For the past decade, Scott Hartnell has been public enemy number one in Pittsburgh. It's not hard to be hated when you're wearing Flyers' orange, but even in his past two seasons as a member of the Columbus Blue Jackets, he's continued to be a polarizing character for the Penguins. And now, Scott Hartnell is on the trade market. The Blue Jackets are in the process of getting younger, and are looking to trade guys like Fedor Tyutin and Hartnell. If the Penguins get back to full health at center, they could look to add a left winger to the roster, and Eklund is reporting that the Penguins are very interested in Hartnell.
As a Penguins fan, my gut reaction is to cringe at the thought of Hartnell in Pittsburgh, but trying to keep an open mind has me seeing at least some advantages to the trade. Hartnell is known for being one of those players who just constantly torments the Penguins, so having him on our side would clear that issue up pretty nicely. It's not the first time General Manager Jim Rutherford would apply that mindset to an acquisition either. Apparently, discussions of adding Phil Kessel started when the Penguins were playing Toronto and were having a tough time game planning how to defend Kessel. Eric Fehr, another "Penguin Killer", tormented Pittsburgh for years as a member of the Washington Capitals, so the Penguins locked him up for three years in black and gold. So, it certainly would fit the description of a Rutherford-type deal to bring Scott Hartnell to the Burgh.
Outside of the fact that it's Scott Hartnell we're talking about, let's look at whether or not he could actually help the Penguins. Hartnell has 18 goals and 37 points this season for Columbus, a team who has struggled mightily on offense this season. those numbers could definitely help in Pittsburgh, in either the top six or the bottom six.
Hartnell is 33 years old, and is under contract until 2020 at a cap hit of $4.75 million. Definitely an ugly contract. It wouldn't be easy for the Penguins to fit into their payroll, but there's also salary cap wizards working for the team who have a much better idea of exactly how much space the Penguins have to work with. In other words, the Penguins are aware of Hartnell's contract, and if they make a deal then they'll have a plan of how to make his contract fit.
What could the Penguins offer to get Hartnell out of Columbus? Well to make the money side of it work, you could see Kunitz, a 2nd round pick, and a prospect, headed to the Blue Jackets. Kunitz wouldn't make the Jackets any younger, but he carries a shorter contract length which would be enticing to Columbus. The Penguins have two 2nd round picks this year, so they could potentially send one away without feeling major repercussion, but is Hartnell worth it? As far as a prospect goes, a guy like Conor Sheary has seriously increased his trade value with his performance over the past month or so, but, again, is it worth it to give him up?
At the end of the day, my opinion is this: Scott Hartnell could be a nice addition to the Penguins both on the score sheet and in the locker room. But if the price was Kunitz, and a pick/prospect, it just doesn't seem worth it to me. But one things for sure, I definitely approve of the strategy of keeping your friends close and your enemies closer.