The Pittsburgh Penguins are no strangers to high-profile, blockbuster deals completed on or near the NHL Trade Deadline. As a perennial contender, the Penguins have been “all-in” quite often. This season was different, and it was quite refreshing for a team that needs to covet their youth and future draft picks.
Marian Hossa, Jarome Iginla, Doug Murray, Alexei Kovalev, Daniel Winnick, should I go on?
The Penguins have been one of the biggest spenders in recent years. While the caliber of player and role has changed from name to name, one thing has remained constant: Mortgaging the future in order to win-now has become an expectation in the Steel City; and while there are certainly cases in which a rental has moved the needle, at some point you have to sit back and realize you’re going to need young, impact players.
And, in the cap era, you’ll need a few of them on entry-level contracts.
The Penguins did make a couple moves, of course. They moved a third round pick to acquire Justin Schultz, a gifted offensive defenseman that wasn’t able to pull it together in Edmonton. As I discussed in more detail, he is a reclamation project of sorts. They also made two minor trades with the Arizona Coyotes, sending Sergei Plotnikov and AHL center Matia Marcantuoni in exchange for a conditional seventh round draft pick in 2017 and center Dustin Jeffrey.
Pittsburgh currently holds two second-round draft picks in 2016, followed by three more selections which are fourth, fifth and sixth rounders. They’re in much better shape heading into the offseason in that regard from previous seasons, plus they have some youth in their system to look forward to.
With Daniel Sprong leading the way, the Penguins also have promising prospects Dominik Simon and Oskar Sundqvist, not to mention Bryan Rust, Tom Kuhnhackl, Scott Wilson and Conor Sheary, all of whom have helped tremendously at the NHL-level this season.
Throw Matt Murray and Tristan Jarry into the mix, two very promising prospects in net, and Rutherford’s willingness to avoid selling the farm starts to make a lot of sense.
It’s about time a Penguins’ GM has been careful with the future of the team.
Pittsburgh should also have a fairly uneventful offseason ahead of them, considering most of their business is already taken care of. There’s always room for tweaking and adjusting but, for the most part, following Olli Maatta’s recent contract extension, the Penguins are fairly set. Unless they choose to make a decision on the future of their goaltending this summer, I’d imagine the offseason will look a lot like today’s trade deadline. Kinda boring.
While that doesn’t necessarily bode well for those that cover this team, it’s definitely what’s best for business from a team perspective.
Other Deadline Thoughts and Observations
I recently talked a bit about the Carolina Hurricanes conceding, as they entered full seller mode this past weekend unloading long-time captain Eric Staal along with Kris Versteeg. They followed that up today by dealing John-Michael Liles to the Bruins as well.
Now, it seems another team currently chasing the Penguins for a playoff berth has decided it’s time to start building for the future, as the New Jersey Devils unloaded former Penguin Lee Stempniak and Eric Gelinas for a series of draft picks. The Penguins hold a solid lead in the standings on the Hurricanes, Devils and Ottawa Senators and also have games in hand. It’s time to start prepping this lineup for the postseason.
No one in the Metropolitan Division, or the Eastern Conference in general, improved drastically today. I feel just as confident in the Penguins’ chances following the deadline as I did prior. Are they poised for a Stanley Cup run? Probably not. However, I wouldn’t necessarily count them out. They’re simply too resilient these days.
Lastly, along with most others, I’m shocked by two developments that played out today. Jonathan Drouin wasn’t traded and the Florida Panthers traded Brandon Pirri for only a sixth round pick in exchange. I recently mentioned Pirri as someone I liked for Pittsburgh. At that price, it’s easy to be disappointed the Penguins didn’t pull it off.