Not every trade works. Not every player fits into the Pittsburgh Penguins scheme or culture. Through the years, there have been players who came to Pittsburgh with great promise or expectations, only to be humbled by the task.
Through the years, the Penguins acquired goal scorers who didn’t score goals, a prospect who cost them a shot at Steve Yzerman, and a big-name goalie who allowed nearly five goals per game. The Penguins list of bad acquisitions is packed with players better forgotten than dwelled upon.
Indeed, the Penguins acquired a few NHL players who posted big numbers in their careers but landed with a resounding thud in a Penguins sweater.
Top 5 Worst Pittsburgh Penguins Acquisitions
5. David Perron
First-year Pittsburgh Penguins GM Jim Rutherford took a big swing. On Jan. 2, 2015, Rutherford gave Edmonton a first-round pick for Perron who had 28 goals with Edmonton in 2013-14 and scored 20 goals in two of his previous three full NHL seasons (excluding the strike-shortened 2012-13 season, and 2010-11 in which he missed 72 games due to injury).
Perron was a sniper, and Rutherford tried to tackle an issue that nagged the Penguins for years. Rutherford attempted to find a winger for Sid.
Perron lasted only 86 games and scored just 16 goals with the Penguins. Rutherford dealt Perron to Anaheim in Feb. 2016 for Carl Hagelin.
4. Ron Meighan
In full disclosure, a long-time Pittsburgh Penguins employee tipped PHN to this acquisition when asked for input. This trade has deep ripples. In 1982, the Penguins dealt George Ferguson to Minnesota for Meighan and Anders Hakansson. Unless you were a devout pre-Mario Penguins fan, those names probably have zero recognition, because Meighan was a bust.
The worst part of the deal were the picks. The Penguins flipped first round picks with Minnesota. Whoops. The Penguins finished with the worst record in the NHL but had already ceded the choice which became the 1983 first overall pick. Among the top-five picks in that stacked draft were Pat LaFontaine, Steve Yzerman, and Sylvain Turgeon.
How might Penguins history have been different if they selected Yzerman first overall in 1983?
Meighan played 48 NHL games, including 41 with the Penguins. He scored three career goals. Ouch. By the way, the Penguins selected Bob Errey with the 15th overall pick.
3. Jocelyn Thibault
Just about everything went wrong for the 2005-06 Pittsburgh Penguins. After the NHL owners locked out the players for all of the 2004-05 season to institute a salary cap and revenue sharing, the Penguins thought they were on the other side of their struggles.
GM Craig Patrick hit the free-agent market like he was making up for lost time. In addition to several free agents, he acquired goalie Jocelyn Thibault for a fourth-round pick, then signed him to a multi-year deal. Patrick signed the 11-year-veteran, who played 60 or more games in five of the last six NHL seasons for Montreal and Chicago, to be the starting goalie until young Marc-Andre Fleury was ready.
After a few years of darkness and lingering bankruptcy fights, the Penguins thought they turned the corner. Fans and the organization ran towards the light. Mario Lemieux was finishing his career on a line with Sidney Crosby. Mark Recchi was back to finish his career, and former 50-goal scorer John Leclair was part of the veteran crew, too.
Thibault wasn’t healthy, and the Penguins floundered. They were awful. Thibault played only 16 games. His stats were worse. Thibault posted a 1-9-3 record with a horrific 4.47 GAA and .876 save percentage.
Lemieux retired at midseason with a heart issue. A couple of veterans weren’t so kind to the rookie Sidney Crosby, and with a lack of goaltending, the Penguins season spiraled even further out of control. The team finished with the worst record in the NHL, 22-46-14.
Thibault played only 22 games for the Penguins the following season with a 7-8-2 record, and a mediocre .909 save percentage. The goalie played 12 more games for Buffalo before winding his career.
And following the 2005-06 season, Patrick was relieved of his GM duties after nearly 17 years on the job.
2. Ziggy Palffy
Another one of the 2005-06 flops, one of the great goal-scorers in the NHL should have been a perfect fit with the Penguins. Palffy torched the clutch-and-grab NHL with 308 goals in the previous 10 seasons from 1994-2004. For those who don’t remember, he was a legit goal-scorer of the highest order.
Palffy was 33-at the time and should have been a premier goal scorer for a few more years. However, after coasting through 42 games with 11 goals, Palffy left the Penguins at midseason. Rumors abounded that Palffy was injured. Patrick told reporters Palffy retired due to lingering shoulder issues. He officially retired in 2006, but played five more seasons in Slovakia, including 52 goals in 53 games during the 2008-09 season.
Imagine the Pittsburgh Penguins acquiring Phil Kessel, only to have the player float through 42 games then bolt for home. Palffy’s performance was kind of like that. It was perfectly fitting for the disaster which was the 2005-06 season.
1. Derick Brassard
In 2017-18, the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins looked like an exhausted team. Head coach Mike Sullivan later said his team fell into “a lot of rationalizations.” The Penguins needed a boost if they were to complete a three-peat.
After trying several centers in the Penguins third-line center role, including Greg McKegg and Riley Sheahan, Penguins GM Jim Rutherford made the biggest splash before the NHL trade deadline. In a deal so complicated that it had to be redone and still confused the league office, Rutherford acquired Ottawa Senators center, Derick Brassard.
It was a boulder-sized splash on the trade market, and the Penguins again had the best team, on paper, in the NHL. However, with Brassard, the Penguins went from sputtering back-to-back champs to…sputtering ex-champs with an unhappy third center.
Brassard never accepted or thrived in his third-line center role. In 2018, the Penguins didn’t escape Round Two as they were bounced by their arch-rival Washington Capitals in six games. Brassard’s station or outlook didn’t improve the following season, and Rutherford admitted defeat when he shipped Brassard and Sheahan (and draft picks) to Florida for Jared McCann and Nick Bjugstad.
Overall, Brassard scored just 23 points (12g, 11a) in 53 games for the Penguins.
The Brassard acquisition raised hopes to the peak of expectation the Penguins could again win the Stanley Cup. Those hopes crashed so hard they left a crater. The Penguins haven’t won a playoff game since 2018, either.
Jarome Iginla: Iginla’s less than stellar Penguins run at the end of 2012-13 was perhaps more the fault of coach Dan Bylsma for switching a future Hall of Fame RW to the left side.
Ryan Reaves: The pounding forward was obtained from St. Louis at the 2017 NHL Draft to provide some cover for the Penguins forwards who were pummeled in the 2017 season and playoffs. However, Reaves got more pine time than ice time. He wasn’t expected to be more than fourth liner, so his “disappointment” factor is minimized.
Glen Murray: In his career, Murray had eight 20-goal seasons. He had two 30 goal seasons and one 40 goal campaign. However, they all occurred after the Penguins traded him away because he was ineffective. The Penguins acquired him for Kevin Stevens and Shawn McEachern in 1995, but he popped just 11 goals in 1996-97 on the very talented Penguins team and was shipped to LA for Eddie Olzcyk at the trade deadline.
UPDATE: An astute reader sent this. So, perhaps the 1982 trade with Minnesota for Meighan bore fruit, eventually: The Penguins acquired Kevin Stevens for Hakansson.