Penguins add scoring depth by dealing for Maple Leafs' Winnik
WASHINGTON — Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford couldn't wait any longer.
Newly acquired forward Daniel Winnik waited longer than he probably would have liked.
Rutherford traded forward Zach Sill, a second-round draft pick in 2016 and a fourth-round pick in 2015 to the Toronto Maple Leafs for Winnik on Wednesday, news Winnik received while getting a haircut.
“Had to stop the haircut,” Winnik said. “It's good now. It was a long haircut, that's for sure.
Wait, so he didn't just say buzz it and get going?
“I've gone to her all year,” Winnik said. “She understood. She didn't have anyone after, so she was fine waiting.”
For Winnik, the move comes with an instant opportunity to compete for the Stanley Cup, something he did during previous NHL stops in Anaheim, San Jose, Colorado and even Phoenix. Toronto, not so much.
“I think this team is built for the playoffs,” Winnik said. “They have a lot of experience, guys who have won the Cup and have played on much bigger stages as well. I'm just looking forward to getting back in the playoffs.”
Rutherford, who said he began pursuing Winnik about a month ago — and nearly had him before trading for center Maxim Lapierre — is happy to have upgraded his team's scoring depth, something he said he was intent on doing.
Winnik will turn 30 on March 6. He has seven goals and 25 points in 58 games with the Maple Leafs this season. The 6-foot-2, 207-pounder also has 99 hits this season, which ranks fourth most among Penguins forwards.
Despite playing on a team with a minus-16 goal differential, Winnik was a team-best plus-15.
“I view Daniel more as a real two-way forward, probably a little more on the defensive side,” Rutherford said. “He's playing on a team where most of the players are a minus. He's a double-digit plus. He's had a really good year.”
Winnik's Primary Assists Per 60 (FirstA/60) mark of 1.18 led the Maple Leafs — this despite starting only 24.3 percent of his shifts in the offensive zone, according to stats.hockeyanalysis.com.
One of Winnik's biggest contributions to the Penguins could be his penalty killing. In Toronto, Winnik averaged a team-high 3:27 of short-handed ice time.
“That's kind of my speciality, to help teams that way,” Winnik said.
It's not known when Winnik will arrive in Pittsburgh. He is in Toronto sorting through work visa issues. When he does arrive, coach Mike Johnston will be able to experiment with different bottom-six combinations.
Winnik said he'd be OK with whatever transpires.
“Wherever they want me to play, I'll play,” Winnik said. “If they want me to play right wing, left wing or center, I can play all three positions. If they want me on the fourth line, I can play there. If they want me on the first line, I can play there. Hopefully bring some more scoring depth as well.”
Winnik, who has 56 goals in 548 career games, has a few Penguins connections. He played with backup goaltender Thomas Greiss in San Jose, forward Steve Downie in Colorado and was with assistant coach Rick Tocchet with the then-Phoenix Coyotes.
He said his favorite players growing up were Doug Gilmour, Wendel Clark and Eric Lindros and described his playing style as a hybrid of all three.
“Kind of a combination of all three of those guys,” Winnik said, “in the sense that I use my size as much as possible but try and use some skill when I have the chance as well.”
With regard to further deals, Rutherford said there's “nothing we're looking at right now, but I don't think we should close the door.” The NHL trade deadline is 3 p.m. Monday, and the Penguins have very little cap space to operate.
Landing an impactful, depth forward like Winnik, though, is something Rutherford has been looking to do, and some creative cap work — plus including Sill — helped push the trade through.
For good this time.
“This was an important one for us,” Rutherford said. “Glad to get it out of the way.”