The Penguins traded for defenseman Jamie Oleksiak yesterday, and Jim Rutherford was really positive about his assessment of the young blueliner. (As you would probably expect, or else why trade for him?) Anyways check out the beaming tone as told to Josh Yohe of The Athletic
We already did like this guy. We've been watching him for one, two years. We think he's a good player now and we think he has the potential to get much better.
We really do like this guy. He's had ups and downs in his career, but we've been watching him. We like his hockey sense. We think he moves the puck very well. We feel like Sergei Gonchar has a good handle on him and he's going to work very closely with him. This is a big body. He's got a very, very long reach. There's a lot of things to like about him. For all intents and purposes, he's still a young guy. We feel he's got a ton of upside.
Hopefully in two weeks, Justin Schultz will be healthy and back in the lineup. Then, we'll have more options. It may give me more options moving forward.
We'll see about more trades. We have enough good players to get back on track. As always, we'll see how it goes. The nice thing about this is that having Jamie gives us another NHL defenseman.
At the top of those options have to include moving on from Ian Cole. Cole has been in the trade rumors and is clearly not a favorite of coach Mike Sullivan. In fact, based on practice lines today, it appears Cole will be a scratch tomorrow night against Columbus with Oleksiak getting into the lineup for his Penguins debut.
Cole looks like the odd-man out on D— Jonathan Bombulie (@BombulieTrib) December 20, 2017
Keep in mind Rutherford’s note of Justin Schultz’s possible return in about two weeks. If/when that happens and no other blueliners are injured, it sure makes a trade of a defenseman out for a forward in really possible for Pittsburgh to do. It’s a short audition for Oleksiak, but even if he struggles he could be relegated back to the #7 position on the team when a healthy Schultz is back.
It’s also interesting that Rutherford’s scouting report on Oleksiak differs dramatically from some observers of the Stars, including the line about good hockey sense, which conflicts with many reports on Oleksiak. The Penguins fancy themselves able to turn around the careers of defensemen, and position coach Gonchar was actually a teammate of Oleksiak in Dallas over parts of 2 seasons from 2013 and 14, so there will be some familiarity and a rapport there which could benefit both sides.
The two trades the Penguins made yesterday were of the minor variety, but their impact could be as setup moves for the future. If Oleksiak can show progress and promise, it’s almost certainly going to clear the path for Rutherford to trade a defenseman.