Penguins Acquisition of Carl Hagelin Raises Concerns

The Pittsburgh Penguins paid a hefty price to acquire the star-crossed wing David Perron last season. If you ask All-Star defender Kris Letang, he’s got some of the finest hands in the entire NHL, but that was rarely on display with the Penguins. However, it’s not just Letang who saw the potential that Perron has, here’s what captain Sidney Crosby had to say about his play back on January 4th.

He’s got a great shot, he has great hands, and he goes to the high traffic areas. If he keeps doing that, I think the puck’s going to go in.

Late last night, Pittsburgh announced a trade with the Anaheim Ducks, one they hope will benefit both teams. The Penguins sent the rarely used defender Adam Clendening and David Perron to Anaheim for forward Carl Hagelin.

Breaking Down Carl Hagelin and David Perron

The Penguins collaboratively worked with the Ducks on this trade in an effort to benefit both clubs. Hagelin and Perron both have been struggling this season, but it has been for different reasons. Here’s how the numbers break down for both of these versatile wings.

  • David Perron: 42 games played, 4 goals, 12 assists, 16 points, -14 skater, 4.3% shooting, 50.8% CF, $3.8125 million cap hit, UFA at end of 2015-16 season
  • Carl Hagelin: 42 games played: 4 goals, 7 assists, 11 points, -11 skater, 4.9% shooting, 53.7% CF, $4 million cap hit, UFA at end of 2018-19 season, NTC begins in 2016-17

On paper, these two players are extremely similar, talented but struggling wings who are versatile enough to play both sides. But while Perron plays well only on the power play, Hagelin works the power play and the penalty kill. He’s also a much faster skater, but lacks the elite hands that Perron has shown from time to time.

The Penguins are getting a talented player, but one who loves to crash the net. Stylistically, this move does not make sense as both Chris Kunitz and Patric Hornqvist both thrive at parking in the blue paint.

Head coach Mike Sullivan really likes Hagelin’s play and has worked with him before. Here’s what general manager Jim Rutherford had to say about the move.

He improves our team speed. He’s an excellent penalty killer, and Mike Sullivan had him in New York and really likes him.

There are two ways to look at this trade, you can hope that Sullivan can revive Hagelin’s production and see a clear win for the Penguins. Perron is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season and given his recent struggles it was unlikely he finished the season with the team and even less likely he re-signed with them.

But the flip side to this is that Hagelin’s expensive contract has only just begun and a no-trade clause begins next season. It’s unknown to what extent the NTC is, but adding another seemingly immovable $4 million to the Penguins salary cap is not a wise move.

UPDATE: Details of Hagelin’s NTC that could kick in next season.

The simple addition of Hagelin’s contract eats up another $2oo,ooo of Pittsburgh’s current $1.4 million in cap space, but that’s only this season.

This coming offseason, Pittsburgh only has depth players as free agents. Here’s a quick list of free agents, their status and expiring cap hits.

  • Sergei Plotnikov (RFA) $925,000
  • Matt Cullen (UFA) $800,000
  • Bryan Rust (RFA) $652,500
  • Tom Kuhnhackl (RFA) $575,000
  • Kevin Porter (UFA) $575,000
  • Ben Lovejoy (UFA) $1,100,000
  • Olli Maatta (RFA) $894,166
  • David Warsofsky (RFA) $600,000

Assuming the NHL salary cap is going to rise from $71.4 million and the Penguins have a little more space to play with, but there’s a concerning name on that list. Young defender Olli Maatta is going to get paid this offseason, it just might not be from the Penguins. They’re rapidly running out of cap space and are losing the ability to create more with every trade. Maatta is a model NHL player, deserves a raise and will get one even if it is in the form of an offer sheet by another team. He’s the perfect candidate to be signed to an offer sheet because Pittsburgh most likely won’t have the cap space to match any offer.

The Penguins are backing themselves into a corner with the salary cap and this move could prove to be costly. While adding Hagelin makes the team better on paper, it entirely depends on if Sullivan can generate production out of the 27-year old wing.

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