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Tim Benz

Tim Benz: Penguins made right move in getting Derick Brassard

| Friday, Feb. 23, 2018, 4:42 p.m.
Senator center Derick Brassard (19) races down the ice between Penguins left wing Carl Hagelin (62) and Penguins center Nick Bonino (13) in the third period of game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals in the NHL Playoffs on Monday May 15, 2017 at PPG Paints Arena.
Christian Tyler Randolph | Tribune-Review
Senator center Derick Brassard (19) races down the ice between Penguins left wing Carl Hagelin (62) and Penguins center Nick Bonino (13) in the third period of game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals in the NHL Playoffs on Monday May 15, 2017 at PPG Paints Arena.

The trade itself may have been complicated. But don't overthink this.

It took a little longer than expected. It was more difficult to execute than Jim Rutherford thought it would be. But this is the move the Penguins needed to make all along.

It's one I've been campaigning for ever since Derick Brassard's name surfaced as a potential trade target.

The Penguins needed another center. Now they've got one. As Pittsburgh fans have witnessed firsthand while he has worn the jersey of opponents in Columbus, New York and Ottawa, Brassard is a good scorer, talented defensively, pesky to play against and can perform in the playoffs.

His 55 points in 78 postseason games — 15 in nine against Pittsburgh — illustrate that.

He's durable, playing in 80 or more games each of the previous four seasons. He tallied between 39 and 60 points in each of them, as well.

There will be some who say Riley Sheahan was playing well enough to be the third-line center.

He was.

So now they should feel even better about him as the fourth-line center.

Pittsburgh has gone from thin at center to start the year, to perhaps the deepest team in hockey at that position.

Others will say they should have used some of these assets to acquire Michael Grabner instead because he would've been a great fit with the Pens' speed-oriented attack and penalty kill.

He would've been.

But he's a wing. The Penguins already have depth at wing. In fact, figuring out how to deploy eight wings per night may be a challenge for Mike Sullivan.

Are you concerned that the Penguins gave up a lot to get Brassard?

They did.

Given some of the speculation that existed over what the return to Ottawa would need to be, however, the Penguins made out better than I expected.

Of course it would've been nice if they didn't have to part with a first-round pick. But I prefer that to dealing wing-prospect Daniel Sprong as many were predicting.

Yes, it would've been nice to see if Filip Gustavsson would've developed into an NHL goalie capable of backing up Matt Murray. The team already has one of those in Tristan Jarry, though.

Jarry right now versus the hope of Gustavsson down the line? Give me Jarry!

The lone complaint about this deal that I have is Ian Cole is going out the door. The exact nature of his slide down the depth chart obviously went beyond performance. It's long been speculated there has been some sort of rub between him and Sullivan.

Cole has been good since returning to the lineup of late. That's a move that now can be viewed as a successful attempt to showcase Cole.

Since Pittsburgh needed to move salary to make this swap complicit under the salary cap, dealing Matt Hunwick or Conor Sheary would've made more sense for the Penguins.

Although, if it made more sense for Pittsburgh, it made less sense for Ottawa. Which is why that probably didn't happen.

Hunwick is healthy again. So that helps. But the Penguins defense has been stretched to at least eight deep in each of the last two playoff runs. Chad Ruhwedel is the only reserve option with much NHL experience at this point.

“When (Ruhwedel) has come into the lineup for us he has done a great job,” said Pens' blueliner Brian Dumoulin Thursday. “He's a guy that can play. He played a lot for us last year.”

Maybe another move for a defenseman — Ron Hainsey 2.0 if you will — is on the way to bolster the blue line even more. But if not, the Penguins' players seem confident.

“Anyone can step in the lineup and play a role,” said Jamie Oleksiak before the deal. “We've got so many defensemen that can put so much variety and give so many different things to the team.”

Furthermore, once the smoke cleared on the three-way component of the trade with Vegas, the Golden Knights ended up retaining 40 percent of Brassard's salary.

That favor is what ultimately cost Cole being bumped over the border — likely, temporarily — in exchange.

One thing to consider — despite what you or I may value in Cole, given the willingness with which Sullivan seemed to bench him, maybe Cole would've wound up a healthy scratch more often that not in favor of Hunwick anyway.

Ryan Reaves winding up in Vegas? Unfortunate. But he wouldn't have played much in the postseason. Hence, no big loss.

Eventually you'll hear or read people spouting off about disrupting chemistry like in 2013 after the trades to get Jarome Iginla, Brenden Morrow and Douglas Murray.

That's revisionist history. The Penguins won eight of 10 games to close out the season and won two playoff rounds before that ill-fated Eastern Conference sweep by Boston.

“Disrupted chemistry” was only part of a litany of problems in that series after a run of success following the trades.

Don't concern yourself with what the Penguins gave up. Don't concern yourself with who they could've gotten instead. Derick Brassard was Jim Rutherford's target for all the right reasons.

And GMJR got his man.

Again.

Eventually.

Tim Benz hosts the Steelers pregame show on WDVE and ESPN Pittsburgh. He is a regular host/contributor on KDKA-TV and 105.9 FM.

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