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Final Analysis: Penguins Easily Won Sprong-Pettersson Trade



The saltiness in Daniel Sprong’s words was abundantly clear when the Anaheim Ducks visited Pittsburgh not long after the Dec. 8 trade in which the Pittsburgh Penguins dealt their fading prospect to Anaheim in exchange for depth defenseman Marcus Pettersson. Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan left Sprong to languish on the Penguins fourth line or in their press box, which were hardly the places the player believed he deserved to be stashed.

In his return with Anaheim, Sprong talked about his legs getting stiff on the bench because he sat for such long periods and about not getting enough ice time to atone for mistakes in Pittsburgh. (Watch the full December video here)

New Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Marcus Pettersson didn’t have that problem. Not from the first moment and not in the end.

It was the perfect trade. Anaheim had a glut of defensemen and a decimated forwards crew. The Penguins were a mess on all fronts but especially their blue line without Justin Schultz.

Pettersson was the tonic which first stabilized the Penguins defense. For nearly three months, he played to the left side of Jack Johnson, who was still confined to the right side but Johnson’s play was markedly better beside the steady, puck-moving Pettersson.

Johnson was worlds better with Pettersson, whose pillowy-soft passes also alleviated the intense forecheck pressure Johnson had been under with other defensive partners Olli Maatta and Jamie Oleksiak. The link above is for the full video review of Pettersson.

Pettersson paid immediate dividends as we noted in late December.

Sprong scored a goal during his first game with Anaheim and scored a pair of goals four games later for three goals in his first five games.

However, Sprong cooled and predictably struggled with defensive assignments while Pettersson became a staple of the Penguins blue line. By mid-February, Sprong’s ice time fluctuated as Pettersson began adding points, too.

Overall, Sprong finished with 23 points including 14 goals. With the Ducks, Sprong potted 19 points (14g, 5a). Pettersson, who wasn’t thought to possess much offense, finished with 25 points including 19 points (2g, 17a) as a Penguin.

Interim Anaheim head coach Bob Murray, who is also the GM, limited Sprong to 47 games because of four healthy scratches. So, by the end of the season, Murray had also banished Sprong to the team’s fourth line and press box, too.

Not exactly a ringing endorsement. Sprong’s development still has a long way to go.

The offensive point totals are striking. Pettersson, a defensive defenseman outscored the offensive forward Sprong this season. That doesn’t just speak volumes, it closes the book. Daniel Sprong may grow into a top line sniper, just as Marcus Pettersson may grow into a top-four defender with puck-moving ability and shutdown senses.

Based on the results of each player’s first exposure to a prominent role, Pettersson is far more likely to reach that ceiling than Sprong. Anaheim was not an analytics powerhouse either, so to cite those wouldn’t be fair to Sprong as the team was generally negative, too. Sprong was almost perfectly aligned with his team’s puck possession numbers at 47%, though his scoring chance rate was lower at 42%.

Yes, Penguins GM Jim Rutherford won this trade going away. Pettersson may not grow into a top-four defenseman but his work with both Jack Johnson and Erik Gudbranson elevated everyone’s game and buoyed the Penguins defensive corps as Sprong slipped into a press box or fourth line role.

Sprong ended where he began and Pettersson ended in a much better spot.

While there may have been some disagreement between Rutherford and head coach Mike Sullivan about Sprong’s place with the Penguins or in the NHL, the end result was unmistakable.

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Pittsburgh Hockey Now Editor-in-Chief, formerly 93.7 The Fan, Sportsnet Hockey Tonight, NHL Home Ice. Catch Dan tweeting @theDanKingerski and the official @pghhockeynow account.

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3 years ago

Total hatchet job. Very subjective and picking spots on who “won” the trade as well as the not very subtle hint that The Ducks are done with Sprong. From the moment he arrived, the majority of the Pittsburgh media put MP on a pedestal and it continued for the most part throughout the season as the always looked at him through only what he did well (which I will argue that he actually does above average) and rarely gave the same weight to the things he doesn’t do well…and never improved upon. Sure Sprong may never stick in the league.… Read more »

3 years ago
Reply to  Dan Kingerski

Did you watch the Duck’s games? Sprong did not play on the 4th line. He was on the Getzlaf line or with Henrique. Disappointed in this article. Rust, MCann, Hornquist, and Bjugstad all had a couple of more goals than Sprong. Pettersson was awful against the NYI and cost the Penguins two games.

3 years ago
Reply to  Witch

Dan nailed it. To hold on to the notion that Sprong failed in Pittsburgh because he wasn’t given a chance is insane at this point, given that he had all the opportunity in the world in Anaheim and failed to stick there as well. The Pens clearly won the trade to this point. The issues with Sprong were his entitled attitude and one-trick pony skill set. Those issues sunk him in Anaheim too. “Fans” need to stop blaming the coach and GM for the things the players do or don’t do. It’s embarrassing for the team, the players, the fans,… Read more »

Richard O'Toole
Richard O'Toole
3 years ago
Reply to  RobertU

RobertU how did DS fail to stick in Anaheim? Last I checked he is still on their roster. CLUELESS! Here’s a hint, go to, click on the Anaheim Ducks, and plain as day there is the name Sprong, Daniel.

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