The Pittsburgh Penguins are in the market for a center ahead of the 2021 NHL Trade Deadline on April 12, president of hockey operations Brian Burke told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Wednesday.
Evgeni Malkin has missed the past seven games with a lower-body injury and Teddy Blueger has missed the past eight games with an upper-body injury, though Burke said Jared McCann and Frederick Gaudreau have filled in well.
“People are stepping up,” Burke told the newspaper. “I’m not sure it was as dire a need as it was. But when two of your top four centers go down, you start looking around.”
Burke and general manager Ron Hextall were hired Feb. 9, less than two weeks after Jim Rutherford stepped down because of personal reasons.
Burke said he’d like to see Pittsburgh add some toughness, a staple of some of his previous teams, such as the Anaheim Ducks, who won the Stanley Cup in 2007 with Burke as GM. Hextall later Wednesday told the Penguins Radio Network they were looking for a big, physical forward.
“I’m a big fan of not going to a gun fight with a knife,” Burke said, adding that he’d have to “thrash that out” with Penguins coach Mike Sullivan, who has preached discipline from his team.
“I agree with him in general (that you should hurt a team on the scoreboard),” Burke said. “But I also think there are times when it helps to have those type of people dressed.”
Burke said Hextall has decided that the Penguins’ second-round pick in the 2021 NHL Draft is off limits after Pittsburgh traded its first-round pick to the Minnesota Wild as part of the deal for forward Jason Zucker last season.
The Penguins have a number of left-shot defensemen who could be used in a trade, including Brian Dumoulin, Mike Matheson, Marcus Pettersson, Juuso Riikola and Pierre-Olivier Joseph, though Burke said he isn’t sure he’d be willing to use that depth for help in another area.
“I don’t think you can ever have too many defensemen,” he said. “To make any kind of noise in the playoffs, you need at least eight or nine defensemen. Maybe there’s enough depth there to make a move. Maybe not. We’ll see. But that doesn’t mean you wouldn’t listen if someone calls in a trade.”
Pittsburgh, which is 5-0-1 in its past six games, is tied with the New York Islanders for second in the eight-team MassMutual East Division, two points behind the Washington Capitals. The top four teams will make the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
“I like the fact that we’ve been able to continue to win with a banged-up lineup,” Burke said. “Different guys are pulling on the rope every night. That’s the mark of a close team and a good team.”