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Grading the Penguins’ Trades; Snap Analysis & Reaction



Pittsburgh Penguins trade analysis, Mikael Granlund

TAMPA, Fla. — The Pittsburgh Penguins finally got busy on the NHL trade market. They were one of two teams remaining not to make an in-season trade before GM Ron Hextall made a pair of deals Wednesday evening, but it’s hard, if not impossible, to say that the Penguins are better off.

Brock McGinn was sent to the WBS Penguins.

Teddy Bleuger was traded to the Vegas Golden Knights.

Combined with losing Kasperi Kapanen via a waiver claim by the St. Louis Blues last Saturday, the Penguins had $6.3 million to spend.

As Penguins fans began to envision difference-makers with hefty paychecks, and the money burned a hole in their wallets, Hextall went in a different direction.

And it is difficult, very difficult, to say the Penguins are better for it. Not today and not tomorrow.

Hextall went bargain-shopping and sent a second-round draft choice to Nashville for small, playmaking forward Mikael Granlund, who is 31 and signed for two more years with a $5 million AAV.

The Penguins got older and smaller, lost speed, and have only $1.1 million of salary cap space left.


The maligned Penguins’ bottom-six recently had shown signs of life, especially the fourth line with Blueger in the middle, Drew O’Connor, and Josh Archibald on the wings.

They pinned Nashville deep in its own zone and created sustained offensive pressure during the Penguins’ 3-1 victory Tuesday. They did the same to the Tampa Bay Lightning and played well against the St. Louis Blues, getting “fourth-line” goals in both last weekend.

The Penguins’ third line remained a crater, but few blamed Brock McGinn, even as consternation grew about his bottomless pit of a scoring drought that reached 26 games before he got an assist Tuesday.

Blueger and McGinn are out. Their speed, penalty-killing, and grit are removed. In fairness, the Penguins’ PK has fallen to the middle of the pack after reaching the top of the league in January. However, removing a pair of primary penalty-killers and replacing them with Mikael Granlund might cause coach Mike Sullivan and assistant coach Mike Vellucci a few cold sweats.

This season, Granlund has spent only 51 minutes on the Nashville PK. Throughout his career with Nashville and Minnesota, he has occasionally been a primary penalty-killer, but has also had his role reduced or eliminated.

Nor does the Penguins’ bottom-six look demonstrably better after Wednesday, which is a stunning feat because the Penguins’ third line was perhaps the worst in the NHL.

For advanced stat devotees, Granlund has been underwater on puck-possession in four of the last five seasons. He bubbles around 50% scoring chance rates, but is at 45% this season despite playing on Nashville’s top line as a left wing.

So, the net change to the Pittsburgh Penguins’ third line is adding Danton Heinen and Mikael Granlund.

Frying pan. Fire.

And to add insult to Penguins fans’ injury, the Penguins’ salary-cap structure will remain tight. Jeff Carter, who has struggled mightily, will remain through next season, and Granlund for two more years.

So, this will also be the Penguins’ third line for another season.

It will also negatively impact their ability to re-sign Jason Zucker. And Brian Dumoulin. And Tristan Jarry.

It’s hard to find more positives than negatives.

In fairness, Granlund is a playmaker. He can post big assist numbers and help linemates fill the net. He doesn’t score many goals. He had 11 last season and has just nine tallies and 36 points in 58 games in 2022-23.

The Penguins must hope that Granlund’s setup ability helps Carter fill the net once again. That’s the play.

It might work. It could work. But it’s not likely to work, and it’s like to have negative ramifications that extend well beyond chemistry on the third line.

It is hard to say the Penguins are better off.

Join the Penguins Live chat, held Wednesday night. It was lively: