For years the Pittsburgh Penguins around the trade deadline were a giant source of excitement around the league. Over the years, they’ve traded away countless draft picks and prospects to bring in well known players like Jarome Iginla, Brenden Morrow, Douglas Murray, Alexei Kovalev, James Neal, Matt Niskanen, Bill Guerin, Marian Hossa and Pascal Dupuis. While not all of these players were acquired on the exact trade deadline, they were brought in within a week or so of the deadline.
In fact, since 1968, the Pittsburgh Penguins are tied with the Vancouver Canucks for the most trades on the deadline with 57 moves a piece.
After years of seeing prospects and draft picks sent packing from Pittsburgh, the Penguins remained relatively quiet.
Wrapping Up Pittsburgh Penguins Trades And Looking At The Road Ahead
In the last few weeks we’ve seen David Perron and Adam Clendening traded to the Anaheim Ducks for winger Carl Hagelin. While it was a move I openly questioned at the time, Hagelin has fit in nicely and is slowly finding his place in the lineup.
Then just a few days ago the Penguins traded a third-round draft pick for defensemen Justin Schultz of the Edmonton Oilers.
— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) February 27, 2016
More than anything, this is the Penguins taking a shot in the dark that Schultz can turn his career around. He was once a highly touted prospect that some believed could eventually be a Norris caliber defense. However, he was playing for the Edmonton Oilers, otherwise known as a place where young players’ careers rarely get on track.
Looking at his numbers, he’s a career minus-78 skater, and I’ve discussed this before, the plus/minus rating is flawed but being on one extreme end of the spectrum is significant. Schultz more or less is what he is, a good puck moving, offensive defender who struggles in his own end, but let’s put the numbers into context.
Of 235 defensemen, who have played over 1000 minutes, Schutlz’s points-per-sixty is 85th at .74. Also let’s look at his shot generation and suppression metrics in comparison to where he’s been playing. When you look at Edmonton Oilers’ defensemen, who have played over 200 minutes, Schultz ranked fifth on the team with a Corsi For percentage of 48.86. But he was also playing on their second pairing against fairly tough competition.
With the Pittsburgh Penguins, Schultz won’t be asked to play a lot of minutes or against tough competition. On their blue line he’ll be on the bottom pairing and he’ll be working with defensive legend Sergei Gonchar off the ice.
Considering that the Oilers retained half of Schultz’s cap hit and overall it’s not a bad addition for the Penguins.
And the other thing to consider is that the Penguins didn’t add by subtraction. Sure, they gave up a third-round draft pick, but considering the low probability that the pick results in a viable NHL player, it’s not a huge cost to take a gamble on a young player who has a ton of talent.
Pittsburgh Penguins’ Trade of Sergei Plotnikov
This morning the Pittsburgh Penguins announced they have traded Sergei Plotnikov to the Arizona Coyotes, in return came a conditional seventh round draft pick and forward Matthias Plachta. This was simply a move to get Plotnikov out of Pittsburgh.
He’s a possession driving player, but his physical style didn’t fit with the Penguins desire to play with speed. Plotnikov never really got a chance under new head coach Mike Sullivan, but his time in Pittsburgh was a zero-sum game. The Penguins never gave up anything to sign him as a free agent from the KHL and they might have netted a draft pick in return.
Penguins Road Ahead Post-Trade Deadline
This was the first deadline in a long time that the Penguins didn’t make a major move, and that’s a good thing. The team has been reckless with trading prospects and draft picks for rental players at an attempt of going “all in” for a Stanley Cup. It hasn’t worked out and overall, the Penguins are playing much better under Sullivan than under Johnston.
I’ve been critical of general manager Jim Rutherford in the past, but he played this deadline correctly. He added a defenseman that gives the organization depth, and not depth in the sense of David Warsofsky. Rutherford also didn’t overpay for a rental player like Daniel Winnik again and the team is set up to do the best that it can during the upcoming post-season.
The Pittsburgh Penguins currently sit in the Eastern conference’s second wild-card playoff spot and are barely in that position. On the one hand, they have games in hand on all teams that remain within striking distance, but on the other hand they have the second hardest schedule until the end of the season.
Upcoming opposing teams have an average win percentage of .585, the second highest in the NHL behind the Boston Bruins with .591.
It won’t be an easy road, but more and more this season feels very similar to the 2008-09 season when the Penguins fired their head coach and struggled to make the playoffs, and we know how that season ended.
But there’s something to keep in mind here, these Pittsburgh Penguins have one chance together. Currently the team has 46 total contracts on their books with the NHL team (15 forwards/8 defenders/3 goalies) having a combined cap number of $71.409 million. However, next season the team will have just 26 contracts on their books and their NHL team (9 forwards/6 defenders/2 goalies) has a cap number of $70.641 million.
And with the anticipated cap decrease due to the struggling Canadian dollar, the Penguins are going to have to make moves over the offseason to remain cap compliant.
This Penguins team has one chance together and we’re about to see what they can do together.