CRANBERRY TOWNSHIP, Pa — Just minutes before the NHL trade deadline, the Penguins traded struggling winger Tanner Pearson for large defenseman Erik Gudbranson.
The Pittsburgh Penguins scheduled a trade deadline day news conference for 2:45 p.m., 15 full minutes before the NHL trade deadline at which Penguins GM Jim Rutherford was expected to announce the Penguins didn’t like the prices on defensemen and the Penguins passed on the deadline.
2:45 p.m. came and went.
Finally, at 3:30 p.m. word leaked the Pittsburgh Penguins acquired large defenseman with low point totals and worse Corsi. Steel yourselves Corsi lovers, Gudbranson has not been on the ice for more than 50 percent of shot attempts since 2013-14. The advanced stats get worse from there. This season, Gudbrandon has been on the ice for only 34 percent of goals-for and 38 percent of scoring chances.
“Obviously, we have issues on defense with injuries,” said Jim Rutherford. “I don’t really know what the status is on some of these guys.”
Rutherford later clarified that didn’t mean to imply he was out of the loop, only that the injuries to Kris Letang, Brian Dumoulin and Olli Maatta do not have specific or firm timelines.
This summer, Gudbranson signed a three-year, $12 million contract.
Gudbranson, 27, has been playing nearly 18 minutes per game as solid third pairing minutes. He is a minus-27 this season with eight points (2g, 6a) in 62 games. Gudbranson also has 83 penalty minutes including three fights, this season.
“Getting the type of player that Gudbranson is, is something we’ve talked about for a while. He wasn’t available, to my knowledge, until today,” Rutherford said. “In Erik’s case, he’s a real heart and soul guy, a good dressing room guy. He’s got good character. And he can protect our players.”
Gudbranson is 6-foot-5, 217 pounds fought Mike Haley on Jan. 13. Haley was part of the line brawl between the San Jose Sharks and Penguins last week. Gudbranson also fought Travis Hamonic in October and Ryan Getzlaf on Feb. 13.
Gudbranson’s career-high point total was 13 points (4g, 9a) in 2014-15 with Florida.
“He puts us in a position to push back when we get into more physical games,” Rutherford said. “Somes teams play a skating, skill game and some teams play a more physical game. He’s going to bring that element to our team.”
A source told Pittsburgh Hockey Now the Penguins believe Gudbranson may have untapped talent and could alter his game in an uptempo puck moving environment, but the Penguins wanted someone to provide some physical cover for their star players who have recently been under attack. Gudbranson is also a stay-at-home, shot blocker.
Pearson. 27, has recently been a healthy scratch and struggled to find his place in the Penguins lineup after being acquired for Carl Hagelin in November. Pearson has just one point (1g, 0) in the last 13 games. His salary cap hit was $3.75 million and like Gudbranson is signed for two more years.
The Penguins also dealt JS Dea for Chris Wideman. More details coming.
The Penguins will call up Zach Trotman for tomorrow’s game in Columbus. Rutherford said Trotman will play but it’s unclear if Rutherford meant Trotman could play or if Gudbranson will not arrive in time.