often thrown out names in traders are the two most unjustified scapegoats in recent Penguins history.  Those two players are Olli Maatta and Derrick Pouliot, and yes I did say unjustified.

Most average fans find it quite easy to place the blame on these two, and most of the time it is undeserved, but that is besides the point.  The Penguins most likely will not deal Maatta, but Pouliot is looking like he could be on the move.

Pouliot looked like he could finally get his chance as a sixth defenseman with the departure of Trevor Daley and Ron Hainsey, but then Jim Rutherford signed Hunwick to a deal worth $2.25 AAV…and that kind of contract doesn’t seem like he signed him just to trade him.

So it is looking like the Penguins could deal out Pouliot along with picks for any of these centers.  This also means that Haula and Karlsson are much more likely to be the targets, the reason being that Vegas is not a contender and has already made it clear they will move players for young prospects and picks.

Winnipeg on the other hand is a team that can contend for a playoff spot and doesn’t need more defenseman.  So the likely trade would be either Karlsson or Haula coming to Pittsburgh and in return they get Pouliot and picks or just picks.  But obviously this is all just educated speculation as I am not in Jim Rutherford’s head nor do I know what wizardous move he will pull next.