Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reporter Rob Rossi reiterated that in his latest blog post, further clarifying that general manager Ray Shero is pursuing Kesler as aggressively as any other trade target he’s had in eight seasons with the Penguins.
According to Rossi, Shero is prepared to offer 2012 first-round pick Derrick Pouliot – a prime blueline prospect – along with current third-line center Brandon Sutter, either Simon Despres or Brian Dumoulin, and a collection of future draft selections to Vancouver GM Mike Gillis.
That’s quite the haul, although since Kesler would be under club control until 2015-16 at $5 million per year, that type of price is expected. At 29, the Michigan-born Kesler should be able to maintain some semblance of his aggressive brand of two-way hockey into the near future.
But it’s not all about the two-time United States Olympian. Rossi also reported the Pens have been scouting Edmonton winger Ales Hemsky for first-line work and New Jersey defenseman Marek Zidlicky in the hopes of boosting blue line depth. Interestingly enough, both players are of Czech origin.
The 37-year-old Zidlicky (pronounced zid-LITZ-key) would come cheaper, as his expiring contract pays him $3 million annually. He’s slowed down from his puck-moving prime, but Zidlicky can still help at both ends of the ice. With Kris Letang likely out for the year and Paul Martin not due to return until sometime next month, Zidlicky could bridge the gap.
Hemsky, 30, also would be a “rental” player, but maybe a change in teams can push him to regain his 20-goal form. He makes $5 million, so more extensive roster machinations would be needed to make room for him on the payroll. Although Hemsky has but seven goals and 17 assists this season for the struggling Oilers, he was the leading Czech scorer in Sochi.
Rossi has also tossed out speculation that the Penguins have asked about Islanders D-man Andrew MacDonald and Sabres sniper Matt Moulson. MacDonald, who makes $550,000 per year, doesn’t have sterling possession stats, but perhaps he could perform better away from New York’s run-and-gun system.
Moulson was an original draft pick of the Pens and made his goal-scoring name with the Islanders alongside star center John Tavares. He carries a cap hit of just over $3 million and would presumably slot next to Sidney Crosby if acquired from rebuilding Buffalo.
Both Moulson and MacDonald will be unrestricted free agents this summer.