Jim Rutherford has proven during his tenure as Penguins GM that he is not afraid to pull the trigger on trades. Never has that been more evident than this season, as Rutherford has turned over 35% of his forwards since opening night. Five of the 13 forwards from the opening night roster are out. Carl Hagelin, Derek Grant, Daniel Sprong, Derick Brassard, Riley Sheahan, along with defenseman Jamie Oleksiak have all been sent elsewhere.
The players brought in include forwards Tanner Pearson, Nick Bjugstad, Jared McCann, and defenseman Marcus Pettersson. The Penguins also re-acquired forward J.S. Dea from New Jersey by claiming him off waivers. There have been so many changes to the Penguins??? roster it has been hard to keep track of them all. Here is the timeline:
- After a loss on to New Jersey on November 13 that put the Penguins in 14th place in the Eastern Conference, it was obvious that changes needed to be made. The first domino to fall was speedy forward Carl Hagelin. He was a key contributor on both Stanley Cup Championship teams and a penalty-killing specialist. He was sent to Los Angeles in exchange for 26-year-old left wing Tanner Pearson.
- In more of a minor move, the Penguins reacquired Dea off waivers from New Jersey on November 29. He was recalled from the AHL by the Penguins on December 7, but only played three games for Pittsburgh before being sent back down.
- With the Penguins still struggling, Rutherford decided it was time to part ways with little used forward Daniel Sprong. He dealt Sprong to Anaheim in exchange for defenseman Marcus Pettersson. Sprong never lived up to expectations of being the 46th overall selection in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft and only ended up playing 42 total games for Pittsburgh over three seasons, registering just nine total points.
- With a logjam at the center position, center Derek Grant was traded to Anaheim for forward Joseph Blandisi on January 17. Blandisi was immediately assigned to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
- Speaking of logjams, the Penguins moved defenseman Jamie Oleksiak on January 28 due to the team having no less than eight able-bodied defensemen on the roster.
- Finally, in a move that surprised nobody, on February 1 Rutherford sent a disgruntled Derick Brassard to Florida, along with Riley Sheahan for wingers Nick Bjugstad and Jared McCann. The rumblings with Brassard had always been that he wasn???t happy playing in a bottom-six role.
So, that is what has happened up until this point. The question is whether or not all of these moves have been or will be effective. There???s no one metric that will prove who ???won??? these trades, but with just about all of these moves, it was clear that changes had to be made, particularly with Sprong and Brassard.
With so many trades it will take time for the team to gel. The smart thing about the moves Rutherford made is that he made them well before the trade deadline to give this group plenty of games together. This doesn???t necessarily that mean that Rutherford won???t make more moves before the February 25 trade deadline. However, the likelihood of a major move is slim. All of the aforementioned moves were meant to supplement the core of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel, Jake Guentzel, Kris Letang, and Matt Murray in goal.
Many have already forgotten that it was that core group of players that won back-to-back Stanley Cup Championships just two seasons ago. With the new additions there???s no reason why they can???t make a deep playoff run again. However, even if the Penguins don???t win the Stanley Cup this season it doesn???t mean that the moves weren???t effective. Keep in mind that Pearson and Bjugstad are signed through the 2020-21 season, McCann is signed through next season, and Pettersson is a restricted free agent at the end of this season. With the Penguins the goal is always to win the Stanley Cup, however the real value of these trades may not come to fruition until a season or two from now.