Being the General Manager of a National Hockey League team doesn’t just mean overseeing one team, believe it or not. Each affiliate of the Pittsburgh Penguins is it’s own team, with staff that officially run them, but they are in constant contact with the big club. The Pittsburgh Penguins directly feed out of the American Hockey League’s Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins feed out of the ECHL’s Wheeling Nailers. At any given time there are players on all three teams that are technically Penguins’ property. This is something a lot of franchises around the NHL take for granted or use sparingly. Not the Penguins. And certainly not at this year’s trade deadline.
While nothing could top the in-game swap of Rob Scuderi for Trevor Daley or the middle of the night heist that brought Carl Haeglin over for David Perron, the Penguins were active.
First, the Saturday before the trade deadline Rutherford swapped a third rounder in 2016 for Justin Schultz. The move ended up adding less than $2 million to the team’s cap hit when Edmonton retained half of the impending RFA’s contract. It also underlined his commitment to a speedy team with a mobile defense. Schultz is a work in progress, but is still young and should benefit from studying under Sergei Gonchar.
Then, on the day of the deadline, the Pens made the first trade of the day. They sent winger Sergei Plotnikov out west to Arizona in exchange for German prospect Matthias Plachta and a conditional 7th round pick in the 2017 entry draft. This was a swapping of players that just weren’t fitting in either team’s system.
There was just one more move up the team’s sleeve. This was a minor league move at 3 o’clock, the trade deadline, when they announced the team had reacquired Dustin Jeffery from the Arizona Coyotes along with two ECHL players for Matia Marcantuoni. Marcantuoni had been a pick out of the 2012 draft, but hasn’t developed like his draftmates Sundqvist, Pouliot or even project pick Anton Zlobin.
To most this was a quiet deadline day for the Penguins, but it sent a message to the W-B/S Pens and Wheeling Nailers, who have been hit hard with trickle down call-ups and losing roster players as the Pens suffer through injuries. That message is simple – everyone in the system matters.
They’re low risk moves with nothing serious to gain. But they bolster the cupboards so that even when the Penguins need most of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton top six there will be players to take those spots. They also set the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins up for a chance at the Calder Cup, even if they don’t get their big names (Pouliot, Sheary, Wilson, Murray) back.
Perhaps the best part is that the team didn’t throw more draft picks into rentals. All of the players acquired this year, starting with the Kessel trade, have some sort of lock on them whether it’s an extra year in term or restricted free agent negotiation rights. They only traded one pick outside of the conditional one they sent out for Kessel and it could theoretically be recouped if Schultz does not resign in Pittsburgh this summer. They’ll also get two trips to the front during the second round and perhaps one of those picks could be flipped for picks in the two later rounds they currently don’t have any in (third and seventh). Either way, they didn’t sell the future to get a rental this deadline and found a way to help every level of their organization — that’s what I like to call a win – win – win.