Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford, who usually does his in-season work well before the deadline, is changing things up this year. Hours after trading for veteran forward Patrick Marleau from the San Jose Sharks, he’s made another big splash, acquiring Conor Sheary and Evan Rodrigues from the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for Dominik Kahun.
Buffalo also hasn’t been quiet, acquiring apparently rental forward Wayne Simmonds from the New Jersey Devils earlier on Monday. This deal is more of a true hockey trade, with the Sabres acquiring a good young player in Kahun, and the Penguins adding more depth to their injury-riddled lineup as they pursue the Stanley Cup.
Penguins Get Deeper
Rutherford is no stranger to injuries, as his team leads the league in man games lost this season. Therefore, he is taking no chances at the deadline, acquiring plenty of depth to supplement his forward group.
Rodrigues is a valuable forward, arguably one of the most underrated depth pieces when he was on the Sabres. But he hasn’t been a key contributor under new head coach Ralph Krueger, and earlier this season, he requested a trade. He had five goals and four assists in 38 games with the Sabres this season and looks likely to join the Penguins as a bottom-six contributor and potential penalty killer.
Sheary, on the other hand, is a much more familiar presence in Pittsburgh. He began his professional career in their organization and was on both of their back-to-back Stanley Cup teams before the Penguins traded him to Buffalo in a cost-cutting move. He’s remained consistent and has nine goals and 19 points in 55 games with the Sabres this season.
Sheary is an unrestricted free agent (UFA) at the end of the season, while Rodrigues is a pending restricted free agent (RFA). But these are obviously moves with the short term in primary focus. Rutherford wants his team to compete for another Cup this season, and with Marleau, Sheary, and Rodrigues in the fold, they are as deep as ever.
Kahun the Best Player?
There is an argument that the Sabres got the best player in the deal here, though. Kahun is in his second NHL season after the Blackhawks signed him out of the Deutsche Eishockey Liga (DEL) in 2018. They traded Kahun to the Penguins in exchange for Olli Maatta this offseason, and he put up 10 goals and 17 assists in 50 games with his new team before this trade today.
Though some questioned why the Sabres would suddenly sell two assets after acquiring a rental earlier in the day in Simmonds, this deal makes sense for general manager Jason Botterill. Kahun is a player who is ready to contribute right away, but also protects them for the future. Kahun is a pending RFA, so Botterill (or his successor, if the Sabres choose a different direction) will control his future beyond this season. He may be the best overall player in the deal, and he’s certainly got the brightest future.
Deadline Gone, Deals to Come
The 3:00 PM ET trade deadline has officially passed, but deals will still trickle in as the elements of those deals are finalized. Keep it tuned to The Hockey Writers for all the updates you need.
Stephen Ground is an author with The Hockey Writers and is co-host of the Two Guys No Cup Podcast. He enjoys studying the numbers and providing fresh looks at various stories.