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Jack Roslovic would be an intriguing trade target for the Penguins

With lots of chatter that the Winnipeg Jets are interested in acquiring Derick Brassard this season, naturally a look turns to who could be coming the other way back to Pittsburgh.

Our SBN friends at Arctic Ice Hockey had a recent article about Winnipeg’s potential trade chips. The one that stood out is forward Jack Roslovic.

I’ve seen hockey writers mention that he is one of the Jets that other teams call about, only to be rejected to date. I like Roslovic a lot, but when the full moon fever of trade deadline hits, would some team offer a current top four defenceman or second line forward for some sort of package featuring Roslovic? If you’re in win now mode, you have to consider it.

Being in “win now” mode might mean being, if not desperate than certainly eager to add more right now, which would be where the Pens should be interested.

Over the summer AIH rated Roslovic #6 in their top 25 players under 25 years old in the organization, writing the following about the 2015 first round pick earlier this season:

After dominating the AHL to start the 2017-2018 season with the Manitoba Moose, Jack Roslovic got called up to play for the Jets last year, and appeared in 31 regular season games and 10 playoff games. His solid progression and play, putting up 17 points in those games, showed that the Jets probably made the right choice when taking him 25th overall in 2015.

His start to the 2018-19 season has not gone how many expected, landing on the fourth line with Mathieu Perreault and first Kristian Vesalainen and more recently Brendan Lemieux. His ice time has dropped from 12:19 per game to 8:06, and his offensive production has dipped with it, with just a pair of assists in nine games. If games are close, head coach Paul Maurice has opted to shorten his bench and roll with three lines.

That low usage might be a stretch to expect 21-year old with limited experience to instantly expand into a huge role. Which is problematic in the short-term in the sense that if the Pens trade Brassard, they’ll need a third line center. That would be a big step up for Roslovic, who has been a 4th line spare piece that often gets lost in the shuffle during a game, currently at just 8:50 per game this season. Roslovic has only taken 184 faceoffs in 47 games this season, or just four per game. He only has two goals this season but does have eight assists, which combined with low ice time gives him a respectable rate stat of 1.44 points per 60. Roslovic is a middling shot control player with a Corsi For of 48.8%, not that he’s been able to do too much in such an abbreviated role.

With all that in mind, the youngster might not be able or ready to step into a huge ask to play 15 minutes a night in playoff-style minutes, centering a line that could include Phil Kessel. But for an organization in Pittsburgh that doesn’t have a lot of young forward talent in the 18-23 year old range, Roslovic would certainly be a key addition and figure for the future. The AIH folks think he’s being groomed to be a long-term second line center for the Jets and is a guy with a bright future.

Pittsburgh could also have a committee approach since they do have Riley Sheahan and Matt Cullen still around that they trust. Roslovic, who has but 79 career NHL games under his belt, probably doesn’t have to be thrown too far in the deep end this year, even though obviously the short-term strength of the Pens is always the biggest concern.

As for Winnipeg, it seems like they’re seeking a forward upgrade and a rental like Brassard makes some sense for them to make their roster as good as can be to compete with other top Western teams like Nashville and Vegas. But they pretty much have to ignore his whole Pittsburgh career to think that Brassard can bounce back and become a more productive player like he was in his earlier days, because they’ll probably be using him in the same sort of role the Pens have been.

Winnipeg doesn’t need a top-six center since they have Mark Scheifele and Bryan Little, so really the fit for Brassard here is very curious. This would just fly in the face of all the evidence of the last year where Brass has struggled with third line minutes and responsibility in Pittsburgh. Yet, the rumors persist from national media types that the interest remains.

No matter what happens it seems like a tough proposition to trade Brassard and yet bring back an exact replacement as a third line center. If Winnipeg is eager to add Brassard a young target like Roslovic might not be a great short-term fit but could add immense value in the big picture for years down the line. Even though Pittsburgh is in a win now mode, they also need to acquire as much talent as possible and Roslovic is certainly a very interesting name to consider in any negotiation.

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