Penguins trade pick No. 31 and Oskar Sundqvist to St. Louis for Ryan Reaves and pick No. 51 (second round).— Jason Mackey (@JMackeyPG) June 24, 2017
Welp. There goes the neighborhood.
I thought Oskar Sundqvist made some much-needed offensive strides this past season in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. He improved from 5-12-17 in 45 games during 2015-16 to 20-26-46 in 65 games during 2016-17, highlighted by a stellar four-goal game against Hershey on December 10. He only recorded one assist during WBS’s five-game elimination to Providence, but for my money, that was some welcome offensive improvement for an already-solid defensive center prospect.
And now, he’s gone.
Not just gone...gone along with Pittsburgh’s first-round pick in this year’s draft (remember the name Klim Kostin) for a second round pick this year and Ryan Reaves.
Ryan Reaves. He of 27 goals, 24 assists, and 695 career penalty minutes over a 419-game NHL career, all spent with the St. Louis Blues to this point.
Maybe there’s more to this, as head coach Mike Sullivan and general manager Jim Rutherford alluded to in post-round-1 comments...
Sullivan: "We think there’s more to his game and if we can put him with the right people, we think we can really help him grow his game"— Sam Werner (@SWernerPG) June 24, 2017
Rutherford: “We’re getting a little bit tired of getting beat up game after game.”— Sam Werner (@SWernerPG) June 24, 2017
That second quote in particular is a continuation of comments made by Rutherford to the Hockey News before the most recent Stanley Cup Final commenced...
“I hear year after year how the league and everyone loves how the Penguins play,” said Penguins GM Jim Rutherford. “ ‘They play pure hockey and they skate.’ Well, now it’s going to have to change and I feel bad about it, but it’s the only way we can do it. We’re going to have to get one or two guys…and some of these games that should be just good hockey games will turn into a sh—show. We’ll go right back to where we were in the ’70s and it’s really a shame.”
“The league has got to fix it,” Rutherford said. “In other leagues, they protect star players. In basketball, they don’t let their top players get abused. And in our league, well the thing I keep hearing is, ‘That’s hockey. That’s hockey,’ No, it’s not.”
Read that again.
“The league has got to fix it.”
Let that echo around in your heads for a bit. The league DOES have a problem on its hands, where superstar players are brought back to the pack of the rest of the league through “liberties”, and the truly elite can’t excel as they are fully capable of excelling.
However, the league does not fix it. Nor do I believe the league even thinks it’s a problem.
So, rather than wait around for the league to fix its star treatment problem, the Penguins shipped out a promising center prospect and dropped 20 draft picks for a highly respected, physical winger out of St. Louis.
I understand it.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean I have to like it.
And make no mistake...95% of the fans on my Twitter timeline were downright outraged at this. Maybe you are too.
Maybe we’ll get to camp, and the Sullivan Whisperer can coach and train Reaves into something more than what he has shown to be thus far in his career. Maybe not, and this will turn into a one-year experiment that doesn’t go any further (per CapFriendly, Reaves has one year left on his contract for $1.125M).
Or maybe, just maybe, this leads to opposing players like Tom Wilson and Brandon Dubinsky starting to lay off the best players in the world and their talented young wingers, and the Penguins make a huge run at a third straight Cup that turns their success into a dynasty.
One thing’s for sure: There’s at least one coach who likes this.
:)— Rick Tocchet (@RealRocket22) June 24, 2017