Pittsburgh Penguins NHL Trade Deadline Thoughts And Grades


Jim Rutherford and the Pittsburgh Penguins turned quite a few heads at this year’s trade deadline. Over the last few months Penguin fans and Pittsburgh media has been asking for change, and they surely got it. How do you feel about this Pittsburgh Penguins team heading down the stretch and into the post-season?

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While recent discussions are obviously about the trades involving Simon Despres and Robert Bortuzzo, we can’t forget about previous acquisitions by the Rutherford regime. Now that the trade deadline has come and gone, I can confidently say that the Pittsburgh Penguins were able to obtain the best forward that was dealt this season when they traded for David Perron. A change of scenery and obvious upgrade in line mates has done wonders for Perron. After yesterday’s deadline deals, the trade looks like an absolute steal, as the closest player talent-wise that was moved is Antone Vermette and he fetched a first-round pick plus prospect Klas Dahlback. Kudos to Rutherford for addressing a need earlier in the season and coming away with a bargain. I think it goes without saying that I grade the Perron trade an A+.

The most surprising move from Rutherford was trading 23-year old Simon Despres to the Anaheim Ducks to reacquire former Pittsburgh Penguin Defenseman Ben Lovejoy. A large complaint with this move is that Lovejoy is 31-years old and clearly has less upside than Despres. Also, Despres has carried himself very well and also boosted the play of Rob Scuderi, who had struggled last season in his return to Pittsburgh. When reviewing Despres’ WOWY (with or without you) metrics it’s very obvious that Scuderi’s numbers dipped tremendously without Despres on the ice.

On the other side, Lovejoy has exhibited far less than stellar possession numbers in Anaheim this season playing alongside Cam Fowler. However, looking back to last season, we now have two Administrations that have soured on Despres, so I believe there is more to this than performance or fit.

Yes, the Pittsburgh Penguins sacrificed some toughness with this move, but mostly in the area of edgy play and fighting, and fighting is very uncommon in the playoffs. Ben Lovejoy is fully capable of playing a physical role. He hits and plays well on the boards. I was shocked like the rest of the fan base at first, but the more I analyze this trade the more I come to terms with what happened. I don’t believe the Pittsburgh Penguins mortgaged the future considering the young, talented defenseman that they didn’t part ways with. I’ll give this move a B, mainly because of the age difference and the lack of at least a late-round pick packaged with Lovejoy.

The first trade that Rutherford completed on deadline day made a little more sense to most fans as the Pittsburgh Penguins acquired Ian Cole from the St. Louis Blues in exchange for Robert Bortuzzo. In what looks like an almost like-for-like swap, the truth is that Cole is also a much better fit for Mike Johnston’s system, similar to Lovejoy.

Bortuzzo never seemed to find his place with the new coaching staff, and was frequently a healthy scratch. Cole was in a similar situation in St. Louis as he found himself scratched frequently and not developing as they had hoped for an 18th overall pick. He has the talent and playing style to flourish with the Pittsburgh Penguins but only time will tell. I’ll give this deal an A, as it’s a hockey trade that made sense for both parties. 

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Rutherford completed one other deal prior to the deadline, which was the acquisition of Maxim Lapierre in exchange for Marcel Goc. This was also considered a hockey trade, as the Pittsburgh Penguins were trying to address the toughness on the fourth line and the Blues needed a slightly more talented Center to level out their fourth line with Colton Orr and Ryan Reaves.

This trade is tough to grade, as both players have been overwhelmingly invisible. Lapierre played a strong game against his old team when the Pittsburgh Penguins faced the Blues, but other than that game he hasn’t been noticeable on the ice.  He has a knack for performing well in the playoffs, so we’ll wait until then to see if this trade truly accomplished anything. In the meantime it seems to have created a possession black hole on the fourth line so I’ll grade it a D.

 I think it goes without saying that if you can turn an average D prospect like Philip Samuelsson and a first round pick into David Perron you’ve done a great job.

Of course, I didn’t include the trade for Rob Klinkhammer earlier in the season since he was shipped off quickly to Edmonton in the deal for David Perron. I think it goes without saying that if you can turn an average D prospect like Philip Samuelsson (traded to Arizona for Klinkhammer) and a first round pick into David Perron you’ve done a great job.

I’m relieved that the trade deadline has passed and excited to see where this Pittsburgh Penguins squad goes. The team in front of us is the team that we’ll go to war with, and I believe that the East is wide open. A few teams improved certain parts of their game yesterday that may put them over the top. For example, the New York Rangers. Only time will tell, but I believe we’re in for a very exciting stretch-run and post-season.