After a couple months of waiting, debating and wondering, Pittsburgh Penguins fans finally have their answer. The Penguins third line center for the historic run at a 3-Peat will be Riley Sheahan. The Penguins sent winger Scott Wilson and a third-round pick to the Detroit Red Wings for Sheahan and a fifth-round selection.
Sheahan, 25, struggled last season with the Red Wings. In 80 games, he scored just two goals. In fact, those goals came in the final game of the season, also the final game at the Joe Louis Arena. Sheahan went 79 games without a goal. Sheahan also wore a minus-29 rating.
This season, Sheahan is off to another rough start. He is pointless in eight games.
If the Penguins are able to resurrect Sheahan’s confidence, which is said to be waning, they will get a center who scored 36 points in 2014-15 and 25 points, who can kill penalties and reliably take face-offs.
Sheahan was a primary penalty killer in 2015-16 when he played over 164 minutes shorthanded. Last season, he was a secondary killer and played just over 68 minutes. Sheahan’s shorthanded faceoff percentage, over the past two years, has been 44.8 and 45.8 percent, respectively. His overall faceoff percentage is 48.7%.
Hey Mr. Wilson
The Penguins dealt Scott Wilson, who scored eight goals and 26 points in 78 games last season. Wilson was drafted 209th overall in 2011 (just 211 players were selected). After three years at UMass-Lowell, Wilson turned pro. Just a couple years ago, he was ahead of Conor Sheary and Bryan Rust on the Penguins prospect list.
However, Wilson, 25, hasn’t yet converted the offensive talent into a top-6 scoring role. But it wasn’t for lack of opportunity. Wilson began last season beside Evgeni Malkin but wasn’t able to stick.
Wilson has played just three games for the Penguins, this season. He’s been a healthy scratch in five others.
Sheahan will be a free agent after this season. His cap hit is $2.075 million, which means the Penguins will take on an additional $1.4 million of salary (Wilson makes $625,000). The Penguins are currently about $1.8 million under the Salary Cap.
It’s a slightly risky deal for the Penguins. Sheahan has not rebounded well from last season’s disaster. Head coach Mike Sullivan will have a resurrection job in front of him, however, it may well be worth it.
Greg McKegg won the third line center job in training camp and has been solid. However, his best wasn’t going to be good enough for a team chasing Lord Stanley’s chalice–at least as a third line center. McKegg may well prove to be a very good fourth line center and penalty killer.
After the move, Carter Rowney or Ryan Reaves will likely get a few plates of pressbox nachos. That could be an interesting situation to watch…
Also, another situation to watch–Russian winger Danis Zaripov. He has been waiting for the Penguins to solve the third line center situation and extend a formal offer.