Penguins’ 2019-20 Trade Grades – How’d They Do?

While the Pittsburgh Penguins weren’t quite as active as usual on the trade market this season, the team still made a big splash that everyone expected. General manager Jim Rutherford had his eyes locked in on his prize and he finally made a deal to acquire Jason Zucker.

Aside from that, the Penguins made a handful of small trades that primarily affected the AHL squad and a fairly important salary dump. Still, the team made some moves to push towards another Stanely Cup run; how do those trades look now that the deadline has passed?

Note: Only trades that have affected the current NHL roster will be included. Sorry, Joseph Blandisi.

Erik Gudbranson to the Ducks for Andreas Martinsen & a Seventh-Round Pick (A-)

The trade itself didn’t do much for the Penguins, but dumping Erik Gudbranson’s contract off with the Anaheim Ducks set up several other moves. The 28-year-old blueliner was taking up $4 million on the Penguins books this season and next; instead, that’s something the Ducks will have to deal with.

First, this allowed the Penguins to ink Marcus Pettersson to a five-year extension with an average annual value (AAV) just slightly higher than what Gudbranson was due. The 23-year-old blueliner has become one of the team’s key defensemen and now he’ll be an important part of the franchise’s future alongside John Marino.

Pittsburgh Penguins Erik Gudbranson
Clearing Erik Gudbranson’s contract off the roster opened the door for more deal (Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports)

In most salary dumps, the team taking on the bad contract gets a pick or prospect in return. Somehow, the Penguins actually gained some assets, albeit a couple of very low-value ones: Andreas Martinsen and a 2021 seventh-round draft pick.

Martinsen has over 150 NHL games under his belt, but never received a promotion in the Penguins organization. After scoring just three points in 24 games with American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, the 6-foot-3 winger was placed on unconditional waivers and later signed in Switzerland.

Despite the Penguins essentially getting nothing in return for Gudbranson, it was a great deal. The team freed up cap space without having to lose an asset and later put that cap space to good use.

Alex Galchenyuk, Calen Addison, and a First-Round Pick to the Wild for Jason Zucker (B+)

As mentioned, Zucker had been on Rutherford’s radar for quite some time; he was nearly brought in last offseason in a deal involving Phil Kessel. In a way, he still was.

It’s no secret that Alex Galchenyuk didn’t really fit in with the Penguins. The 26-year-old forward was acquired in a blockbuster deal headlined by Kessel before this season. After scoring just 5 goals and 17 points in 45 games with Pittsburgh, Galchenyuk was part of the package sent to the Minnesota Wild to land Zucker.

On top of Galchenyuk, the Penguins also had to move their 2020 first-round pick and defenseman Calen Addison, the team’s top prospect. At first, it may seem like a big package for a 28-year-old winger that averaged just 22 goals over the last five seasons. However, Zucker is entering the prime of his career and has three more seasons under contract with a $5.5 million cap hit.

Pittsburgh Penguins Jason Zucker Sidney Crosby
Could Jason Zucker be the piece that puts the Penguins over the top in the Eastern Conference? (Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports)

So far, Zucker has three goals and five points in seven games with the Penguins. He’s taken Jake Guentzel’s place as a top-line winger next to Sidney Crosby, leading to a boost in playing time; he’s averaging 17:39 of ice time with Pittsburgh after averaging under 16 minutes per game with the Wild.

Addison was the Penguins’ top prospect essentially since the day he was drafted in 2018. He fits the mold of a fast, skilled, puck-moving blueliner that could make an NHL impact as soon as next season. He can successfully run a power play and, as he continues honing his defensive instincts, could be a top-pair defenseman in the future.

This trade not only gives the Penguins a big boost for this postseason run, but also for the next few seasons as the team’s window continues closing slowly and steadily.

Third-Round Pick to the Sharks for Patrick Marleau (C+)

Still searching for his first Stanley Cup at 40 years old, future Hall of Fame forward Patrick Marleau will try to make that championship push with the Penguins this season. The 6-foot-2 forward scored 10 goals and 20 points in 58 games with the San Jose Sharks this season.

San Jose Sharks Patrick Marleau
Could this be Patrick Marleau’s last shot at a Stanley Cup? (Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports)

This move is fairly low-risk, decent-reward for the Penguins. He’ll be the 2020 version of Matt Cullen; the Penguins signed Matt Cullen in 2015 for his age-39 season and he was a key bottom-six player during the team’s back-to-back Stanley Cup wins.

It will be interesting to see where Marleau fits into the Penguins’ lineup. A combination of him, Evgeni Malkin, and Bryan Rust on the second line could be something that head coach Mike Sullivan tries out. Marleau could also add some scoring touch to the bottom six with younger linemates like Jared McCann.

Maybe most of his value comes from the potential hockey magic he brings. A 40-year-old forward with nearly 1,200 career points in his 22nd NHL season still waiting for his turn to hoist the Cup? Maybe some shades of Ray Bourque for Marleau and the Penguins.

Dominik Kahun to the Sabres for Conor Sheary and Evan Rodrigues (B)

He’s back.

Just before the trade deadline, the Penguins dealt winger Dominik Kahun to the Buffalo Sabres for Conor Sheary and Evan Rodrigues. All three players are on expiring contracts; Kahun and Rodrigues will be restricted free agents while Sheary is free to hit the open market as an unrestricted free agent.

Conor Sheary Buffalo Sabres
Was Conor Sheary the missing piece to another Stanley Cup in Pittsburgh? (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Sheary was one of the most popular players during the Penguins’ back-to-back Stanley Cup runs in 2016 and 2017. In three seasons with the Penguins, the 5-foot-8 winger scored 48 goals and 93 points across 184 games. That included career highs in goals (23) and points (53) during the 2016-17 season.

Rodrigues is a solid two-way forward that will fit in with the Penguins’ bottom six. He could be a perfect bridge on the fourth line next to Teddy Blueger and Brandon Tanev while Zach Aston-Reese is out. However, once the forward group is healthy — including Nick Bjugstad — Rodrigues could be the odd man out.

Evan Rodrigues Buffalo Sabres
Evan Rodrigues should provide some quality depth on both sides of the puck (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The 26-year-old has just nine points in 38 games this season but collected 9 goals and 29 points last season. Rodrigues is also averaging a career-low 11:19 of ice time this season. A change of scenery looks necessary for Boston University product.

Kahun was acquired from the Chicago Blackhawks during the offseason in exchange for Olli Maatta. He scored 10 goals and 27 points in 50 games with the Penguins but, like Galchenyuk, didn’t complete a full season with the team. The 24-year-old seemed to fit well enough in the Penguins’ lineup, but it seems this deal was made primarily to get deeper.

Overall, the Penguins focused primarily on forward depth on deadline day and, on paper, it looks like they were successful. Zucker is obviously the big-ticket item, but Marleau, Sheary, and Rodrigues could all make positive impacts on this roster and push the Penguins through another long playoff run.