After the Toronto Maple Leafs pulled the trigger acquiring Jake Muzzin from the Los Angeles Kings, other teams were sure to rush the market for eligible trade candidates. The Pittsburgh Penguins were the first team to flinch when they acquired Nick Bjugstad and Jared McCann for Derick Brassard, Riley Sheahan, and three draft picks in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft.
What the Penguins got.
Nick Bjugstad, C/ RW
Bjugstad is a 26 year old forward that offers plenty of versatility to the Pens forward group. Though he is a natural center iceman, he has spent much of this season playing right wing on a line with Vincent Trochek and Jonathan Huberdeau. He has 5 goals and 12 points in 32 games for the Panthers this season. Those numbers are mildly disappointing, considering he had a career best 49 points in 82 games last season. With the right combination of linemates, those numbers are certainly attainable.
Bjugstad has two and half years remaining on his current deal, which carries an annual cap hit of $4.1M. He would be a UFA at the end of the 2020-21 season. Due to the trade, the Pittsburgh Penguins have the option to void his modified no trade clause. This could allow the team to expose him in the expansion draft.
Nick Bjugstad was originally drafted by the Florida Panthers in the 2010 draft with the 19th overall pick. He made his NHL debut in the 2012-13 season. Bjugstad’s uncle Scott also suited up 24 games for the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 1988-89 season. He had 3 goals in 24 games. Nick Bjugstad chose to wear number 27 in honor of his uncle.
Jared McCann, C
Jared McCann had a career year in 2017-18. He set personal bests with 9 goals, 19 assists, and 28 points. He has primarily played as 3rd line center for Florida this season, and has 8 goals and 18 points. McCann has shown the ability to flex to the wing in the right circumstances. When Evgeni Malkin returns from injury, it is likely McCann will be moved to the wing.
McCann was drafted by the Vancouver Canucks in 2014 with the 24th selection. He has 1.5 years remaining before becoming a restricted free agent.
What the Pens Lost.
Derick Brassard, C
Brassard was the trophy fish at the trade deadline last year. Acquired in a three team trade that saw the Penguins send Ryan Reaves and a 4th round draft pick to the Vegas Golden Knights, and Ian Cole, Filip Gustavsson, and picks to the Ottawa Senators, Brassard never really panned out in the role that he was asked to fill. He had health issues and revolving doors on his wings, which led to decreased production and ice time. If he is able to show some signs of life in the next few weeks, Florida could get a great return in a subsequent trade for the 31 year old center iceman.
Derick Brassard will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. He was originally drafted by the Columbus Blue Jackets with the 6th pick in the 2006 draft. He has spent parts of 12 seasons with the Blue Jackets, New York Rangers, Ottawa Senators, and Pittsburgh Penguins. Brassard was also officially a member of the Vegas Golden Knights to accommodate the trade from Ottawa to Pittsburgh.
Riley Sheahan, C/ LW
Riley Sheahan was traded to the Pens following an abysmal campaign for the Detroit Red Wings during the 2016-17 season. He netted only 2 goals (in the final game) and 11 assists that year. The Red Wings traded Sheahan and a 5th round pick to the Penguins in exchange for Scott Wilson and a 3rd round pick.
In 130 regular season games for the Pittsburgh Penguins, Riley had 18 goals and 23 assists for 41 points. He spent a large portion of his time in a 4th line role.
Sheahan was originally drafted by the Detroit Red Wings with the 21st selection in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft.
In addition to Brassard and Sheahan, the Penguins also sent three draft picks to the Panthers. The Pens sent their own 2nd and 4th round selections, along with the 4th round selection of the Minnesota Wild, which they recently acquired in the trade that sent Jamie Oleksiak to the Dallas Stars.
For perspective, the Pittsburgh Penguins do not currently have a player on their active roster that they drafted in the 2nd or 4th rounds of the last 5 NHL Entry Drafts.
The Penguins are certainly in “win-now” mode. However, by acquiring two forwards with several years of team control, this trade can pay dividends for the next few years. Both players give Mike Sullivan flexibility to mix and match his lines to compensate for compatibility and injuries.
Overall Grade: B-
Dare I say that the Panthers are rebuilding again. This franchise and fan base had lofty expectations coming into the season. Now it seems likely they be selling at the deadline. If Brassard and Sheahan show flashes of promise over the next couple of weeks, they could turn this trade into more future assets.
Overall Grade: A- (potentially A+)
stats provided via hockey-reference.com