It was no secret that the Pittsburgh Penguins were looking to trade Derick Brassard, the center that general manager Jim Rutherford traded for last trade deadline.
A proven second-line center throughout his career, for whatever reasons, things just didn’t work out with the Penguins, and in their hunt for another Stanley Cup championship, they made another move to try and improve their roster.
The Penguins and Florida Panthers came into an agreement on a trade Friday afternoon that sent Brassard to the Sunshine state (at least for the meantime), along with Riley Sheahan and three picks in exchange for centers Nick Bjugstad and Jared McCann.
Panthers add deadline bait
It’s no secret that the Panthers are in the middle of a semi-rebuilding phase. Even with the underrated Aleksander Barkov, the talent in Florida isn’t enough to compete yet with the best in the East.
It also has been no secret to the fact that Florida may be one of the biggest players this offseason for pending unrestricted free agent Artemi Panarin.
Adding Brassard and Sheahan do nothing for either of those things, however. They can be used as trade chips in future trades, as contending teams would love to get their hands on a player with Brassard’s pedigree.
Sheahan is still 26, and two years after he scored just two goals (both on the last game of the season) is on pace to reach double digits in back-to-back seasons now. He could fill in nicely for a team looking for a fourth-line center.
The big win for the Panthers was being able to clear cap space for them to make a run at Panarin or even Sergei Bobrovsky. Bjugstad had $4.1 million tied up against the salary cap the next two seasons, with McCann tying up a little more reasonable $1.25 million next year.
That’s over $5 million cleared out while also adding at least three draft picks (plus whatever is received in any following trades involving Brassard and Sheahan).
Penguins add depth, contract term
Neither Sheahan or Brassard were going to be with the Penguins next year, even before you factor in their struggles on the ice.
They are both free agents come July 1 and would be quickly outbid for both once they hit the open market.
Pittsburgh gave up a lot to get Brassard and it just didn’t work out. He registered 23 points (12 G, 11 A) in 54 regular season games while with the Penguins.
When Brassard was acquired by the Penguins, they were hoping that he would solidify the team’s depth down the middle, which they will look to do once again with Bjugstad and McCann.
Bjugstad, 26, is in the midst of a tough season, with just 12 points in 32 games but just a year ago registered a career-high output (49 points in 82 games). The former Golden Gopher has played both winger and center in the NHL, giving Mike Sullivan options in how he can deploy him.
He scored 24 goals in 72 games during the 2014/15 season and was the team’s leading scorer the year prior.
McCann will be the biggest wildcard of the trade. He has struggled to find the playing time to live up to his billing as a first round pick but the last two seasons has started to find a place on the Panthers’ bottom-six.
The goal he scores will tie his career high of eight, and is ten points away from his best total point output - both of which were last season.
For a team that has struggled to get scoring from their bottom-six, Bjugstad and McCann certainly have the potential to be answered in that regard.
The best part of the trade, potentially, is that both are under contract for beyond this season on team friendly deals - depending on how they perform.
Bjugstad has two more years before becoming a UFA, and McCann will be an RFA next offseason.
Rutherford said he was going looking to find his third-line center replacement by trading Brassard. Not only did he get that, but he also got another fourth-line center, versatility with Bjugstad, younger, and maybe more importantly, they are more than just rentals.
For the Panthers, don’t expect Brassard is on the roster for long, or if he doesn’t play a game at all for them. Brassard will continue to be a hot commodity for contending teams, so expect the Panthers to field plenty of phone calls on their new acquisition.
What do you think of the trade for both sides? Will Bjugstad and McCann be the depth the Penguins need? What can the Panthers get in return by flipping Brassard and Sheahan? Let us know in the comment section below!