You could call one of the playoffs’ hottest trios “The HBK Line,” yet you could also consider them “the line that trades built.”
Considering how integral Phil Kessel, Nick Bonino and Carl Hagelin have been to the Pittsburgh Penguins’ run to the 2016 Stanley Cup Final, it’s easy to forget that none of them have even hit their anniversary in the Steel City just yet.
As a refresher:
- Kessel was acquired on July 1, 2015 in a massive trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
- Less than a month later, the Penguins robbed the Vancouver Canucks by grabbing Bonino in a trade that featured Internet whipping-boy Brandon Sutter.
- After realizing that the David Perron trade wasn’t really working out, the Penguins and Ducks concocted an “everyone wins” move as Hagelin became a Penguin in January.
That’s impressive work by itself, yet the Penguins reinvented themselves with a variety of other trades that can be graded good-to-great.
This isn’t to say the Penguins are flawless in this and other approaches. The Lovejoy move didn’t always look great. The Maple Leafs may “win” the Kessel trade in the long run.
Even so, the big picture is remarkable. As much as the organization can thank the draft for building its core in the likes of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang, trades took the Penguins to the next level.
(Especially if you consider replacing Mike Johnston with Mike Sullivan as a “trade” of sorts.)