Patric Hornqvist could have taken what’s likely to be a fifth-straight 20-goal season to the open market this season and cashed in as an unrestricted free agent. Instead, the Pittsburgh Penguins forward has signed a five-year, $26.5 million extension to stay with the back-to-back Stanley Cup champions.
Since coming over from the Nashville Predators in a trade during the 2014 NHL draft, Hornqvist has scored 85 goals and recorded 178 points in 267 games. He’s saved some of his biggest moments for the postseason where he’s potted 14 goals during the Penguins’ last two Cup runs, including the empty-netter that sealed things in 2016 versus the San Jose Sharks and the game-winning goal late in the clincher against his old Predators teammates last June.
“We are thrilled for Patric. He has been such a big part of this team and what they’ve been able to accomplish,” said Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan. “He’s a positive guy. He brings a dimension to our dressing room that’s unique. There’s no one more deserving.”
Here’s the big question, though: Is this extension too long for your liking? Hornqvist turned 31 on New Year’s Day and will be 36 when his contract expires in 2023. He plays a physical game and has missed 24 games over the last two seasons and 42 in his four years in Pittsburgh. Bodies break down as they age, and considering how the Swede likes to engage opponents, how will this contract look in two or three years, and who might be negatively affected by it cap-wise? (Of course, another championship or two over these five years and that becomes of little concern.)
We’ve seen the magic Rutherford has worked in the past keeping the Penguins under the ceiling and continually icing a roster that can contend. Pittsburgh can keep the faith knowing that nothing should change now.
There likely won’t be a more wild trade before the deadline than the one that took the better part of Friday to finally be completed.
The Pittsburgh Penguins had Ottawa Senators forward Derick Brassard in their grasp, then lost him, and then snatched him up again.
Penguins defenseman Ian Cole was headed to a bad team, then he wasn’t, and then he was again.
And somehow Ryan Reaves is now with the Vegas Golden Knights and the NHL’s newest team is retaining a bunch of salary.
The first trade: Penguins receive Derick Brassard; Senators get a first-round pick, Ian Cole and intriguing goalie prospect Filip Gustavsson.
This deal was rejected by the NHL for “improper use of salary retention,” so it was back to the drawing board for all involved.
The second (and actual) trade: Penguins receive Derick Brassard; Senators get a first-round pick, Ian Cole and intriguing goalie prospect Filip Gustavsson. This didn’t change.
Penguins also acquire a 2018 third round draft pick and prospect forward Vincent Dunn from the Senators; and they also get prospect forward Tobias Lindberg from the Golden Knights.
Vegas receives Ryan Reaves and a 2018 fourth-rounder (Vancouver’s) from the Penguins and also retains 40 percent of Brassard’s salary.
Why the Penguins made the trade: It’s been no secret that the Penguins have been looking for center help since losing Matt Cullen and Nick Bonino. Brassard fits that bill, and honestly, stands as a nice upgrade.
At 30, Brassard is still at or near his prime. The Penguins get Brassard for two playoff runs, as his $5 million cap hit runs through 2018-19.
Brassard’s quietly enjoyed a strong season in Ottawa, as he has 18 goals and 38 points in 58 games. He’s just one point shy of tying his 2016-17 total, even though that came in 81 contests. The former Rangers forward is battle-tested in the postseason, too.
Derick Brassard has 55 points on 22 goals and 33 assists in 78 career playoff games. He has scored 4 game-winning goals. He has played into the Conference Final three times, once into the Cup Final.
Why the Senators made the trade: The Senators are in liquidation mode, and to start, this trade helps Ottawa get a first-rounder back after giving one up in the Matt Duchene trade. Granted, the Penguins’ first-rounder could be very low – they’d love it to be the 31st selection – but it’s a key return for the rebuilding Sens.
Gustavsson, 19, isn’t just a throw-in, either. He was a second-round pick (55th overall) in the 2016 NHL Draft. With Craig Anderson already 36, the Senators need to look to the future, and Gustavsson has a chance to be a part of the picture in net.
Filip Gustavsson led Sweden to a silver medal at the World Junior last month, and was named the tournament’s top goalie with a 1.81 GAA and a .924 save % in 6 games. #Sens
This is also worth noting from a Senators perspective:
With what might still be on the horizon, not retaining any of Brassard’s salary is worth noting (Vegas is on the hook for 40%). Teams are only allowed to retain the salaries of 3 players in any given season. The Sens have already done it once (Phaneuf).
Vegas gets some grit in Reaves and a pick, but get roped into 40 percent of Brassard’s salary for some reason or another.
Who won the trade?
Senators fans are unlikely to be happy with the team cleaning house, particularly with players who helped them make a deep playoff run remarkably recently. Still, they’re diving in with a reset, if not a rebuild, and this is a decent return. Getting a bit more for Cole could help, and Gustavsson’s development will play a significant role in how this move is viewed in hindsight.
The Penguins are going for it, as they have been for some time. Brassard fills a serious need, and while defense is an issue for Pittsburgh, Cole found himself as a healthy scratch and obviously on the way out at times.
This is all about the present for Pittsburgh, and it’s easy to justify such a thought process. Let’s not forget that Sidney Crosby, Kris Letang, and Phil Kessel are 30 while Evgeni Malkin is 31. You never know when the championship window might slam shut.
Since Jan. 5, the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions are 15-3-1, the best record in the NHL in terms of point percentage (.815). Evgeni Malkin (32 points) and Sidney Crosby (30) are Nos. 1 and 2 in scoring. Yeah, you go for it aggressively.
As of Friday Kessel is tied with Crosby, Malkin, McDavid and Giroux, all of whom have 66 points.
Stamkos is third in the league with 67 points, one point back of Gaudreau with 68 points.
All of them are chasing Kucherov’s 76 points.
The scoring title wasn’t the only thing that prompted Kessel to reference the Penguins’ past two Stanley Cup wins. With the team that traded him to Pittsburgh — the Toronto Maple Leafs — in town for a game on Saturday night Kessel was asked if he still gets fired up to face his former team, to which he responded (via @PensInsideScoop): “I don’t really care anymore. It’s my third year and we’ve won twice. It’s in the past.”
Upper Deck released its Series 2 set of hockey cards this week and included is a insert set featuring the Pittsburgh Penguins and their days with the Stanley Cup from this past summer. Among the 12 cards, which includes Sidney Crosby and Mario Lemieux, is a very unique photo for the card of Phil Kessel, two-time Stanley Cup champion.
In August, when it was Kessel’s day, he spent part of it at a golf course with friends and family, which included him posing with hot dogs inside the Cup’s bowl. You might recall a silly and later debunked story from the Toronto Sun in 2015 that said Kessel would grab a daily dog from a certain vendor near his condo in the city. It even inspired a tattoo!
Clearly, Phil got wind of the story and decided to dunk on Steve Simmons, to the delight of many.
Kolzig told the Washington Post in 1996 that he never did eat that hot dog and the idea came about when he asked card photographers what’s the weirdest hockey card they ever made. Then “the guy handed me a hot dog with my name written in mustard on it.”
We relish the thought that this could start a trend in the hobby.
With Jaromir Jagr officially off to the Czech Republic to continue what is left of his professional hockey career it is entirely possible that we have seen the last of him in the NHL.
It would not exactly be a fitting farewell for what is, by pretty much any objection evaluation, one of the most productive careers in the history of the sport. But then again Jagr’s career was always full of sudden changes and moves.
Throughout a career that touched three different decades, Jagr played for nine different NHL teams (Pittsburgh, Washington, New York, Philadelphia, Dallas, Boston, New Jersey, Florida, and Calgary) and also took a three-year hiatus to play in Russia.
He won scoring titles, an MVP award, two Stanley Cups, an Olympic gold medal and ended up in the top-three for games played, goals and total points in league history.
He had his moments for pretty much every team he played for, but his time with the Penguins, the team that drafted him in the first-round of the 1990 NHL draft (No. 5 overall) is what his career will probably end up being defined by. He was at his most dominant with the Penguins, he won his two Stanley Cups with the Penguins, and along with Mario Lemieux helped form one of the most dominant duos the league has ever seen.
Having been born in Pittsburgh and still living there to this day, my boss here at PHT, Sean Leahy, asked me if I had any particular memories from Jagr’s time with the Penguins that were worth sharing after watching him for so many years.
Most people from Pittsburgh that watched Jagr up close might look at one of the Stanley Cup Final runs and one of the many huge goals he scored on the way to a championship — such as his overtime goal against New Jersey in 1991, or the incredible individual effort against Chicago in 1992 to complete the Penguins’ epic Game 1 comeback. Or perhaps just marveling at the numbers he put up during the NHL’s dead-puck era.
But the moment that always stood out to me was his performance in the first-round of the 1999 playoffs against the New Jersey Devils, specifically his effort in Game 6 of that series.
The late 90s Penguins were a bizarre team to look back on.
Lemieux had retired for the first time, Ron Francis had left as a free agent, and Jagr was the focal point of a team that, other than him, was usually pretty mediocre.
They never really had a top-pairing defenseman, they struggled to find a true No. 1 goalie, and while they had a couple of really good forwards like Alexei Kovalev and Martin Straka, it really wasn’t a team that was built to win — or even seriously compete for — a Stanley Cup.
But because Jagr was so dominant and so game-changing that they always at least had a chance to make the playoffs.
The 1998-99 season was a particularly challenging one for the Penguins off the ice because the team was going through bankruptcy proceedings with Lemieux working on his plan to ultimately rescue it.
There was serious talk that the team might actually be dissolved if Lemieux’s plan failed.
Not relocated. Dissolved.
The Penguins still managed to make the playoffs that year as the No. 8 seed and ended up with a first-round matchup against the top-seeded Devils. They were heavy underdogs, not only because of the fact the Devils simply had a better team, but also because Jagr was dealing with a severe groin injury that sidelined him for four of the first five games of the series.
He was able to return to the lineup for Game 6 with the Penguins facing elimination.
Even though he was clearly not 100 percent, he not only played the game on what was basically one leg, he played 29 of the 68 minutes in the Penguins’ 3-2 overtime win.
And he was by far the best player on the ice, turning in one of the most single dominant performances of his NHL career. He tied the game with just over two minutes to play in regulation, then won it in overtime to force a Game 7 in New Jersey two nights later (the Penguins, led by Jagr, won that game as well to advance to the second round).
But it wasn’t just the two goals that stood out. It was simply the way he played. Take a look at the highlights from that game. New Jersey never had an answer for him.
Given the context of everything around that day — the financial state of the team and its uncertain future, the fact the Penguins were expected to lose, Jagr playing through a major injury and dominating — it was just a mind-blowing performance.
“I remember that like it happened yesterday,” Jagr said. “I pulled my groin in the first game. We were losing 3-2 in the series and if we would lose the first round I think the team would move to Kansas City because they had no money. We had to make the second round to get the (money) for the payments.
Jagr continued: “I came back and I tied it with a minute-and-a-half to go and then I scored in overtime. That was probably my best game ever, I would say. My most important for sure. I’ll probably never score a goal that important.
“Probably if I hadn’t scored that goal the team wouldn’t be in Pittsburgh right now. (Sidney) Crosby would be in Kansas City.”
The Penguins ended up losing in the second-round to the Toronto Maple Leafs, but there was no denying how important it was in a financial sense for the team to get to the second-round that season.
Lemieux ultimately ended up rescuing the team from bankruptcy and ended up returning to the ice for another run with Jagr.
After the 2001 season Jagr’s Penguins career to an end with the trade that sent him to the Capitals for Kris Beech, Michal Sivek, and Ross Lupaschuk, marking the beginning of the second half of his career that saw him bounce around the NHL every couple of years.
Including playoffs, Jagr scored 844 goals in the NHL, with 504 of them coming as a member of the Penguins.
Given what it meant for the long-term viability of the franchise, there is an argument to be made that none were bigger than the two goals he scored in the spring of 1999, even if they did not result in a Stanley Cup that season.