The shoe finally dropped. Derick Brassard and Riley Sheahan are on their way to the Florida Panthers in exchange for a large center the Pittsburgh Penguins have coveted for two years, Nick Bjugstad and Jared McCann.
The Penguins also sent a 2019 second-round pick and two fourth-rounder picks to Florida in the deal.
Bjugstad, 26, is signed through 2021 with an average annual cap hit of $4.1 million. McCann will be an RFA after next season. His cap hit is only $1.25 million. The deal is nearly a salary neutral, as Brassard’s cap hit is only $3 million (Vegas is paying an additional $2 million) and Sheahan’s cap hit is $2.1 million.
Both Brassard and Sheahan are set to be unrestricted free agents on July 1. Brassard was acquired from the Ottawa Senators at the 2018 NHL trade deadline. Actually, Brassard was acquired after the deadline as the NHL rejected the initial three-team deal between the Penguins, Ottawa and Vegas. The final deal included the Penguins sending Ryan Reaves to Vegas and Ian Cole, goalie prospect Filip Gustavsson and a first-round pick to Ottawa. Other picks and minor leaguers also changed hands.
This season, Bjugstad has 12 points (5g, 7a) in 32 games. The 6-foot-6, 218-pound center is able to play a low-game which the Penguins feel is their new identity. Bjugstad was the Florida first round pick (19th overall) in 2010.
Bjugstad, 26, has been playing right wing in Florida after the recent return of Vincent Trocheck.
McCann, 22, has been Florida’s fourth line center this season. He was a Vancouver first round pick in 2014 (24th overall). This season, McCann has 18 points (8g, 10a) in 46 games. The 6-foot-1, 198 pound forward has averaged over 14 minutes of ice time per game.
The Penguins also included Sheahan in the deal. Sheahan signed a one-year contract before the season. He had only nine points (7g, 2a) in 49 games.
Sources have long told Pittsburgh Hockey Now the Penguins coveted Bjugstad and have made repeated inquiries about his availability but Florida GM Dale Tallon maintained a high price. Sources told Pittsburgh Hockey Now that Bjugstad was on the Penguins short list to replace Nick Bonino as the Penguins third line center in the summer of 2017.
The Penguins got younger, larger, and added more offensive production to their lineup. Call this a big win for the Penguins, and perhaps Florida, too.
Perhaps Florida will make an effort to keep either Brassard or Sheahan, or perhaps they needed monetary relief to pursue free agents such as Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky this summer. Florida has been rumored to be interested in both.
Bjugstad will play well in the physical, Metro Division battles against Washington and Columbus. Very well.
For the Penguins, Sheahan had found a home as the fourth line left wing, but he was not irreplaceable. With McCann, the Penguins acquired a 22-year-old former first-round pick who is solid defensively and has playmaking skills. The book on McCann is that he is good away from the puck, which could play very well with the Penguins improvisation abilities.
Brassard just never fit. Ever. So, even though Brassard is a more talented center, Bjugstad is a better third line center and that should greatly help the Penguins. The interesting thing will be McCann and where he fits.
And Teddy Blueger fits into the puzzle somewhere, too. The Penguins traded a pair of players near 30-years-old and got younger.