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Granlund Admits ‘It Didn’t Work’ with Penguins; Ice Time, Role Problems



Pittsburgh Penguins, Penguins trade, Mikael Granlund buyout

The Pittsburgh Penguins raced to complete the Erik Karlsson trade with the San Jose Sharks Sunday, just a couple of hours before a pending NHL and self-imposed deadline. The Penguins had to decide by Sunday afternoon if they were to make a trade or place Mikael Granlund on waivers for the purpose of a buyout.

Monday, Penguins president of hockey operations/GM Kyle Dubas said the deadline was motivation, in clear deference to the Penguins’ willingness to indeed buy out Granlund to clear necessary cap space.

The Penguins traded Granlund, Jan Rutta, and a first-round pick to San Jose for Karlsson (and a $1.5 million salary holdback). As part of the deal, the Penguins also sent Jeff Petry (with a 25% salary holdback), Casey DeSmith, Nathan Legare, and a second-round pick to the Montreal Canadiens.

Credit our colleagues at San Jose Hockey Now for the Sharks news and quotes in this story.

Instead of a buyout, Granund was part of the Penguins’ trade to San Jose, one of the reasons the deal seemed like a resounding victory for the Penguins.

Last season, former GM Ron Hextall acquired Granlund from the Nashville Predators for a second-round pick. Two seasons ago, Granlund had 64 points. Last season, Granlund posted 41 points in 79 games. However, the slower Granlund was not the fish that saved Pittsburgh but more of a fish out of water.

He had only five points in 21 games with the Penguins, inlcuding only one goal.

“It’s always a tough situation (to get traded at the deadline). It happened to me — my first trade from Minnesota to Nashville. It took me a little bit of time to get adjusted, and (Pittsburgh) was the same thing,” Granlund said Monday. “It’s the role thing; who you play with, the ice time you’re getting, and all that has a big factor in it.”

The Finnish forward was touted as able to play all three positions with past success beside winger Jason Zucker in Minnesota. However, the move was also panned by many as the Penguins received no salary holdback on Granlud’s $5 million AAV for two more seasons, and Granlund’s play seemed to be in decline.

Now, San Jose is on the hook for Granlund’s salary.

“At the same time, you’ve got to look yourself in the mirror, and I am confident I can do much more than I did in Pittsburgh. That’s why I’m really excited about this opportunity,” Granlund said. “I can really show people and myself; It didn’t work out for me or the team in Pittsburgh, (but) I’m confident things are gonna be a little bit different next season.”

Granlund primarily played with Jeff Carter. Originally Granlund was in the middle with Carter on the right wing, but coach Mike Sullivan quickly moved Carter moved back to center with Granlund on the right. Granlund played with center Ryan Poehling over the season’s final games.

None of it worked, and Granlund was hours from a buyout. Granlund also seemed to admit he didn’t earn Penguins coach Mike Sullivan’s trust, and it just went sideways from the beginning.

“At the same time, it’s still hockey. In the middle of the season, at least for me, it’s been a little bit tough to get adjusted and gain the confidence for even the coach to really trust you,” said Granlund. “At the same time, if you would just play super good, it would be different. But it’s never easy.”

Jan Rutta

Rutta also spoke to the San Jose media Monday. In a somewhat surprising twist, Sharks coach David Quinn may give Rutta, whose reputation is primarily as a stay-home defenseman, some power play time.

“I guess I’ll try to take a few clappers from the blue line and figure out if I still have it,” Rutta said with a laugh. “I came to the league from Europe as an offensive defenseman. I just developed the way that I saw a spot for me in the league.”

The now-former Penguins defenseman was surprised by the timing of the trade call. He admitted he thought the offseason trades were done but also understood the Penguins needed to move salary to facilitate the Karlsson trade.

Rutta’s $2.75 million salary and a pair of Stanley Cup rings with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2020 and 2021 made him one of the easier Penguins veterans to move.

He didn’t have a great season with the Penguins. Hampered by injuries, he had core muscle surgery following the season in April.

“The years prior, we played a lot of games in Tampa. It just took a toll on the body. Unfortunately, I was struggling last year with an injury,” Rutta said. “We didn’t make the playoffs, so I had a lot of time to get ready for the next year, and Pittsburgh decided it was a good opportunity to get the body fixed. I’ve been working according to the program. I feel good. I’ve been skating for a few weeks, and everything is good.”

Rutta, 33, played only 56 games last season.

Both Granlund and Rutta will be called upon for much greater roles with the rebuilding Sharks, which traded their best player for the pair of Penguins players, Mike Hoffman from the Montreal Canadiens and the Penguins’ 2024 first-round pick.

San Jose didn’t get immediately better Sunday but they did gain an important draft pick and some roster flexibility in the near future.

Perhaps their new players will rebound from subpar campaigns and injuries this coming season, and the talent gap in the trade won’t be as great as it appears.

“(The trade) was not a surprise. I knew that Pittsburgh really wanted to get Erik, so if you do the math, they didn’t have the cap to slot everybody on the team,” admitted Rutta. “I was one of the guys that was easier to move.”