The 2018 NHL Entry Draft starts tonight and whoever the Penguins draft probably won’t help them much in the short term. The Penguins don’t have a first-round pick (they would’ve picked 22nd) because they traded it to Ottawa in the Derick Brassard trade. The Penguins should be active this weekend though as general manager Jim Rutherford always makes trades around the draft.
What kind of trade will the Penguins make? Could they trade a wing to get a defenseman? Could they make a trade to get cap space to sign a free agent? The salary cap went from $75 million last season to $79.5 million this season, but the Penguins don’t have much cap room and have restricted free agents (Bryan Rust, Riley Sheahan, Daniel Sprong, Dominik Simon, Tom Kuhnhackl and Jamie Oleksiak) to sign. It’s projected that after signing the restricted free agents, they’ll be $1-3 million under the cap.
Let’s look at some of the biggest draft day trades in the Penguins recent history:
2012: The Jordan Staal trade
Penguins trade Jordan Staal to Carolina for Brandon Sutter, 2012 1st round pick (#8-Derrick Pouliot) and Brian Dumoulin
The Penguins couldn’t sign Staal long-term so they traded him to Carolina, where his brother played. Sutter was okay for the Penguins but was traded for Nick Bonino in 2015. Pouliot was a bust and Dumoulin has become maybe the Penguins best defenseman.
2013: Penguins trade Tyler Kennedy to San Jose for 2013 2nd round pick
2014: Penguins trade James Neal to Nashville for Patric Hornqvist and Nick Spaling.
Jim Rutherford just became general manager 3 weeks earlier and he made one of the biggest trades in team history. Neal was a 40-goal scorer but it could be argued Hornqvist is the heart and soul of the team. His tough and relentless style was exactly what the Penguins needed.
2015: The Phil Kessel Trade
Penguins trade to Toronto:
2016 conditional 1st round pick
2016 3rd round pick
2016 conditional 2nd round pick
Oh, and the Leafs retain $1.2 million of Kessel’s $8 million cap hit for the duration of his contract. The Pens got one of the best scoring wingers and gave up practically nothing. I’m surprised Jim Rutherford didn’t go to jail for this grand theft.
2016: Penguins trade Beau Bennett to New Jersey for 2016 3rd round pick (#77-Connor Hall)
Okay, not a big deal, but just goes to show Rutherford always make a deal at the draft.
2017: Penguins trade Oskar Sundqvist and 2017 1st round pick to St. Louis for Ryan Reaves and 2017 2nd round pick
The Ryan Reeves trade. This one caused a lot of uproar among Pens fans. Reeves was brought in for his toughness and because he’s one of the best fighters in hockey. Fans were either happy and thought he was necessary, or hated the move and thought a ‘goon’ that was not needed. He ended up playing little for the Penguins, was traded to Vegas at the trade deadline and contributed to the Golden Knights Stanley Cup run.
Who is rumored to be traded this year?
- Phil Kessel. Rumors of trading Kessel have caused a minor war to break out between Penguins fans the media. The rumor is Kessel doesn’t get along with head coach Mike Sullivan, the Penguins are hearing offers for him, and Kessel is okay with a trade. I think the chances of the Penguins actually trading Kessel are very low. The Pens are in ‘win-now’ mode and Kessel is one of their best players.
- Derick Brassard. Brassard was acquired at the trade deadline this year and was terrible in the playoffs, probably because he was hurt. I can’t see the Penguins trading Brassard because they believe in having strong centers, and he just got here.
- Conor Sheary. Sheary signed a 3 year $9 million contract in 2017 and has not performed well enough to justify that contract. The Penguins would probably like to trade him but who knows how much value other teams would place in him.
- Matt Hunwick. Hunwick was signed as a free agent last year and makes $2.25 million per year. He was a disaster in his first year with the Penguins, often being a healthy scratch. It’s not known whether the Penguins would try to get rid of him or see if he’ll adjust and improve.
- Bryan Rust. This one is a surprise as he’s versatile and productive but it’s rumored he was offered to Arizona for Max Domi.
- Tristan Jarry. Jarry is a good prospect but he could get a lot in a trade and the Penguins might have their backup in Casey DeSmith.
- Carl Hagelin. Hagelin is a great contributor for the Penguins but he does make $4 million and is on the last year of his contract.