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Riley Redemption: a chance for the Penguins to turn another career around

The Penguins bought low on Riley Sheahan, and he’ll have an opportunity to turn his career around in a major way

NHL: Detroit Red Wings at Pittsburgh Penguins Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Penguins accomplished a couple of goals Saturday when they traded winger Scott Wilson and a 3rd round pick to Detroit in exchange for center Riley Sheahan and a 5th round pick. They added a much needed veteran NHL caliber center, but perhaps more importantly in the bigger picture, they bought low on a player who may be able to blossom into something more.

"He's dropped off the one year, but there's a good sample size there," general manager Jim Rutherford said. "He's still a young guy, he really should be coming into his prime. So he should be able to do it. He can play with good players here in the position he is going to play.

"I know he's a real good guy, he's a real good pro. I know he can strengthen our center-ice position. What his production is going to be, I can't predict that."

The move to acquire Sheahan is reminiscent of the additions made in-season for Carl Hagelin and Justin Schultz. These players were identified as good players in situations that didn’t quite fit, and the change of scenery helped them, and Pittsburgh as key pieces of multiple Stanley Cup seasons.

As Rutherford said, Sheahan’s production will be impossible to peg, but take a look at his season stats:

Since 2015-16, Sheahan has been coached by Jeff Blashill. In those 169 games he had just a total of 16 goals and 22 assists, which breaks out to an 82-game average of 8 goals and 11 assists.

In Sheahan’s first few seasons he was coached by Mike Babcock. Add up the last two years he was an NHL regular and he produced 22 goals and 38 assists in 121 games, or a pace of 15 goals and 26 assists in 82 games.

If Sheahan can be more like Babcock than Blashill in Pittsburgh, which at age-25 there’s every reason to expect he should have a great chance, then suddenly buying low on him makes a lot of sense and solves the age old problem to replace Nick Bonino as the Pens 3rd line center. Is it as simple as that? Perhaps not, but it does illustrate that the young player has had a successful resume and some good seasons in the right situation.

"Players that have come to Pittsburgh are excited about playing in Pittsburgh," Rutherford said. "So that starts it, and our coaching staff is very good at working with these guys. And as long as guys want to work close with the coaching staff and listen to them and buy into what we're doing, then they have a chance to improve their game. It's been shown with the number of guys we've brought here. I really believe that's what's going to happen here with him."

Rutherford’s proven to have excellent instincts recently on this type of addition, so we will see if the golden touch will continue with the opportunity that Riley Sheahan just received.