Mistakes & Injury Drive Penguins Trade Deadline Needs | Pittsburgh Hockey Now
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Mistakes & Injury Drive Penguins Trade Deadline Needs



Pittsburgh Penguins General Manager Jim Rutherford and the Penguins find themselves in a hole of their own digging as Penguins trade rumors again heat up.

If Pittsburgh Hockey Now has criticized Pittsburgh Penguins General Manager Jim Rutherford, it does not immediately come to mind. His moves have primarily hit the mark for the past three years. However, when things go sideways, such things often happen in a hurry. We may be to that point, and Rutherford has only two weeks remaining to “redd up’ his room.

Misfires are complicating the Penguins trade deadline outlook and the injury to defenseman Olli Maatta does not help. The scuttle is the Pittsburgh Penguins are looking for a left winger. And because of Maatta’s injury, perhaps they have added a defenseman to the shopping list.

Rutherford traded a potentially potent left winger–Derrick Brassard–to get a third line center which they currently may or may not have with Nick Bjugstad or Jared McCann. It would appear thrusting McCann into the role is currently a reach, though in fairness may not be such in the future.

And it appears head coach Mike Sullivan’s preference is to skate Bjugstad on the right wing, which leaves open the third line center role, too.

In addition to dealing Brassard, Rutherford also traded LW Carl Hagelin for Tanner Pearson, who has increasingly played in the shadows over the past six weeks. Since Pearson scored two goals on Jan. 11, he has just one goal and one assist in 11 games. Worse, he’s been a non-factor on the ice.

Bryan Rust has mostly been called to duty on the top line right wing, which leaves Dominik Simon and Pearson as the other potential top-six LWs.

Yeah. It’s easy to understand a fan’s frustration and the left wing situation cannot make the Penguins comfortable either. Simon is a perfect fit for the Penguins with his bargain bin contract, speed and playmaking skills. He is a great utility player but to rely on him for offense as a top-six regular is to overextend his abilities.

Monday night, Phil Kessel made an ultra-rare appearance on the left side in Mike Sullivan’s effort to patchwork his lineup.

RedBeard's Pittsburgh

It seems the harder Jim Rutherford works this season, the further the Penguins get from being settled. It’s fair to say the Penguins are missing the rug which ties this room together.

Such a player to pull it together doesn’t need to be a splashy get or expensive acquisition. Bill Guerin drove the Penguins to the 2009 Stanley Cup for far less than Marian Hossa cost in 2008. In 2016, the Penguins acquired Carl Hagelin for sputtering winger David Perron and depth defenseman Adam Clendening.

Winnipeg had far more success renting Paul Statsny for a much lower cost than the Penguins had in landing the big fish, Brassard.

The Brassard fiasco wasn’t Rutherford’s fault. Few could have predicted it would go so wrong. And Sullivan’s usage failed to salvage the project which could have yet yielded a valuable commodity albeit in a different position. Acquiring Pearson and losing the speedy Hagelin who excels in the second half only deepened the Penguins hole.

So, instead of simply being able to spend a second round pick for a physical third line center like Brian Boyle as Nashville just did, the Penguins must be on the lookout for a top-six capable left wing, a third line center and maybe a defenseman.

Shopping for a defenseman digs the hole deeper as the Penguins also dealt defenseman Jamie Oleksiak to Dallas for only a fourth-round pick.

That’s a lot of holes to fill after already trying to fill them. Sometimes work begets more work but to his credit, Rutherford is not the stubborn type. Nor is he a conservative, “hope as a strategy” GM type.

It certainly will be interesting to watch him work.




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  1. Dean

    February 13, 2019 at 9:26 am


    Here are some trade targets that may work for the pens. Maybe we don’t really need another top 4, but some more experience on the blue line with skills that match the way the pens and the NHL now play.

    We now have 1 top-4 LD and 2 top-4 RD. We also have 2 rising stars in Pettersson and Riikolia, but both are lacking experience. We have a capable number 8 in Rudwedel. Johnson is a disaster and should be sent to the AHL to clear cap space. He has cost the pens at least 10 points this year. The difference between first and just hanging on.

    The pens should keep the ultimate goals in mind. Young, fast, good skaters, and good puck moving on D. They would need at least 160 NHL games (2 years) in experience by playoffs.

    What would it take to get Mike Reiley from Montreal for LD? Maatta? Pearson? Simon? Bellerive? 2019 ¾ conditional pick from Buffalo?

    The other trade I would love to see would be with the Oilers. Pens should target Puljujai and Matt Benning (RD).

    Dumoulin Letang
    Reiley Schultz
    Pettersson Benning
    Riikola Ruhwedel


    • Dan Kingerski

      February 13, 2019 at 9:32 am

      Lot to unpack. That Johnson has cost them 5 games is listening to the internet a bit too much. Benning has had a recent run of good play before his injury but if you think Pens fans love to hate Johnson, Benning would be a whipping boy of even greater proportion because he had hard hands and a tendency to leak big scoring chances.
      Also, Bellerive has fallen this season, for obvious reasons, but he’s not a top prospect right now.

  2. Skippy

    February 13, 2019 at 10:22 am

    Dan, you’re being too generous. Rutherford dug this hole, he needs to own it.

  3. Ricardo58

    February 13, 2019 at 10:23 am

    The Pens assets to acquire other teams assets are nil except for the 1st round pick. As suggested, the Pens 1st for Kapanen would be ideal, but I doubt it would occur.

    How often does it occur throughout the NHL to have the salary of 72 on the 4th line? I know 72 has been in a funk along with his recent head injuries. Just curious.

    From my viewpoint, this season for the Pens has been based more on hope as a strategy more than anything else. The Pens have a lot of holes on their team usually not associated with a SC contender. As a lifelong fan, I can’t be surprised if they come up short of the playoffs or an early exit from same. I think lightning will have to be caught in a bottle to make it to the cup finals.

  4. Zane Gearhart

    February 13, 2019 at 11:43 am

    Unfortunately a few bad and one very unlucky trade has finally caught up with us. While trying to strengthen our team it seems we have weakened it at the positions we wanted to strengthen.. unfortunately after multiple attempts we lost a ton of our buying capital and hurt the following
    3rd line center
    Left wing (2nd or 3rd line)
    Middle pair D

    3rd line center: still hasnt been filled after 2 years of trying. I wonder if hindsight has them regretting not signing bonino at 4.1, the same cap hit Bjustad is at (who happens to be yet another RW) McCann has potential to be a good 3c, but that might be after our window is up. Or why didnt we try a blueger or trade for a McCann type only using brass, Oleksiak, picks to help strengthen D or LW, not bringing in more RWs..

    Left wing: if we weren’t worried about a scoring 3C then why didnt we keep hags, move him to 3LW then put brass at 2LW next to geno. Then use a 1st or 2nd to get a true 3rd line center. I’d much rather have that LW then Simon and “nowhere to be found” pearson.

    Middle pair or RIght side D: trading Oleksiak for a 4th, basically he was traded with Brass and Sheahan to bring in McCann and Bjustad. Talk about an overpayment. While Oleksiak isnt worlds better or worse than Johnson or Maatta, he did have a smaller cap hit and maatta could’ve brought back a better return. Then Signing Johnson for 5 years stating we brought him in to be a pick moving Defenseman.. (hes the worst puck mover on the blueline).

    You cant complain about a GM who helped us win back to back cups but man his signings and trades over the past 2 years have been questionable if not bad. It seems were always trying to bring in players and put them at off positions since we keep bringing in right wingers and left side defensemen. Unfortunately now we have quite a few forwards who add against the cap and aren’t helping much, and very little trading capital left to fill too many weaknesses

  5. Zane Gearhart

    February 13, 2019 at 11:48 am

    That doesn’t even bring up the whole Hornqvist situation. Since we didnt get a 3rd line center to play with kessel, we have kessel with geno. Then they’re playing Bjustdad ahead of HQ, effectively putting him as a 4th liner..

  6. James Biller

    February 13, 2019 at 11:59 am

    I disagree with alot of people but here is my take. Penguins do NOT need a new defensemen. Here is why. Only reason penguins got rid of Olekiak- can’t spell names- is because with all healthy defense they would of had 9 healthy. Matta is not the problem, the forward do not support there defense in the D zone. There is alot of 2 vs. 3 which is not going to work out most times. The offense cheats up ice leaving our D looking like garage, to the naked eye. Our offense in the D zone needs fixed. Look at the tape people! I don’t know how you can miss that. Also another thing I see is in the defensive zone the winger on the non puck side comes down and leaves the WHOLE other side/ center of the ice open. You can not do that. Teams are going to know to pass the puck to opposite side of ice without even looking knowing that everyone is on one side of the ice. That can’t happen!

    • James Biller

      February 13, 2019 at 12:02 pm

      Spelling is horrible but I’m pissed. Sorry in advance

  7. Eric

    February 13, 2019 at 2:54 pm

    3rd line center: still hasnt been filled after 2 years of trying. I wonder if hindsight has them regretting not signing bonino at 4.1, the same cap hit Bjustad is at (who happens to be yet another RW)

    If you watched other teams other than the Pens you would know Bjugstad is a Center who Fla. tried him at RW on their big line last season with Barkov & Dadanov &they clicked, this season not so much

    • Zane Gearhart

      February 13, 2019 at 3:13 pm

      He was a center, who switched to right wing since he was better there. Hence why the penguins keep playing him at right wing, only at center when geno is out. Either way not the best 3rd line center. Again would you rather have him or bonino at 3rd line center. Bjustad played 2nd line wing for Florida this year and has less than half the points of bonino, who is a center and can play d zone faceoffs, Bjustad not so much

      • Eric

        February 13, 2019 at 4:02 pm

        WRONG!!!! he was switched to wing last season when the Panthers were sucking ass ! he wasa put on RW with as I said Barkov & Dadanov. & The Preds went out & traded for Kyle Turris to be their 2 line C because Bonino was sucking at it like he did most of his time here except for the HBK line. Bonino Blows !

  8. Eric

    February 13, 2019 at 2:55 pm

    there are 2 chances of trading for Kapanen, Slim & None & Slim left town

  9. BIG B

    February 13, 2019 at 3:27 pm

    Jim Rutherford has done an almost perfect job.The Gm can”t be responsible for the fact Sullivan refused to use Reaves last year and his mind bogggling use of Brassard this season.Rutherford gave the coach all the tools to be in 1st place and he has bungled the job.
    The gm is not to blame for the roller coaster job the goalie has done the past two years nor is he to blame for Phil Kessel tanking the season by sulking this year, nor is he to blame for the lackluster play of Gino and he certainly is not to blame for the powerplay giving away 10 or more game with shorties, that is all on Gino and the PHILLBILLY pushing the puck back for the other team to intercept.

    Gino and Phil are almost exclusively to blame for every overtime loss the team has given up.

    This team should be far superior to the Islanders who lost some of their best players yet they are in first place because of structure and goaltending.Our coach has refused to use the tools the GM has given him and he has refused to punish the culprits who are killing the team.The coach refuses to use his better players and insanely keeps playing too many out of position.Case number one is his use of Teddy B and his deployment of Horny on the 4tth line when it should be Crosby Jake and Horny on the first line.

    if anybody want s to doubt Gino and Phil just look at the plus minus. How can Sid be plus 18 with tougher competition and lesser line mates? Yet Gino and Phil are minus 17 and minus 14 and please don’t give plus minus is not important because the last time i checked you win games by scoring more goals than your opponent.

    So to close GM Jim Has done a great yet the coach Gino and Phil combined with Mr Glass in the net have not.

    PS-A noble sprit EMBIGGENS the smallest man.And never forget when it comes to the Pens laughter is the best medicine unless you want to win then GOAL FRIGGIN TENDING is the best medicine.

  10. Dean

    February 13, 2019 at 4:02 pm

    5 games are on the low end for the games lost by Johnson. The panther game is the most recent one. Johnson was out of position leaving his man wide open on the PP goal. Johnson 1 Pittsburgh 0. That game in 10 minutes of even-strength. 8 shot-attempts for 22 against, 2 scoring chances for 15 against.

    These are consistent numbers for Johnson.

    He’s posted a 43.50 corsi percentage and has been on the ice for 43 five-on-five goals against, both of which is worst amongst Penguins defenseman and near the bottom of the league.

    Just moving those numbers to close to 50/50 would make a dramatic difference.

    Don’t understand anyone in Pittsburgh defending Johnson’s play, Sullivan for playing him, or the awful deal made by Rutherford.

    Enough is enough. Send him to the AHL. No one else in his or her right mind will take him.

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  12. Frank

    February 14, 2019 at 9:59 pm

    Short of “you never know” . . . I can’t see GMJR making a deal that really matters by the deadline. I am thinking he dances with who he has and if it implodes by missing the playoffs or getting booted early then he has carte Blanche to go nuts with moves in the summer. Blockbuster deals are rare and short of 3 or 4 teams the rest of the league stands a punchers chance of making the playoffs. They are not about to give up talent for a bag of beads and Dom Simon. That is not a mix that creates a chance to make impactful deals. I know the window is closing fast for this team but if he keeps moving draft picks and is simultaneously burdened with worn down “30 somethings” it is going to be very ugly. The best option is to run with this group and see what happens. There is no Cup for them out there regardless . . . but maybe a round or two of wins sets him up to make moves that create a new generation of winning at the draft meetings after the playoffs.

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