Penguins notebook: Winger Plotnikov traded to Arizona for pick, prospect
Winger Sergei Plotnikov, the puzzle piece who never found a place to fit after Penguins coach Mike Sullivan arrived in mid-December, finally parted ways with the team Monday morning.
The Arizona Coyotes acquired Plotnikov hours before they met the Penguins at Consol Energy Center. The Penguins received a conditional 2017 seventh-round draft pick and 24-year-old German winger Matthias Plachta, who has two goals and seven assists in 46 games with the AHL's Springfield Falcons.
“No surprise for me,” Plotnikov said. “I waited (for a) trade. I want to be here. I'm happy with Arizona.”
Plotnikov bought out his own contract with Lokomotiv Yaroslavl in Russia's KHL this past offseason in order to play in the NHL. Plotnikov, 25, signed a one-year deal worth $925,000 with the Penguins and briefly served as a candidate to skate alongside Evgeni Malkin soon afterward at training camp.
But Plotnikov's scoring touch never followed him from Russia. In 32 games, he had two assists and no goals.
He ended up as a fourth-liner under coach Mike Johnston, who still held out hope for improved play from the winger.
When Sullivan arrived, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton call-ups became the Penguins' regulars on the bottom two forward lines while Plotnikov watched from afar as a healthy scratch. Before playing for Arizona on Monday night, his last game was Jan. 6.
“Most of Plots' time here was before I got here,” said Sullivan, who took over as coach Dec. 12. “For whatever reason, it just didn't seem to work. We're certainly happy for Plots that he's going to get an opportunity to continue his career and have an opportunity to play. I'm not sure I have an answer for you as far as why.”
General manager Jim Rutherford said Plotnikov's request to return to Russia during the Christmas roster freeze was his Waterloo with the Penguins.
“We couldn't accommodate that because the freeze was on,” Rutherford said. “From that point on, it was kind of like, you know, he wasn't all-in here, and that's really what the coach wanted. He wanted players that were all-in. So, he kind of got pushed aside at that point.”
Just before the 3 p.m. deadline, the Penguins made a second minor move, acquiring Dustin Jeffrey and ECHL players Dan O'Donoghue and James Melindy for Matia Marcantuoni.
Rutherford said the move gives the Penguins depth at center with prospect Oskar Sundqvist out a few weeks with an undisclosed injury.
It is the second tour of duty with the Penguins for the 28-year-old Jeffrey, who has been assigned to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. He had 28 points in 100 games with the Penguins from 2008-14. Since leaving, he has been a top AHL scorer who played in 31 NHL games with Dallas and Arizona.
Marcantuoni, a speedy 22-year-old center prospect with limited offensive ability, is a longshot to make it to the NHL. O'Donoghue and Melindy were assigned to the ECHL's Wheeling Nailers.
Defenseman David Warsofsky, who shuttled between Pittsburgh and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton this season, was claimed off waivers by New Jersey. Warsofsky had one goal in 12 NHL games.
“We would have preferred to keep him, but we had to put him on waivers to free up some cap space,” Rutherford said.
Conor Sheary, Scott Wilson, Bryan Rust, Derrick Pouliot and Matt Murray were assigned to the Baby Pens on Monday.
Sheary is headed to Wilkes-Barre. Sullivan said he is fine after leaving Saturday's game against Winnipeg with an apparent shoulder injury. Kevin Porter took his spot in the lineup Monday night.
Wilson, Rust, Pouliot and Murray were sent down only on paper so they can be eligible for the AHL playoffs.
Plachta, the winger acquired for Plotnikov, is a 6-foot-2, 218-pound newcomer to North American hockey after playing the last six seasons in Germany's top pro league. He scored a career-high 35 points (14 goals, 21 assists) and 73 penalty minutes in his final season with Adler Mannheim.
“I played a lot against him growing up. I played with him on the national team,” Penguins winger and fellow German Tom Kuhnhackl said. “He's a big body. He's got a great shot. He's got great vision for the open guy. Good on the power play.”