After weeks and months of speculation, GM Jim Rutherford finally pulled the trigger on moving Derick Brassard (and Riley Sheahan) for some forward help in Nick Bjugstad and Jared McCann.
Quite simply, the Brassard Experiment just didn’t work, despite every sign pointing to it being the fix they needed at 3C. He heads to Florida now, where he’ll slot in behind Sasha Barkov and Vinny Trocheck and back into a 3C role.
With Bjugstad, the Pens bring in the 19th overall pick in 2010, a 26 year old, 6’6″ behemoth, coming off a career high 49 points in 2017-18. He’s having a bit of a down year with just 5G-7A in 32 games, but can play any position in the top 9 and is on a reasonable $4.1M AAV contract through 2020-21.
Despite Bjugstad’s down year, he’s still out-performing Brassard in almost every measurable category, while lining up pretty similarly over the last 3 seasons (when Brassard was playing some of his best hockey). Bjugstad, too, is used to playing some tougher minutes against better opposition, so it’ll be a welcomed sight.
Meanwhile, the other two pieces of the deal certainly tip the scales in the Pens favor as far as personnel goes. McCann is just 22, signed through 2019-20 at an AAV of $1.25M, meaning the Pens are only taking on 250K in money this season and getting younger in exchange for 2 guys that are older and pending UFAs. McCann himself is in the midst of his best year to date, having notched 8G-10A in 46 games. The 2014 24th overall pick’s previous high came last season when he registered 9G-19A in 68 games.
Again, we see enough red to be moderately concerned, but by the same token, he’ll prove to be an upgrade over Sheahan as we can see from their 3 year averages. Via Elite Prospects:
A highly intelligent finesse player who fits the mould of the traditional two-way center. An excellent skater who displays consistent agility. Tremendous release on his shot, but can get caught thinking instead of doing. Transition game is elite, and his quickness at switching from defence to offence is so abrupt that it catches a lot of players off-guard. The work ethic, talent, and hockey sense is all there, but the biggest thing is that McCann needs to be more confident in his abilities. When he is on his game he can be dominant, and when he is offensively and defensively assertive, he is near impossible to stop. As he continues to grow into more prominent roles, he will develop more upward-trending habits and become more consistent. His potential is that of an elite offensive forward who can make an impact on the game at both ends of the ice.
It’ll be interesting to see what HCMS does from here as far as lineup decisions. Bjugstad played a decent amount on the wing this season until Trocheck got injured, so feasibly, we could be looking at something like this when everyone is healthy:
No matter which way you cut it, the Penguins got better today and that, dear friends, is a step in the right direction.