A few weeks ago Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford pulled off a trade that very few thought possible. He traded veteran defender Rob Scuderi to the Chicago Blackhawks for Trevor Daley.
Chicago had acquired Daley in the salary dumping trade of Patrick Sharp, but he had not been a good fit in their system and was longing for more minutes. Trapped on the bottom pairing, Daley requested a trade to Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman.
The biggest enemy of the Penguins fan base had become Scuderi. Former general manager Ray Shero signed him for too much money, too long, and many questioned the signing at the time. His skating slowed down to an abysmal pace and the steady defensive hand he once provided was gone. A lot of fans had actually hoped the Penguins would have bought out his contract over the offseason, but Rutherford had not given up on trading him.
Trevor Daley Versus Rob Scuderi
In the first five games after joining the Penguins, Daley was a breath of fresh air. He was a remarkable improvement over Scuderi, and still remains one. His ice time was around 13 minutes per game with Chicago and with Pittsburgh he’s averaged around 20 minutes per contest. While Scuderi was averaging close to 20 minutes with Pittsburgh, his ice time had fallen to around 10 minutes per game.
In Daley’s first five games as a Penguin, here are his Corsi For percentages, 51.4, 61.3, 52.2, 61.5 and 68.2. However, those first five games have proven to be his best in Pittsburgh. Since then his Corsi For has fallen to 45.5, 50, 48.1, 36.4, 50.0 and 26.7. Now, not all of these metrics are Daley’s fault or can be controlled by him, but Pittsburgh is realizing what Chicago saw a while ago.
At this stage in his career, Daley is an excellent third pairing and second power play defender but forcing him into the top-four has only showcased his flaws. In those last six games with a sub-50 Corsi For percentage, Daley has become a turnover machine, especially in the defensive zone.
While Daley remains a huge upgrade over Scuderi, he is what he is. If head coach Mike Sullivan continues to over-deploy him like former head coach Mike Johnston did with Ben Lovejoy at the end of the last season then Daley’s metrics will continue to suffer.
Pittsburgh’s problem shouldn’t be having Daley on the third pairing but who do you replace him with in the top-four? Ian Cole, who was acquired late last season, has already struggled in that capacity. His ice time has recently been cut to less than 15 minutes a game. Young defender Olli Maatta or Brian Dumoulin are the most logical candidates for the Penguins to lean on. Both have been used for roughly 20 minutes a night but they’re capable of more. Star defender Kris Letang is already eating up close to 30 minutes a night. All it takes is Maatta and Dumoulin to be used a little more often to shield Daley from tougher competition.
It will be interesting to see what Rutherford does as the trade deadline rapidly approaches. He’s said he wants to acquire a top-four defender and a forward before the deadline, but talks were dead the last time he spoke. With very little cap space and very few ways to create more room without losing valuable assets, Rutherford’s hands might be tied this year. Of course, it would not be unlike him to move some big name players in an attempt to improve their team.