Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford is never one to sit on his hands. With the trade deadline just over three weeks away, the Penguins are already making additions to the roster. On Friday, Pittsburgh announced it had acquired forwards Nick Bjugstad and Jared McCann from the Florida Panthers in exchange for forwards Derick Brassard, Riley Sheahan, a 2019 second-round pick and two 2019 fourth-round picks.
Bjugstad, 26, is under contract through the 2020-21 season. He is a big body at 6'6" which the team needed after trading away defenseman Jamie Oleksiak. He also is a right-handed shot. Bjugstad has spent his entire career with the Panthers and his best year in 2017-18 with 49 points. His production is down quite a bit this season with just 12 points in 32 games so it seems the Penguins are trying to buy low and hope for a high return.
McCann, 22, is a young player with some upside and is having a better season than Bjugstad with 18 points in 46 games. He also comes with a low cap hit of just $1.25 million through the 2019-20 season.
In terms of pure talent, Pittsburgh is giving up the best player in this trade in Brassard. Brassard was acquired by the Penguins in 2018 to be their third line center, but he never seemed to fit in Pittsburgh. He did not provide the boost the team was hoping with only eight points in 14 games after the trade and four points in 12 playoff games. He has struggled again this season and it was becoming increasingly clear he was worth more to the Penguins as a trade chip rather than a player.
As good as he is, it's no surprise to see Pittsburgh ship him out.
But if the Penguins are losing the best player in this trade, did they actually get better? Considering Brassard's struggles, it could potentially work out that way.
Though it was an expensive move in terms of draft picks, it was a smart one for Pittsburgh given Brassard is five years older than Bjugstad, is not producing with only 15 points in 40 games and is on the last year of his contract. Rather than keep a player who does not fit and lose him for nothing after the season, the Penguins packaged him with Sheahan – another player on an expiring deal – and picked up two depth players with some upside.
Bjugstad and McCann may not be the biggest names on the trade market, but neither was Michal Kempny and that turned out to be a pretty darn good move for the Capitals.
This move was more about retooling for the Penguins than it was about reloading, but providing a spark to the team's forward depth could end up paying big dividends down the road.
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