For Penguins, trading Derek Grant opens door for many others
The Pittsburgh Penguins traded away a center early Thursday morning, but it wasn’t the center who has found himself at the center of trade rumors lately.
Derick Brassard continues to operate status quo in his third-line position. Rather, depth player Derek Grant was shipped to the Anaheim Ducks for Joseph Blandisi in a deal announced just after 1 a.m. Eastern time.
General manager Jim Rutherford said the move was designed to give his team flexibility at the bottom of the roster.
Grant, 28, left Anaheim to sign with the Penguins as a free agent in July but has found playing time scarce. He has two goals and five points in 25 games. When the team was fully healthy up front — Patric Hornqvist is out with a concussion and Zach Aston-Reese with a hand injury right now — Grant was the 13th forward.
Grant, though, has 177 NHL games and a 12-goal season with the Ducks on his resume. There’s a chance if the Penguins tried to run him through waivers again to send him to the AHL, he would be claimed and they’d lose a quality depth player for nothing.
The 24-year-old Blandisi doesn’t have to clear waivers at the moment, Rutherford said. That gives the Penguins more options to fill their final forward spot.
Blandisi, who can play center and left wing, is expected to make his Penguins debut Friday night in Arizona. He could keep the job.
He has spent most of this season with the AHL’s San Diego Gulls, recording eight goals and 23 points in 26 games, but the Penguins are intrigued by his upside.
He was a 52-goal scorer in juniors, so he has some offensive chops. In 74 career NHL games with Anaheim and the New Jersey Devils, the 6-foot, 191-pounder has posted eight goals and 26 points and played with a physical edge.
“We like the player,” Rutherford said. “We still think there’s more there from where he’s at in his career.”
More likely, the move will give winger Garrett Wilson a little stronger hold on an NHL job. The Penguins like Wilson’s physicality and intangibles. He has no goals and two assists in 17 games this season.
“This opens the door to have him with the Penguins more than we have in the first half,” Rutherford said.
The subtraction of Grant also removes a roadblock should the Penguins decide to fill their final forward spot with a prospect now playing in Wilkes-Barre.
“There’s no way to get them in here unless we get injuries, and then it depends on what role we’re looking for, what position,” Rutherford said. “Teddy Blueger jumps out the most. He’s worked his way. He’s ready to play in Pittsburgh, but he plays center and that opportunity has not opened up for him.”
As far as Brassard is concerned, media reports in the last few days have indicated the Penguins are shopping the 31-year-old in an effort to improve their third-line center position.
Brassard, who has eight goals and 14 points in 37 games this season, has been an awkward fit in the role since arriving from the Ottawa Senators in a trade last February.
Rutherford didn’t say Thursday that he’s not planning to move Brassard before the Feb. 25 trade deadline, but he didn’t sound like a general manager who already had a press release announcing a trade in his pocket, either.
“The Brassard talk doesn’t come from us. I think that’s the first way to start that,” Rutherford said. “We are assessing our team all the time. What we do now when we’re looking at our team, it’s not game by game here. It’s where this team is going to be to be able to compete in June. That’s what we look at on a regular basis. I don’t just want to pinpoint it down to one guy.”
Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jonathan at email@example.com or via Twitter @BombulieTrib.
Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jonathan by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter .