Unless you were captured for the last 24 hours by the UFOs that don’t officially exist, you noticed that your Pittsburgh Penguins made two trades in less than an hour yesterday afternoon.
- RW Josh Archibald, G Sean Maguire, 2019 6th round pick to Arizona for G Michael Leighton, 2019 4th round pick (originally Minnesota’s)
- 2019 4th round pick to Dallas for D Jamie Oleksiak
- Dallas will receive the higher of the two picks the Penguins now possess in the 4th round
Sadly, coming off another loss to lowly Colorado Monday night and since Pittsburgh now has the worst points percentage in the division, the disgruntlement, sarcasm and overreactions boiled over.
The general Twitter consensus seemed to be:
- GM Jim Rutherford is senile and just brought in a useless, large, slow sack of feces for the blue line
- He promised a big shake-up but the trades do dick-all to improve third-line center position
- Penguins aren’t making the playoffs
It’s as if people, in their zeal to gnash their teeth and scoff at everything, forgot that these are only preliminary trades and there are still 47 games on the schedule to get back into playoff position. As Pensblog G-Off noted in the Recap, things could turn quickly with a few wins against Metropolitan rivals in the next two weeks. Also, this isn’t anything new from Rutherford, striking at his traditional pre-Christmas to after-New Year’s early trade window. He brought in Riley Sheahan (with mixed results) and in seasons past, traded early for David Perron, Trevor Daley, Max Lapierre and Carl Hagelin as a test-drive.
It gives him and the coaching staff another two months before the trade deadline to see if they have acquired the right personnel. If not, there will definitely be more moves.
ARCHIBALD <-> LEIGHTON
When I saw that Leighton had been acquired, I (stupidly) assumed Tristan Jarry would head back to the AHL for regular playing time. That’s because I’m (possibly) a cokehead living in 2010 when Leighton led that fluky run to the Cup with the Flyers. Thankfully, fellow Pensblog writers quickly reminded me that Leighton (zero NHL games this season) is staying in the minors; indeed Jarry has done nothing to deserve a demotion.
As for Archibald, he clearly was never going to get a true opportunity in Pittsburgh. Over three seasons, he played a grand total of 135 minutes in 14 games. This season, he was healthy scratched for the first 13 games of the season, played one game, sat for eight more, played one game, then sat eleven more before his swan song Monday in Denver which, ironically, may have been one of his best games in the NHL.
Of course, the main reason for his lack of game action was because Player #75 continues to inexplicably have his name permanently etched into the lineup. Player #75 has appeared in every game this season contributing next to nothing, barely clearing 6 1/2 minutes per night. What an inefficient waste of salary resources and a roster spot.
Penny Oleksiak is the best athlete in the Oleksiak family. There is no argument.
— 640 Toronto (@am640) December 13, 2016
However, for the Pens, bringing in the second-best Oleksiak is as low-risk as it gets given the 1-year contract and the mid-round draft pick acquisition cost. (The net increase to the team from his remaining cap hit and Archibald’s is less than $170,000). At full health, the Penguins now have eight NHL defensemen. Obviously, one or more blueliners will be moved when Justin Schultz returns.
Simply put, Oleksiak, who turns 25 tomorrow, is a reclamation project and he twice used the word “develop” as in he hoped that the perception the Penguins have a history of refining young players will also help him. In Dallas, he was often healthy-scratched, passed by young Julius Honka, and was clinging to a top six spot only until Marc Methot returns from injury. Despite balanced zone starts, Oleksiak had the worst relative CF% and xGF% of any Stars’ D by a considerable margin this season and pretty abysmal on-ice scoring chance ratios. Clearly the Penguins aren’t expecting Paul Coffey.
Here is a non-biased, non-Pittsburgh analyst’s impression of Oleksiak’s skills:
Ok, for real Pens fans, here's my honest take on Jamie Oleksiak.
Surprisingly good shot
Decent skater for such a big dude, which catches opponents off guard.
Does not *think* the game at the NHL level
Often makes the hit, not the play
— Carolyn Wilke (@Classlicity) December 19, 2017
Many have compared Oleksiak’s potential resurrection to Schultz, specifically how Pittsburgh turned Schultz into the confident, offensive defenseman he was always expected to be in Edmonton. However, while Schultz, like Oleksiak, also had poor stats pre-Pittsburgh, the two players aren’t similar at all.
If Oleksiak can use his huge size to hit opponents and to clear bodies away from the crease, reducing traffic and screens in front of Murray, then that wouldn’t be the worst skill set to add to this team. In other words, Hal Gill or Doug Murray. That’s the type of physical presence the Penguins actually need – not the meaningless type of mythical “physicality” that certain other players on the roster supposedly bring.