First Call: Penguins trade chip besides Phil Kessel?; blown call stings Bruins |
Breakfast With Benz

First Call: Penguins trade chip besides Phil Kessel?; blown call stings Bruins

Tim Benz
AP Photo
Florida Panthers center Aleksander Barkov (16) and Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Olli Maatta (3) go for the puck during the second period of an NHL hockey game, Thursday, Feb. 7, 2019, in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

In “First Call” Friday, there may be a trade chip on the Penguins besides Phil Kessel. The Bruins got screwed in the Stanley Cup Final. The Big Ten/ACC Challenge should be fantastic.

Who else besides Phil?

The Athletic listed its top 20 trade candidates.

Two Penguins made it.

Writer Craig Custance listed Penguins winger Phil Kessel as third on the list behind only Jacob Trouba of the Jets and Nashville’s P.K. Subban.

That’s no surprise. Jason Zucker of Minnesota, the winger rumored to be swapped for Kessel a few weeks ago, is sixth.

Penguins defenseman Olli Maatta is No. 20.

Here is Custance’s explanation: “GM Jim Rutherford has to do something to fix the Penguins’ defense with Maatta and Jack Johnson both candidates to be moved. The problem, besides Johnson’s contract, is that injuries have slowed down Maatta. ‘I think that holds him back now,” said an NHL scout. “I don’t think he’s a very good skater.’ ”

That’s not exactly the most revolutionary scouting report on Maatta. Criticism like that has been out there about his game for a long time.

But if he goes and Johnson goes, then the Penguins better use some of that new cap space to get an upgraded top-6 blueliner somewhere.

Those are hard to find, and they don’t come cheap.

Welcome to the club

The Bruins are the latest team to be victimized by a blown call in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Watch Tyler Bozak trip Noel Acciari. Then watch the officials swallow their whistles.

That was former Penguin David Perron scoring the goal to make it 2-0 in the third period. Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy summed up the play very succinctly.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch played into the trip up on their cover.

I guess if you stick around in the playoffs long enough this year, you are going to get an awful call made against you. The Blue Jackets would probably say the Bruins had this one coming after this blow to the head from Charlie McAvoy only got a minor in the second round of the playoffs.

The Blues won 2-1. They have a 3-2 lead in the Stanley Cup Final heading back to St. Louis for Game 6 on Sunday.

Fawning Fitz

Larry Fitzgerald is giving a thumbs up to his new quarterback.

It sounds like Kyler Murray is adjusting to NFL life well as the league’s top draft pick.

One thing Murray has going for him is that Kliff Kingsbury’s offense with the Cardinals has some similarities to what he did at Oklahoma.

Kingsburry told us all to expect this. He has long said Murray would be a good fit coming out of the Sooners’ program for what the Cardinals are trying to do on the pro level.

Not going to hold my breath

The NFL is trying to get its collective bargaining agreement hammered out by Sept. 1.

According to ProFootballTalk, the league is targeting that date because it wants its 100th season celebration free-and-clear of negative distractions about a potential labor stoppage.

Good luck with that.

The CBA doesn’t expire until after 2020, and there are lots of complicated issues to fix. So I don’t see a new agreement getting hammered out in less than three months.

December Demons

We told you that Pitt will be playing Rutgers in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.

We also know Penn State will be playing Wake Forest on Dec. 4 in State College. The game will be at the Bryce Jordan Center.

Other highlight games include national champion Virginia visiting Purdue in a rematch of their overtime Elite Eight game. Duke goes to Michigan State. That’s another Elite Eight rematch. The Spartans won that one. And Louisville welcomes Michigan.

Speaking of March Madness familiarity, the Cardinals beat the Wolverines in the NCAA title game in 2013.

Tim Benz is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tim at [email protected] or via Twitter. All tweets could be reposted. All emails are subject to publication unless specified otherwise.

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