This season could be the last for defenseman Paul Martin as a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins. The 33-year-old blueliner will be eligible for unrestricted free agency in July, leading some observers to suggest he might not finish the season with the Penguins.
The Edmonton Journal's Jim Matheson notes Martin lost his power-play spot to youngster Olli Maatta, and wondered if the Penguins will bother to re-sign him or deal him before his UFA eligibility. Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun also took note of Martin's reduced role. He speculates the blueliner will be gone before the deadline, but not before Maatta returns from his upcoming surgery to remove a cancerous tumour from his neck.
Considering the Penguins depth in young defensemen (Maatta, Simon Despres, Derrick Pouliot and Brian Dumoulin) and limited cap space next season, Martin's days are likely numbered in Pittsburgh. Should he hit the trade block, Garrioch believes the San Jose Sharks could have interest. GM Doug Wilson apparently seeks a top-four defenseman but doesn't want to give anything up in return.
Earlier this season there was talk Penguins GM Jim Rutherford was in the market for a top-six forward. Martin could become a trade chip to address that need. With the Penguins off to a strong start, Rutherford doesn't have to make a trade right now. If the Sharks become interest in Martin, Wilson could face giving up a forward, perhaps a right wing, to land him.
PENGUINS, SABRES COULD MAKE A DEAL
The Penguins could turn to the Buffalo Sabres to land a forward. Garrioch added them to the list of potential suitors (along with the Boston Bruins and Ottawa Senators) for Sabres right wing Chris Stewart. ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun believes it's only a matter of time until Stewart is dealt this season and also notes the interest of the Bruins and Senators.
Stewart's recent prominence in the rumor mill probably has more to do with the lack of talent available in the trade market at this time of year. 27-year-old entered this week with two points in 13 games, on pace for only 12 points over an 82-game schedule.
Stewart, who is eligible for UFA status in July, has two 28-goal seasons on his resume and plays a physical style, but since 2011-12 he's never scored more than 18 goals or 36 points in a season. Calling him overrated at this point in his career is an understatement. He's certainly not worth a return of picks and prospects Sabres GM Tim Murray reportedly seeks.
Murray might get a better return for winger Drew Stafford. Like Stewart, Stafford will be a UFA in July, but has posted slightly better numbers. He enjoyed career-highs in goals (31) and points (52) in 2010-11 and currently has six points in 13 games.