Less could be more for Penguins at NHL trade deadline
At the NHL trade deadline, less is usually more.
In 2017, the Washington Capitals made a splashy move at the deadline, picking up Kevin Shattenkirk from the St. Louis Blues. In 2018, they added only depth defensemen Michal Kempny and Jakub Jerabek.
Which year did they win the Stanley Cup?
In 2016, the Pittsburgh Penguins took a chance on a reclamation project from Edmonton, Justin Schultz. In 2017, they beefed up the blue line with Ron Hainsey and Mark Streit. In 2018, they made the high-profile addition of center Derick Brassard.
Which of those moves worked out for the Penguins? Which years did they win the Cup?
Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford is aware of those facts, of course, yet he isn’t planning to spend all of Monday with his cell phone set to airplane mode. He’ll be taking calls and engaging in discussions aimed at making his team better.
Rutherford doesn’t think adding one more player before the 3 p.m. deadline could have any seismic, negative effects on his roster.
“If we were to add somebody else now, it’ll be OK for that player coming in because the other changes that we’ve made, they’ve been made early enough for the guys to adjust,” Rutherford said last week. “It’s not like we’re bringing five or six guys in at the deadline and we’ve only got 20 games left.
“We’ve got guys we brought in. They found a new home in Pittsburgh. They’ve adjusted to the organization, the players. To add one more guy at this point certainly makes it easier, the fact that we got these new guys here in earlier.”
Rutherford has been busy this season. He has already traded away five of the 18 skaters who dressed for the Penguins on opening night against the Washington Capitals.
Each move was a targeted transaction.
He sent Carl Hagelin to Los Angeles for Tanner Pearson in November to improve his team’s scoring depth and shake the staleness out of the roster.
He sent Daniel Sprong to Anaheim for Marcus Pettersson in December because Sprong didn’t fit in the team’s plans and it was time to move him along while he still had trade value.
He sent Jamie Oleksiak to Dallas in January because he had nine NHL-caliber defensemen on his roster, which was at least one too many.
Finally, he sent Derick Brassard and Riley Sheahan to Florida for Nick Bjugstad and Jared McCann in February to try to shore up his bottom-six center situation once and for all.
If he continues with that trend, the move or moves he makes Monday will have a specific goal in mind.
The Penguins could certainly use a boost for the final 20 games of the season. They’re tied for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Things aren’t looking rosy.
But giving up valuable assets to blindly grab for talent probably isn’t the most prudent course of action.
More likely, Rutherford will look to shore up his defensive depth after injuries have hit hard on the blue line. Perhaps he will look for a left wing who could fit on the second or third line. Maybe he stands pat and banks on the necessary improvements coming from within.
“Everyone’s trying to make their push and everyone’s trying to find those pieces and those guys and that little something extra that’s going to put them over the top,” winger Bryan Rust said. “I think whatever happens (before the deadline), it’s going to happen. I think the guys in this room, whether we add guys, subtract guys, it doesn’t matter what happens. We have really good leadership in here. We’ve got some really good guys. I think this group can do some good things.”
Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jonathan by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .