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Penguins add depth with Leighton, Oleksiak acquisitions

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The Pittsburgh Penguins just got a little bigger on their backend.

The Penguins announced they struck a deal with the Dallas Stars on Tuesday afternoon, acquiring 6-foo-7 defenseman Jamie Oleksiak for a conditional fourth-round pick in 2019.

The trade comes on the heels of the Penguins making an odd move earlier in the day after acquiring goaltender Michael Leighton and a fourth-round draft pick in 2019 from the Arizona Coyotes in exchange for forward Josh Archibald, goaltender Sean McGuire and a sixth-round draft pick in 2019.

Oleksiak, who has just three points in 21 games this season, hasn’t played since Dec. 9. It will be interesting to see where he fits in, if he does at all immediately.

One report suggests the Penguins had been interested in Oleksiak’s services for a while, and that the deal came together pretty quickly.

Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford suggested that a ‘major trade’ could happen if the Penguins continue to struggle.

Pittsburgh dropped a 4-2 decision to the Colorado Avalanche on Monday and sit outside the playoff picture in the Eastern Conference.

“We’re coming into a critical period where we’ll make a decision whether we need to shake things up or not,” Rutherford told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette last Wednesday. “We’re good enough to be better than we’re doing. Hopefully, that’s the way it goes here in the next little while. If it doesn’t, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to think that a major trade would come out of this.”

The Penguins have two fourth-round picks in 2019 at the moment and the Stars will get whichever one is higher, according to Shapiro.

Meanwhile, Leighton was sent down to Wilkes-Barrie/Scranton of the American Hockey League. Matt Murray is back to full health with the Penguins and Tristan Jarry has been phenomenal as a backup (and starter) when called upon.

It’s been an interesting season for Leighton, who will join his third NHL team after previously being with the Tampa Bay Lightning. Leighton is on a two-way deal with $650,000 at the NHL level and is an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season.

Leighton has played in just seven NHL games over the past seven seasons and unless the Penguins want to give Jarry more playing time in the AHL, it seems unfathomable that he’d become the backup going forward.

Archibald, meanwhile, will stay up with the Coyotes after the club announced that Dylan Strome was being sent back to the AHL following the trade. McGuire has been assigned to the Coyotes ECHL affiliate.

Also, in case you’re wondering about the NHL’s roster freeze and what it all means, CapFriendly sent out a helpful tweet to explain.

Fancy that: Pens hire War on Ice’s Sam Ventura

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Perhaps there will be a sequel to 2014’s fancy stats summer?

It would be hard to top that this time around, but hardcore number-crunching hockey fans will likely take note anyway, as the Pittsburgh Penguins scooped up Sam Ventura, co-creator of War on IceThe Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports that Ventura was hired as a “consultant responsible for analytics.”

The team seems especially excited to add a local, especially one like the 27-year-old, who recently earned a Ph.D. from Carnegie Mellon.

“To have someone who grew up here in Pittsburgh, literally in our backyard, to have the skill set and knowledge base that Sam has, he seemed like the perfect fit,” Jason Karmanos told the Tribune-Review. “Once I met him and started talking to him, I knew that he was the perfect fit for our group here.”

Penguins GM Jim Rutherford seems to give advanced stats some serious respect extending back to his days running the Carolina Hurricanes (even if some situations worked out better than others in that regard).

Karmanos said that Ventura’s addition will “augment” the analytics arm in Pittsburgh, indicating that the team may do more in that area in the future.

Ventura’s hiring reminds one of the Toronto Maple Leafs snatching Extra Skater’s Darryl Metcalf last summer, although it sounds like there’s a chance War on Ice may function for some time. That said, Ventura’s venture shows that the “fancy stats” community can recover from big losses; perhaps Ventura may help the Penguins avoid more letdowns on the ice?

Report: Changes coming to compensation for executives

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When the Buffalo Sabres hired Dan Bylsma on Thursday one of the issues reportedly holding up the deal was compensation.

In the end, the Sabres agreed to send the Penguins a third-round selection at the 2016 NHL Draft because Bylsma was still under contract with Pittsburgh despite being fired last year.

Pittsburgh didn’t seek compensation however when New Jersey hired former Pens’ GM Ray Shero earlier this month.

Why not?

“The rule is not as clear as it should be,” Penguins GM Jim Rutherford said on Friday. “We felt that the intent of the rule was for employees that were still with the team, that were working with the team, not terminated employees.

“Once Edmonton (gave Boston) a pick for (former Bruins GM) Peter Chiarelli — when he was a terminated employee — we decided to ask for picks for future employees.”

According to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, the NHL’s Board of Governors will look to clarify the compensation rule.

During his headlines segment on Saturday night, Friedman reported that if an executive is fired by the club, that team will not receive compensation when the individual is hired by another organization.

A team would only receive compensation for an individual still working for a team.

The NHL’s Board of Governors are scheduled to meet next month when the league heads to Las Vegas for the awards.

Report: Bylsma to meet with Sabres this week

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On Thursday GM Jim Rutherford opened the door for teams to interview former Pens’ head coach Dan Bylsma without seeking permission.

According to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, Bylsma will meet with the Buffalo Sabres this week.

Bylsma, 44, has not coached since being fired by Pittsburgh last June.

The 2011 Jack Adams Award winner was behind the Penguins’ bench for six seasons posting a 252-117-32 record winning a Stanley Cup in 2009.

As Friedman notes, Bylsma could appeal to the Sabres because he already has a connection with Jack Eichel, who is likely headed to Buffalo. The two were together with Team USA at the 2015 World Championship in the Czech Republic.

Rutherford has given Buffalo and San Jose to speak with Bylsma.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports New Jersey GM Ray Shero has also gotten permission to speak with Bylsma and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton coach John Hynes about the Devils coaching vacancy.

Rutherford has not gotten to the point of seeking compensation.

“We haven’t gotten to that point,” said Rutherford. “That [right to seek compensation] rule kind of works against itself. On one hand, you’re paying an employee who’s not working, so teams prefer to get their salaries moved on [to another club]. But at the same time, we have a rule that, in some cases, there could be compensation.”

The Pens did not get compensation when the Devils hired Shero and Rutherford admitted they may go the same route with Bylsma in an effort to get a deal done.

“We don’t want to jeopardize what [Shero and Bylsma] could do going forward,” Rutherford said. “We’ll just wait to see who Dan possibly could get hired by, and make that decision at the time.”

The Sabres fired head coach Ted Nolan on April 12 after he led Buffalo to a 40-87-17 record in parts of two seasons. Nolan has since interviewed with the Vancouver Giants of the Western Hockey League regarding their coaching vacancy.

Pens looking to acquire a first round pick

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It’s expected to be the deepest draft in over a decade so there’s no surprise the Pittsburgh Penguins are looking to get themselves a first round pick.

GM Jim Rutherford dealt the Pens’ first round selection, which would’ve been 16th overall, to the Edmonton Oilers along with Rob Klinkhammer for David Perron in January.

“I’ll certainly pursue it,” Rutherford told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, adding, “I don’t know if we’ll be able to pick up one or not.”

Edmonton along with Buffalo, Toronto, Arizona, Philadelphia and Winnipeg all have two first round selections at next month’s draft.

According to Sportsnet’s Damien Cox, the Sabres, who hold the second overall and the 21st overall selections, are listening to offers for No. 21. Buffalo GM Tim Murray ideally wants to move up or acquire a young player in return for the pick.

“There are some teams that have acquired an abundance of first-round picks, and they may not need them all,” Rutherford said. “I’ve actually talked to a couple of those teams already.”

Due to other trades the Penguins have only one selection, their second-rounder, in the first four rounds of this year’s draft.