The Florida Panthers and Pittsburgh Penguins made a significant trade on Friday.
Pittsburgh confirmed these terms:
Penguins receive: Nick Bjugstad and Jared McCann.
Panthers receive: Derick Brassard, Riley Sheahan, one second-round pick in 2019, and two fourth-round picks (one from the Penguins, one from the Wild via the Jamie Oleksiak trade) in 2019.
This is a fascinating decision for both sides.
One thing that jumps out for Pittsburgh is that they’re taking on contracts that extend beyond next season, while giving up players who were on expiring deals.
Bjugstad, 26, carries a $4.1 million cap hit through 2020-21. He’s a big body (listed at 6-foot-6), and possesses a right-handed shot, two things the Penguins likely coveted.
Much like with Tanner Pearson, you could label Bjugstad as a “buy-low” candidate. After scoring 19 goals and 49 points last season, Bjugstad only has five goals and 12 points in 32 contests in 2018-19.
In line with Bjugstad, Jared McCann, 22, has a contract that extends beyond this season, as his $1.25M cap hit expires after 2019-20. After scoring nine goals and 28 points in 68 games in 2017-18, McCann has eight goals and 18 points in 46 games this season.
Bjugstad’s the bigger body, but both are former first-rounders (Bjugstad -19th in 2010; McCann – 24th in 2014), and McCann’s enjoying a slightly more effective season, so it will be interesting to see how this works out for the Pens. Bjugstad excelled when placed with Aleksander Barkov for a stretch last season, so maybe he’d flourish if he landed with Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin?
(Bjugstad could also slot in as a 3C, so there’s at least versatility there.)
Panthers eye the future?
One interesting element here is that, while the Panthers received three 2019 picks in this trade, they could very well spin this into more assets. After all, it’s difficult to imagine Florida making enough of a surge to land in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs:
The Winnipeg Jets and other teams have been connected to Brassard in trade rumors, so Florida could very logically have decided that they will merely serve as a temporary home for the center. As of right now, he would likely slot in as the Panthers’ third center behind Aleksander Barkov and Vincent Trocheck, which wouldn’t feel that different from looking up at Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin at the higher center positions.
(Considering that Brassard could gain or lose a lot of money with how the next few months turn out, he’d probably want a better shot at landing a 2C role somewhere else.)
The juiciest possibility for Florida wouldn’t be merely flipping Brassard for more picks, though. It’s also plausible that the Panthers may make a bid for a big-ticket item like Artemi Panarin and/or Sergei Bobrovsky before the trade deadline, with the hopes of locking someone up long-term.
Despite the excitement generated by Brassard’s arrival in Pittsburgh, things never really worked out. So far in 2018-19, Brassard generated nine goals and 15 points in 40 games.
Sheahan, 27, carries a $2.1M cap hit that expires after 2018-19. He’s been limited to nine points in 49 games this season, and Sheahan’s seen his TOI dip to 12:39 this season after averaging 15:17 (near his career-best) in 2017-18.
Personally, this trade has me going back and forth, which makes it one of the best types of trades. Who do you think came out on top, if you had to pick either the Penguins or Panthers?
James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.