The Pittsburgh Penguins slipped in just under the 3 p.m. NHL roster freeze. With the expansion draft looming and the Saturday at 5 p.m. deadline for submitting expansion draft protected lists, the Penguins trade recouped an asset for a player they feared losing.
While it is not yet official, multiple NHL rights holders have reported Penguins GM Ron Hextall traded Jared McCann to the Toronto Maple Leafs for former Penguins prospect Filip Hallander and a seventh-round pick.
“We are excited to add Filip back to the organization. He is a well-rounded player with good size who plays the game the right way,” said Hextall. “We are grateful to Jared for his contributions to the team and wish him the best.”
Hallander, 21, is signed through the 2022-23 season and his contract carries an average annual value of $764,167 at the NHL level.
PHN spoke with Hallander in the 2019 rookie camp. He was anxious to join the Penguins organization and come to North America but never got the invite. COVID kept most European prospects at home in 2020-21.
McCann, 25, will play for his fourth team. He was drafted in the first round by the Vancouver Canucks, then traded to the Florida Panthers in the Roberto Luongo deal. Florida traded him and Nick Bjugstad to the Penguins on Feb. 1, 2019, in the Derick Brassard trade.
McCann and Bjugstad famously received a police escort from the Pittsburgh airport to the arena and just made the opening faceoff.
Last season, McCann scored 32 points (14-18-32) in 43 games and became an exciting piece at the top of the Penguins’ power play in Evgeni Malkin’s absence. However, the Penguins were looking at losing a good player in the expansion draft.
So, just before the freeze, the Penguins recouped Hallander, a player they are familiar with as a Penguins second-round pick in 2018. Hallander had 24 points (13-11-24) in 51 games this season in the Swedish Elite League for Lulea HF.
The Penguins traded Hallander to Toronto last August as part of acquiring Kasperi Kapanen from Toronto. In part, this trade undoes some of that.
Hallander, 6-foot, 190 pounds, is a gritty forward who doesn’t mind a few net-front battles. His 13 goals against only 11 assists should tell you he is a finisher. His ceiling is a middle-six winger, though he can play center, as well.
McCann’s departure leaves a LW hole in the Penguins lineup but removes $2.9 million from the Penguins’ salary cap.
The expansions lists are due at 5 p.m. on Saturday, and there is an NHL roster freeze until 1 p.m. EST on Thursday.
Penguins Trade Analysis
The Penguins had a difficult choice ahead of the expansion draft list deadline. If they protected McCann, Teddy Bleuger was a possible unprotected asset. Blueger or Jeff Carter could still be unprotected, but the Penguins did recoup an asset for McCann.
The biggest knock on McCann was his playoff performances. He is goalless in 13 games, all with the Penguins and was scratched for one game in the 2020 Qualifying Round against Montreal.
It’s a tough deal for the Penguins. Hallander is highly unlikely to score 14 goals this coming season, certainly not the 19 McCann popped in 2018-19. In fact, Hallander is no sure thing to make an impact in the NHL. He’s 21-years-old and hasn’t yet skated in a professional North American game.
He’s a mid-level prospect at this point.
The Penguins lose a potential top-six LW with 20-goal potential and coming into his own. Toronto gains a replacement for Zach Hyman on the left side of Auston Matthews.
But the Penguins are much more likely to keep Blueger or Carter. It’s a loss but Hextall mitigated the pain. And, Hallander may become a grimy net-front battler the team needs in a year, or two.