Jamie Oleksiak

PHT’s 2020 NHL Trade Deadline Live Blog

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Welcome to Pro Hockey Talk’s 2020 NHL trade deadline live blog. There’s already been a flurry of action in the past few days, but some names are still out there who could potentially be on the move before 3 p.m. ET today. Read on for news and analysis.

4 p.m ET

That’s all for the live blog after an active Monday trade deadline. Be sure to check out the Trade Tracker for all of the moves that might still be pending as well as the Winners and Losers later on tonight.

3:30 p.m ET

Johnny Gaudreau caused a bit of a stir earlier when he left the ice early. That will cause plenty of speculation this time of year, but Johnny Hockey put all that trade to rest.

“I had to pee,” Gaudreau said via the Calgary Sun. “I didn’t think it was going to be that big of a deal. Next time I will hold it in as long as I can, until practice is over.”

3:20 p.m ET

Not a Tyson Barrie deal but the Maple Leafs have announced they’ve extended Jake Muzzin for four years with a $5.625M cap hit. That amounts to $22.5M over the length of the contract.

Since coming over in a trade from LA last season Muzzin, who could have been a UFA this summer, has 38 points in 82 games with Toronto while averaging over 21 minutes a night.

3:17 p.m ET

Carolina has helped their blue line acquired Sami Vatanen from the Devils for a pick and a prospect, per Bob McKenzie, and also added Brady Skjei from the Rangers for a 2020 first-rounder. With injuries to Dougie Hamilton and Brett Pesce, it was clear the Canes needed help on the blue line.

Vatanen, who can become a UFA in July, has missed the last 10 games with a leg injury, but he certainly bolsters the defense when healthy as a right-hand shot. He has 23 points in 47 games this season and has been averaging nearly 22 minutes a night. Skjei has four years left with a $5.25M cap hit. He has eight goals and 23 points in 60 games this season while averaging 20:41 of ice time.

Don Waddell is going for it in hopes of building off of last spring’s memorable run to the Eastern Conference Final.

PHT analysis

3:15 p.m ET

The rumored Zach PariseAndrew Ladd deal was not consummated today. According to Mike Russo, the Wild and Islanders began discussion the swap back in the summer, so maybe this is something that Lou Lamoriello and Bill Guerin will revisit around the draft or after free agency opens in July.

Here’s Lamoriello on how close a deal actually was: “I don’t know what the definition of ‘close’ is. But until something materializes, it’s not close.”

3:06 p.m ET

3:04 p.m ET

There’s a new goalie in Las Vegas and his name is Robin Lehner. The Golden Knights added Lehner in a deal with the Blackhawks for Malcolm Subban. Per Natural Stat Trick, Vegas owns the sixth-worst event strength save percentage (.901) and this is a good move to push Marc-Andre Fleury, who has not had his best season.

The trade is also a decision on Subban, who has been mediocre backing up Fleury this year. The way Lehner has played, would it be surprising if he ends up getting the bulk of the work down the stretch and potentially in the playoffs?

• PHT analysis

2:40 p.m ET

There are 20 minutes to go and still no movement on the likes of Joe Thornton, Tyson Barrie, Sami Vatanen, Mike Hoffman, or Robin Lehner.

Deals can be announced after the 3 p.m. ET deadline as long as teams process it beforehand. The queue at NHL Central Registry to get the trade through can get backed up this late in the game.

2:35 p.m ET

Conor Sheary is headed back to Pittsburgh as the Sabres sent him and Evan Rodrigues to the Penguins for Dominik Kahun. Sheary, began his NHL career with the Penguins and was part of their back-to-back Stanley Cup teams in 2016 and 2017. He also spent plenty of time alongside Sidney Crosby.

Rodrigues asked for a trade in December and now has his wish joining a Cup contender.

The Blackhawks dealt Kahun, a impending RFA, last summer for Olli Maatta and he put up 10 goals and 27 points in 50 games this season. He now joins the list of players Penguins GM Jim Rutherford has acquired and dealt again within a year. Alex Galchenyuk, Jamie Oleksiak, Erik Gudbranson, Tanner Pearson, Derick Brassard, Ryan Reaves, and Riley Sheahan, among others, are in that club.

• PHT analysis

2:19 p.m ET

The idea of Jumbo going back to Boston is slowly losing hope.

2:16 p.m ET

The Ovechkin’s have announced an acquisition of their own as Nastasiya Ovechkin reveals she is pregnant with the couple’s second child.

2:15 p.m ET

Vegas doesn’t get its man in Erik Gustafsson as the defenseman goes from Chicago to the Flames for conditional picks. Calgary also adds depth to their blue line in picking up Derek Forbort from the Kings for a 2021 fourth-rounder.

• PHT analysis

1:54 p.m ET

It’s official: J.G. Pageau and the Islanders have worked out a six-year, $30M extension after this morning’s trade from Ottawa. He now joins captain Anders Lee as the only Islanders signed through the 2025-26 NHL season. Six years is one more than what the Senators were interested in doing, according to the Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch.

Pageau also gets a full no-trade clause in the first two seasons and a partial no-trade for the final four years.

1:37 p.m. ET

Always double check those Twitter accounts, friends!

1:26 p.m. ET

Guess it was always in the cards…

1:21 p.m. ET

Andreas Athanasiou is on the move to the Oilers after the Red Wings sent the speedy forward to Edmonton for second-round picks in 2020 and 2021, and Sam Gagner. Prospect Ryan Kuffner is also part of the deal going to the Oilers. This could be a good change of scenery deal for the 25-year-old winger. After putting up 30 goals and 54 points last season, AA has struggled this year with only 10 goals and 24 points in 46 games on a struggling Detroit team.

Now imagine Athanasiou, who can become a restricted free agent this summer, on a line next to Connor McDavid. Talk about speed.

This is second deal between the Oilers and Red Wings since Sunday night following the Mike Green trade.

PHT analysis

1:05 p.m. ET

With Marleau on the move to Pittsburgh, where does that leave Joe Thornton? According to The Athletic’s Kevin Kurz, Jumbo is still considering his options with two hours to go. The 40-year-old is averaging 15:19 of ice time this season in 62 games where he has four goals and 27 points.

The Bruins and Penguins were among some of the rumored teams interested if Thornton was willing to green light a deal. Certainly a return to Boston would make for one of the bigger stories of the deadline, but it remains to be seen if Sharks GM Doug Wilson will even have the chance to make the move.

How about the Stars? Thornton’s old buddy Joe Pavelski joined in the summer, and former Sharks PR man Tom Holy is also employed by Dallas. Don’t rule out that connection.

12:57 p.m. ET

Bobby Ryan, who’s been dealing with an alcohol problem and was in the NHL/NHLPA assistance program since November, could be back for the Senators Monday night. It would be his first game since Nov. 16.

Ryan, by the way, is one of two Senators left from Game 7 of the 2017 Eastern Conference Final. The other is Craig Anderson.

12:36 p.m. ET

Hold on to your butts we may have a trade happening that no one saw coming. According to TSN’s Frank Seravalli, the Islanders and Wild are working on a deal that could see Zach Parise reunited with Lou Lamoriello and Andrew Ladd headed to The State of Hockey.

Parise’s dad, J.P., played parts of four seasons with the Islanders from 1975-1978.

Ladd, who would have to waive his no-trade clause, still has three years on a deal that will carry a $4M cap hit. Parise, meanwhile, is willing to waive his no-move clause to make the deal happen, per Mike Russo. His contract, as we famously know, has five years left and a $7,538,461 cap hit with it. What softens the blow somewhat is Parise’s salary declines from $9M this season to $8M next year to $6M, $2M, and then $1M in the final two years.

And if you’re wondering…

12:29 p.m. ET

The Hurricanes announced today that Petr Mrazek suffered a concussion after his collision with Kyle Clifford Saturday night. Head coach Rod Brind’Amour said of the injured Mrazek, James Reimer and Brett Pesce, “Nobody is short term.” David Ayres is a little too busy at the moment, so where does this put GM Don Waddell? Certainly Robin Lehner is a name that could be heading to Raleigh before 3 p.m. ET today. The Blackhawks netminder can be a UFA this summer and sports a .920 even strength save percentage in 33 appearances this season.

12:17 p.m. ET

Some non-trade news today: The Red Wings claim Dmytro Timashov on waivers from the Maple Leafs and the Ducks add Andrew Agozzino from the Penguins after he was waived on Sunday. Losing Timashov now gives Toronto $10,578,961 in long-term injury relief, per Cap Friendly.

Also, Rocco Grimaldi has signed a two-year, $4 million extension with the Predators. The 27-year-old has 10 goals and 30 points in 58 games this season.

12:06 p.m. ET

Speculation abound that the Islanders are close to extending J.G. Pageau after acquiring the forward this morning. It was a big package and now it makes sense. In 60 games this season Pageau has 24 goals and 40 points. He’s also shooting a career high 17.8% so when does the regression monster come to bite?

11:54 a.m. ET

Here’s a fun one: Wayne Simmonds is heading to the Sabres for a conditional fourth-round pick with New Jersey retaining 50% of his salary. Simmonds, who can be an UFA this summer, joins a Buffalo team sitting six points out of a playoff spot as of Monday. Interesting strategy by Jason Botterill. Is this move a precursor to flipping Simmonds elsewhere or a trial run to a potential extension before July 1?

PHT analysis

11:23 a.m. ET

A very newsworthy morning for the Rangers. President John Davidson said that they have extended Chris Kreider for seven years at a $6.5M cap hit, which is good news for Rangers fans and for their 2020 playoff push. JD also brought some bad news revealing that Pavel Buchnevich and Igor Shestrkin were involved in a Sunday night car accident. Buchnevich is considered day to day, but Shesterkin suffered a small rib fracture and will be re-evaluated in two weeks.

Henrik Lundqvist is now back in the New York goalie picture.

11:14 a.m. ET

It’s funny what deadlines can do. According to TSN’s Darren Dreger, now it appears as if the Rangers will extend Chris Kreider, which would take one of the bigger names off the board.

11:05 a.m. ET

Patrick Marleau‘s quest for a Stanley Cup will continue in Pittsburgh after the Penguins acquired the veteran in exchange for a conditional third-round pick. (Pick becomes a second if Pittsburgh wins the Cup.) This move has real “Iginla to Pens, circa 2013” vibes to it. Does Marleau’s game fit into their system of speed and chipping and winning pucks? He’s certainly added depth on the wing and Mike Sullivan is hoping he can find a role for him in their bottom six.

“Although we have had a disappointing season in San Jose, he deserves every opportunity to have a chance at winning a Stanley Cup, and we’re happy to help accommodate that,” said Sharks GM Doug Wilson in a statement. “We wish him the best of luck.”

PHT analysis

10:50 a.m. ET

Nate Thompson moves from the Canadiens to Philadelphia, which gives Marc Bergevin an arsenal of picks when Montreal hosts the 2021 draft in June. Bergevin has stockpiled 13 picks in the upcoming draft, six of which will come in the opening three rounds.

10:16 a.m. ET

Another move, this one between two teams chasing playoff spots in the East. Vincent Trocheck is on his way to Carolina in exchange for Erik Haula, Lucas Wallmark and prospects Chase Priskie and Eetu Luostarinen. The Panthers have dropped nine of their last 13 games. This must be Dale Tallon’s idea of a wake-up call.

PHT analysis

10:00 a.m. ET

The NHL schedule features only the Senators and Blue Jackets so there will be heavy focus on whatever moves are consummated before the deadline. Some names still out there include Chris Kreider, Tyson Barrie, Sami Vatanen, Erik Gustafsson, Jesper Fast, and Wayne Simmonds, among many others.

In Kreider’s case, there were questions as to whether he’d even be on the market. The New York Post’s Larry Brooks reported over the weekend that contract talks between the forward and the Rangers have stalled and he’ll likely be dealt. He’s been linked to the Bruins for a while now, but was adding Ondrej Kase their only move to bolster up front?

9:50 a.m. ET

We have our first trades of the day! Vladislav Namestnikov is headed to the Avalanche for a 2021 fourth-round pick. Joe Sakic adds depth for a team that has eyes on winning the Stanley Cup. Meanwhile, Senators GM Pierre Dorion goes and sends Jean-Gabriel Pageau to the Islanders for a conditional 2020 first-round pick, a 2020 second-round pick, and a conditional 2022 third-round pick. If the 2020 first-rounder is top three, it moves to 2021, and Ottawa will only receive the 2022 pick if the Islanders win the Cup this season.

For a team that is looking towards the future, this has been a good day so far for Dorion, who could also move Tyler Ennis before the deadline. The Senators own nine potential picks in the first three rounds of the 2002 NHL Draft and seven in the first four rounds in 2021. Those are a lot of assets to build a prospect cupboard and also use for trade bait.

PHT analysis

9:00 a.m. ET

Good morning! Welcome to Pro Hockey Talk’s 2020 NHL trade deadline live blog. There’s already been a flurry of action in the past few days, but some names are still out there who could potentially be on the move before 3 p.m. ET today.

Be sure to check out the PHT Trade Tracker today for every move made and we’ll have full coverage of all the big deals that go down today.

————

Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

WATCH LIVE: Stars host Lightning on NBCSN

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2019-20 NHL season continues with Monday’s matchup between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Dallas Stars. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

The Lightning and Stars meet for the second and final time this season as each club is coming off an extended break. Both Tampa Bay and Dallas enjoyed their bye weeks last week leading into All-Star Weekend. Tampa last played on Jan. 17 (a 7-1 at WPG), while Dallas last played on Jan. 18 (a 7-0 at MIN).

Both the Lightning and Stars enter the second half of the reg. season locked in tight division races. In the Atlantic, Tampa is second with 62 points, eight points behind the Bruins but with three games in hand. Behind the Lightning though are the Panthers (61 pts) and Maple Leafs (57 pts) – each within striking distance of Tampa’s spot. In the Central, Dallas is thirrd with 58 points, four points behind Avalanche in second and 10 points behind the Blues in 1sr . Below the Stars though, the Central is tight. Just seven points separate Dallas in third and Nashville in seventh. Fortunately for the Stars, they have games in hand on the three teams immediately behind them in the division.

Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy was one of the two Lightning players in the All-Star Game this past weekend. The honor was well deserved as he leads the NHL with 24 wins to go along with a 2.54 GAA and .917 SV%. While he’s been great all year, the 25-year-old comes into Monday’s game as hot as any goalie in the NHL.

Dallas’ lone All-Star representative Tyler Seguin tallied a goal and assist in the Central Division’s loss in the All-Star Game. The Stars are hoping their top centerman will bring the scoring back home when they take the ice Monday. Seguin has zero goals in the last nine games. With 11 goals through 48 games, he is on pace to score just 18 goals this season, which would be his fewest in a non-shortened season since 2010-11, his rookie year.

The Stars average just 2.56 goals/game, which is tied for the fourth-fewest in the NHL. But they also allow just 2.46 goals/game, which is best in the league. Seguin maintains his lack of offensive output has to do with the team’s defensive frame of mind rather than a lack of production.

[COVERAGE BEGINS AT 7 P.M. ET ON NBCSN]

WHAT: Tampa Bay Lightning at Dallas Stars
WHERE: American Airlines Center
WHEN: Monday, Jan. 27, 7 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN
LIVE STREAM: You can watch the Lightning-Stars stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

PROJECTED LINEUPS

LIGHTNING
Steven StamkosBrayden PointNikita Kucherov
Ondrej PalatAnthony CirelliTyler Johnson
Alex KillornCedric PaquettePatrick Maroon
Yanni GourdeMitchell StephensCarter Verhaeghe

Ryan McDonaghErik Cernak
Mikhail SergachevKevin Shattenkirk
Braydon CoburnJan Rutta

Starting goalie: Andrei Vasilevskiy

STARS
Jamie Benn – Tyler Seguin – Alexander Radulov
Denis GurianovJoe PavelskiRoope Hintz
Andrew CoglianoRadek FaksaBlake Comeau
Mattias JanmarkJason DickinsonCorey Perry

Esa LindellJohn Klingberg
Miro HeiskanenRoman Polak
Jamie Oleksiak – Stephen Johns

Starting goalie: Ben Bishop

Brendan Burke will handle play-by-play duties alongside analyst Pierre McGuire at American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas. Tonight’s studio coverage will be hosted by Liam McHugh with Anson Carter and Keith Jones.

Stars can’t afford to be without Heiskanen for too long

Thursday night wasn’t good for the Dallas Stars. Not only did they lose to the Buffalo Sabres, they also watched as defenseman Miro Heiskanen suffered an upper-body injury during the game.

He’s considered day-to-day for now.

The 20-year-old was hurt after Sabres forward Rasmus Asplund made contact with his head as Heiskanen was falling down to the ice. He then went to the Stars locker room and never returned to the game.

“We all know what he does for us,” Stars interim head coach Rick Bowness said, per the Dallas News. “Our breakouts are a lot better, he joins the rush and he’s a danger on that offensive blue line. Take him out of there, and that’s a big hole. There’s just no getting around that. Injuries happen, and got to keep playing. Got to overcome them.”

Here’s how he got hurt:

It’s easy to see why Heiskanen wouldn’t be pleased with Asplund in the moment, but the contact with the head only occurs because Heiskanen falls forward right before his opponent gets to the corner. But Sweden on Finland crime will never go over well.

The Stars don’t know how long their young defender will be out, but, as Bowness mentioned, it’s clear that they need him back in their lineup quickly. He’s up to seven goals and 24 points in 47 games this season and he averages just over 24 minutes of ice time per game.

The fancy stats also show that when Heiskanen is on the ice the Stars control 55.31 percent of the XGF and 54.19% of the high-danger chances (stats via Natural Stat Trick).

He’s formed a nice duo with Jamie Oleksiak, as they’ve played 384 minutes together at five-on-five this season. If he’s out for an extended period of time, finding someone to slide into that spot won’t be easy.

“He’s an elite player on this team, so anytime you lose one of those guys, it doesn’t matter who it is, it’s going to hurt,” teammate Ben Bishop said after the loss to Buffalo. “Obviously, we’re down a goal there, we rely on those guys.”

On a more positive note, it sounds like they’ll be getting Stephen Johns back after he missed 22 months with post-traumatic headaches. He’ll have to be eased back into the lineup, but he could help fill the void left by Heiskanen. But they’ll likely have to do that as a committee.

The Stars currently find themselves in third place in the Central Division with a record of 27-16-4. They’re tied for second with Colorado, but the Avs hold the tie-breaker (they have more regulation/overtime victories). The Winnipeg Jets, who are currently fourth in the division and just outside the playoff picture, are four points behind Dallas.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Penguins’ playoff exit was two years in the making

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The Pittsburgh Penguins loss to the New York Islanders was no fluke.

It was a result they earned and was due to them being outplayed and soundly beaten in pretty much every phase of the game by a Islanders team that looked faster, crisper, and smoother.

It was also not the result of something that simply happened overnight.

On the off day between their losses in Games 3 and 4, defender Justin Schultz nailed a big part of the problem when he said this: “Our identity has changed over the years. We play fast and get the puck up quick. That’s what we do best. We haven’t done that this series.”

But when did it change, and more importantly, why did it change?

It has taken the Penguins two years to reach the point where they needed to wait until Game 81 of the regular season to simply make the playoffs, and then could not even scratch out a single win once they got there.

To find when it all began you can probably go back to May 28, 2017.

At the time, the Penguins were the defending Stanley Cup champions and just 24 hours away from beginning another Cup Final series against the Nashville Predators that they would win in six games, becoming the first team in a generation to successfully repeat as champions. Their recipe and identity was clear. They played fast, they didn’t let anything throw them off their game, and coach Mike Sullivan had driven home a “Just Play” mantra that became the calling card of their 2016 championship run. It applied to just about any situation.

An injury to a significant player? Just play.

Don’t like a call that was or was not made on the ice? Just play.

Facing some adversity and down in a series? Just. Play.

In the years between their 2009 and 2016 championships the Penguins had become a deeply flawed team that was short on depth around its superstars and had rapidly developed a tendency to unravel whenever things didn’t go their way. They were almost like petulant children that would lose their composure when calls went against them and become almost infatuated with responding to even the slightest physical altercation. They reached rock bottom in this regard during the 2012 and 2013 postseason losses to the Philadelphia Flyers and Boston Bruins when they seemed to be playing a game where hits and responses were worth more than goals.

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Starting in 2015, general manager Jim Rutherford started to reshape the team into something different.

He found the right depth players to go around the core of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang, and he made a series of trades and call-ups from their AHL affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton to make the team faster and more skilled throughout the lineup. Combined with Sullivan’s mid-season takeover in 2015, it was a perfect storm that allowed them overwhelm opponents and catch fire sometime around February.

They never slowed down on their way to a championship.

While the 2016-17 season wasn’t quite as dominant and had to rely on goaltending a little more in the playoffs, the same formula was still in play.

Despite all of the winning, Rutherford was still unsatisfied with something.

He was unsatisfied with the way his star players were being treated physically. In each of those postseasons the Penguins had to go through opponents that were not shy about targeting their stars. Crosby’s postseason run-ins with Dan Girardi and Marc Staal are well documented, and they had two consecutive postseason encounters with Tom Wilson and the Washington Capitals. In the Eastern Conference Final that season there were several incidents against the Ottawa Senators that drew the team’s ire.

The day before the 2017 Stanley Cup Final began, Rutherford offered a look into where the team was going to be headed when he sounded off in an interview with Ken Campbell of The Hockey News. This is the key part:

“I hear year after year how the league and everyone loves how the Penguins play,” said Penguins GM Jim Rutherford. “‘They play pure hockey and they skate.’ Well, now it’s going to have to change and I feel bad about it, but it’s the only way we can do it. We’re going to have to get one or two guys…and some of these games that should be just good hockey games will turn into a sh—show. We’ll go right back to where we were in the ’70s and it’s really a shame.”

Emphasis added.

“We’re going to have to get one or two guys.”

He doubled down on it just days after the team won the Stanley Cup.

“We are going to try to add a player or two that maybe we can have more protection in our lineup. That’s not that easy because [coach Mike Sullivan] likes to roll four lines and you’ve got to plug a guy in that can play on a regular basis, but hopefully that’s what we can do.”

That was the moment they started down the wrong path. Suddenly, a team that had become defined by playing through things and not responding was going to get “one or two guys” to … respond. The Penguins hadn’t even finished their run at the top of the league as champions when they made the decision to start slowly deviating off of the path that got them there, all in the name of retribution and the misguided idea of “deterrence.”

On draft night that year, the Penguins flipped their first-round pick and center Oskar Sundqvist to the St. Louis Blues for Ryan Reaves and a second-round pick, a trade that has turned out to be a significant loss for the Penguins in more ways than one, and it was a bad idea from the start. Not only did they move back 20 spots in the draft, but Sundqvist has turned into a solid third-line center for the Blues (a position the Penguins spent two years and countless assets trying to fill) while Reaves clearly never fit in with the Penguins’ style of play.

Sullivan barely used him, it shortened the team’s bench, and he was ultimately traded halfway through the season in the massive and complicated deal for Derick Brassard.

The problem with that sequence wasn’t necessarily the trade itself, but what it represented.

What it represented was a philosophical shift from the recipe that worked, and there is nothing that has happened since that trade that has put them back on track.

Pretty much every significant roster move the Penguins have made since then (and there have been A LOT of them) has revolved around getting bigger, stronger players, especially on the blue line where Jamie Oleksiak, Jack Johnson, Erik Gudbranson were the significant additions over the past year. It resulted in a defense that lacks mobility, doesn’t move the puck well, and has simply zapped them of a lot of their transition game. Add that to the departures of forwards like Carl Hagelin and Conor Sheary and the team no longer has the speed and skating advantage that it used to have over its opponents.

The most confusing thing about all of it is the roster construction and many of the moves seem — emphasis on seem — to be at odds with the way the coach has wanted the team to play from the day he arrived behind the bench. I know nothing of the working relationship between Rutherford and Sullivan and whether they remain on the same page as to how the team is built, but the optics of it all just seem strange.

They paid a significant price for Reaves, and the coach didn’t play him. The general manager championed the signing of Johnson all season, and despite playing in all 82 regular season games was deemed to be not worth a roster spot in the first game of the playoffs. A team that wants to play fast and beat teams in transition and with puck possession, suddenly has an inconsistent transition and possession game because the players on the back end can’t make the necessary plays to feed it. And that doesn’t even get into general manager’s fascination with trying to even the score with Wilson in Washington after he knocked Zach Astron-Reese out of the playoffs a year ago (something that ended up getting Oleksiak injured).

Make no mistake, there were other factors at play throughout this season and the playoffs that produced this early exit. The forwards, as a whole, don’t help out enough in the defensive zone. The Islanders did a great job shutting down Crosby and Jake Guentzel. Letang and Schultz, the two defenders on the roster that can still play close to the Penguins’ style, each had a bad series.

But a bad series for individual players happens, and sometimes they are even understandable and defensible because even the best players have bad stretches.

What is not understandable and defensible is willingly taking yourself away from something that worked. That is what the Penguins did, and it is a big part of why their season ended up going the way it did.

The moves they make this summer will tell us a lot as to what they learned from it.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Golden Knights could win big thanks to Seattle’s expansion draft

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What if the Vegas Golden Knights “win” the expansion draft … again?

In a fascinating article that’s absolutely worth your time (sub required), The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun ran down how the Golden Knights could leverage the fact that they’re exempt from exposing players to Seattle’s expansion draft to land some great trades from teams who don’t want to lose players for nothing.

Parking ticket

The possibilities are almost overwhelming, especially if GM George McPhee finds creative ways to get assets, picks, and players from teams unable to protect certain guys Seattle might otherwise get. What if McPhee gets really creative by pushing the limits to help teams essentially “circumvent” the expansion draft?

One idea might be to “park” a player in Vegas for the expansion draft, giving the Golden Knights some sort of asset, only for Vegas to send that player back later on?

The league will allegedly take measures to make sure that doesn’t happen.

NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly told LeBrun that “you can’t park players on Vegas,” hinting that, since the NHL must approve all transactions, they could reject a shady-looking deal.

“I don’t see that happening, they’re just not part of this expansion,” Daly said. “Obviously, we’ll make sure that Vegas isn’t used in the process by other clubs to circumvent the purpose of intent of the expansion draft rules, but I don’t anticipate that happening.’’

Actually enforcing circumventing moves could end up being easier said than done, however.

Thin line between “parking” and a valid trade

Sure, the league could stand in the way of truly blatant moves, much like they shot down that cap-circumventing Ilya Kovalchuk contract with the New Jersey Devils.

But what about more straightforward trades, where a team senses they’d lose a player, so they give up on that guy for picks and prospects? This is a league where Taylor Hall was traded one-for-one for Adam Larsson, so how far could the NHL go in making value judgments for potential trades?

LeBrun provides an example of the Predators theoretically trading P.K. Subban to Vegas as the odd man out, and down the line, that could make sense even outside of the expansion draft. After all, Subban will be getting up there in the years by then – he’s already 29 – and Nashville might legitimately prefer to stick with their other key defensemen, what with Roman Josi nearing a raise and Subban carrying a $9M cap hit.

And, really, how long can you keep a player “parked” before he’s fair game again?

Let’s say a player is sent to Vegas for a season, only to return to his original team. What would make such a move unacceptable when you remember the path of Jamie Oleksiak? The Penguins traded a fourth-round pick to Dallas for the towering defenseman back in Dec. 2017, only to get their draft pick back from Dallas when they returned Oleksiak to the Stars on Jan. 28 of this year. None of this is to say the Oleksiak trades were nefarious. Instead, there’s precedent for recent returns, so even handing out “parking violations” might be quite challenging.

Frankly, it all sounds like a nightmare for the NHL to try to police.

Really, though, the greatest “deterrent” arguably should be just how poorly teams handled trades to the Golden Knights to avoid protection issues.

Repeating history?

Most infamously, the Panthers sent Jonathan Marchessault and Reilly Smith to Vegas, to a) get rid of Smith’s contract and b) protect the likes of marginal defenseman Alex Petrovic. But check out this trade history and you’ll see other teams who pulled a muscle trying to beat the system. The Blue Jackets ended up doing all sorts of maneuvering, only to make the wrong call on William Karlsson. The Wild fared very poorly. Plenty of teams loaded up Vegas with draft picks, and in just about every case, the Golden Knights profited greatly from those GMs outsmarting themselves.

Seattle will try to do the same thing, but teams will be wary of making those mistakes again — plus they’ll have Vegas to work with.

Also, it’s easy to say you don’t want to repeat history with past mistakes, but Flames GM Brad Treliving gave an interesting take on that to LeBrun:

” … Are people going to be a little more hesitant because of the history and success Vegas has had of doing side deals? Maybe,” Treliving said. “But at the end of the day, you’re not going to say, `I’m not going to do this because something did or didn’t happen last time.’ You’re going to make the best decisions for the club. It’s always easy to Monday morning quarterback it, but the biggest thing is that everyone is going to be more familiar with the process. It’s the same rules.”

At some point in reading this post, you might be thinking that Vegas has an unfair advantage. Shouldn’t they have to give up a player in Seattle’s expansion draft after being able to go through the NHL’s teams like a buffet during their own expansion draft?

LeBrun reports that some GMs grumbled to him about that exemption, but the gripes lose their muster when you remember that the Golden Knights also aren’t getting a cut from the $650 million expansion fee from Seattle.

Ultimately, it is what it is when it comes to Vegas being exempt.

The Golden Knights could really be a wild card during expansion draft time, so good luck to the NHL in trying to keep all of that in control. Like Vegas’ zany pregame shows, this also only makes it a tougher act for Seattle to follow, too.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.