In the end, the Pittsburgh Penguins did not get a high-profile top-six winger on trade deadline day. That move happed two weeks ago when the Penguins acquired Jason Zucker from the Minnesota Wild. Nor did the Pittsburgh Penguins GM Jim Rutherford add blueline reinforcements. They already have plenty, said Rutherford.
The 2020 NHL Trade Deadline has now come and gone. There are remnants of teams now picked clean, and rosters of contenders stocked for an all-out assault for the Stanley Cup.
There was no actual blockbuster deal that shook the hockey world. Instead, the first Pittsburgh Penguins trade snared a 40-year-old who wants one more shot at his first Stanley Cup.
“He brings leadership, but he’s still a good player. We’ve watched him a lot,” Rutherford said. “The advantage he got is kind of like Matt Cullen. He can still really skate, and as you get older, that’s important.”
Marleau has just 20 points (10g, 10a) in 58 games this season. He’s been a leader and franchise stalwart in San Jose. Toronto signed the forward three years ago to guide their young locker room. Marleau was bought out last summer in a salary cap sacrifice and resigned in San Jose this season.
Marleau will be one of the sentimental favorites in the playoffs. However, sentimentality doesn’t add lights on the scoreboard. The Penguins added Marleau for his ability to play center or wing. They’re currently short of each.
In addition to Marleau, the Penguins also reacquired winger Conor Sheary, whom Rutherford signed to a three-year deal, then traded in a salary-cap move one year later, and versatile forward Evan Rodrigues.
“If we had to go with a forward that could only play one position, we would’ve been okay with that. But certainly the guys we got can move around, they can move up and down the lineup and they can move to their opposite wing or the center,” Rutherford said. “So having that kind of flexibility for the coach makes it easier for him upfront.”
The Penguins have a fully stocked roster full of NHL players for the first time in months. As PHN reported, the Penguins wanted leadership. In the middle of the current three-game losing streak with spotty play, there is some concern in the organization.
“(Marleau) brings leadership but he’s still a good player,” Rutherford said. “We’ve watched him a lot. The advantage he’s got is kind of like Matt Cullen. He can still really skate. And as you get older, that’s important. And, you know, his desire to get that ultimate prize is going to be big for him as time’s running out. So he should be a good fit for us.”
Translated, Marleau is a locker room leader and a player who the Penguins can rally around. He’s fast and he the Penguins hope he’s got the fire for one more great run.
Sheary, 27, has spent two years in hockey purgatory known as Buffalo. The Buffalo Sabres have been a playoff contender on paper and lottery pick in real life. Coaches have changed, fans have complained, and ownership is reportedly frustrated.
After a breakout season in 2015-16 with 53 points in 61 games, Sheary horribly slumped in 2016-17 to just 30 points (18g, 12a). Sheary had lost his coveted spot in the Penguins top-six and kicked around the Penguins lineup. After 34 points (14g, 20a) last season, Sheary has further slumped this season to just 19 points (9g, 10a).
As on Monday, the Penguins trade gives him a second chance.
“He was pretty pumped when I talked to him. You know, I gather all my information from all the people in the hockey operations, coaching staff, hockey ops, and everything. And the coaches felt very strongly because they come up that, you know, it would be seamless for him coming back in here,” Rutherford said before reminding everyone that Sheary was traded for cap purposes, not performance issues.
“He was a good player for us in those two cup runs. And he’s still a capable guy.”
“So we feel good about our team. We have felt good about it all year. We feel better today, and we feel we have a stronger team.”