On November 14, 2018, the struggling Pittsburgh Penguins, who had just dropped 7 straight games, swapped player for player with the last place Los Angeles Kings, sending two-time Stanley Cup Champion forward Carl Hagelin to LA for 2014 Cup winner and former first-round pick Tanner Pearson.
The Penguins were faltering at this point in the season, finding themselves outside of the playoff race, which was unusual for the Penguins given their quality star power. Obviously, the Penguins needed to shape things up to kick-start this team, and since then they have returned to form, so I have chosen to take a look back at the trade that marked a turning point in the Pens’ season.
It goes without saying that Tanner Pearson is not solely responsible for the resurgence of the Penguins, but since this trade the Penguins have found themselves atop the Metropolitan division with no signs of slowing down.
Before I get into some of the more advanced metrics I use for evaluating players, I feel it is first important to take a look at the standard stats, such as Goals, Assists, and Points for offense, as well as blocks and takeaways for defense.
So far it has been a tough season for both of these players, Hagelin only producing 5 points in 22 games and Pearson producing only 10 points in 41 games. Due to Hagelin’s injury that had kept him off the ice for more than a month, I chose to only evaluate the time each player has spent with the Penguins this season.
For Hagelin, he produced only 3 points in 16 games, with just the lone goal coming on October 16th against Vancouver. For Tanner Pearson, his season drastically changed with his move to the Penguins, producing 9 points including 5 goals in 26 games, miles above the one assist he produced with the Kings in 17 games.
Tanner has been a better scorer than Hagelin, out producing Hagelin in points ever since his 2016-17 season when he produced 44 points to Hagelin’s 22. Pearson has already blocked 18 shots with the Pens this season to Hagelin’s 4 (last year Hagelin blocked 36 shots), with the pair taking away 6 and 8 pucks respectively.
For a more in-depth analysis, I’ve chosen to use Point Shares to further evaluate the two Forwards. Point Share is a statistic that attempts to attribute team success to individual players. To read more about it you can visit Hockey-Reference.
In terms of point shares, Carl Hagelin produced 2.2 last season, attributing 1.7 to his defensive play and .6 to his offensive play. While the offensive point share was more or less average, his defensive play was the best out of the wingers on the 2017-18 Penguins team, and third out of all Pens forwards, behind Malkin and Crosby.
In comparison, Tanner Pearson produced 4 point shares with the Kings last season, including 2.1 on defense which would’ve bested the great Sidney Crosby if he were on the Penguins. In other words, Pearson essentially contributed 2 wins to the Kings while Hagelin contributed 1.1 wins to the Penguins last season. Since the trade, Pearson has already produced .7 point shares, which is a lot better than Hagelin who was at 0 due to his lackluster offense with the Penguins.
Although Hagelin has the advantage in +/-, being a +4 to Pearson’s -12, expected +/- paints a very different picture. So far, Tanner Pearson has a -1.1 E +/- and -3 overall, while Hagelin had a -1.5 E +/- with the Penguins, and -2 on the season.
It is reasonable to expect that Pearson will trend upwards on defense compared to Hagelin giving their recent history and the fact that Hagelin isn’t quite the same quick player he was in years past. It is also important to point out that Hagelin, 30, is on the final leg of his contract while Pearson, 26, is signed through the 2020-2021 season.
So far everything points to this being a big win for the Penguins, especially since Hagelin had been shelved for over a month. It’ll be interesting to see how Hagelin responds now that he is back in the lineup with the Kings.
Since the trade, the Penguins are 16-7-3 in 26 games with Tanner Pearson.