OK, let's get this out of the way: I'm not a fan that the Pittsburgh Penguins traded out of the first round when Conor Timmons and Nicolas Hague (among others) were still on the board. The Pens rarely have the chance for talent like that and they elected to pass it up, that's a blow for the future.
However let's take a look at what Friday's trade really did: the Pens dropped down 20 spots from 31st overall in the draft to 51st overall. That's a hit. But, given how different teams rate different players in that range, it's not unfathomable of a step down in many regards.. (Even if, for fans who follow potential first round prospects like Timmons and Hague, that's understandably tough to rectify). But it's still valid, the Pens dropped 20 spots, just a fact and a price that the elected to pay.
And for what? Well, the most impactful (literally and figuratively) piece of the trade is Pittsburgh gets Ryan Reaves. A surefire 4th liner for next year at a 4th liner rate of $1.125 million that at least makes sense. They didn't grab an overpriced guy.
Is there any upside? Well, not if you already proclaimed this the worst thing to happen...But keep an open mind and look at what Reaves adds to the mix that Pittsburgh doesn't have.
I like the Reaves a lot. Tough as hell yes but he's a beast on the forecheck. He will be a presence. He can really move and can chip in.— Colby Armstrong (@armdog) June 24, 2017
And look at these quotes from coach Mike Sullivan:
"Ryan is a guy that, when he's in your lineup, people take notice. One of the tactics that teams deploy against us is they try to be physical, they try to bang us, slow us down.
"I think Ryan can help us with a little bit of pushback in that regard."
"He's a guy that brings a physical dimension to our team, which is something that I think can help us moving forward," Sullivan said. "He's good on the forecheck. He's a sound two-way player that we can put on the ice."
Maybe you believe this is spin from a coach. Maybe you believe it's an appeal to authority to take his word for it and think that you think you know more facts about running an NHL team than Mike Sullivan, which, hey maybe you do. (I'm guessing not though, in this instance).
I don't think it was a great idea to trade out of the first round. I would rather have a puck moving defenseman prospect, if it were up to me. But, the die has been cast and like it or not there is value in a guy like Reaves . He's a player who did score 7 goals and 13 points last season, which would put him well above some Penguins 4th liners of the recent past.
Add in some forechecking, physicality and willingness to stand up for the boys and I don't see how anyone could be mad. The Pens might just lose Chris Kunitz to free agency this summer. Other than Patric Hornqvist they have about 0 physical forwards. Reaves brings an element that's needed for the long haul of a season. I could buy that doesn't add a lot of meaningful attributes to winning games, but at the same time I don't believe it should be totally dismissed either.
Granted, Reaves will not stop anyone from taking a run at a star player, but I do believe that it will be better for the Penguins to have a "big brother" to stand up for them and answer the bell, rather than continually turn the other cheek and keep getting shot at...
..Remember it was only a few months ago when Winnipeg kept running Pens that eventually Evgeni Malkin took matters into his own hands, which ended up resulting in him throwing a bad hit on a player...Then having to drop the gloves and fight to "live up to the code" his next time out, because no one else could or would. That will be different now.
And while there's no guarantee Ryan Reaves stops a situation from escalating. and he certainly won't prevent or deter anything, but when you go into an 82 game season, as back-to-back champs, with star players like Malkin and Sidney Crosby who tend to get under people's skin....Well, if you don't want them to have some backup, that's pretty easy to say from behind a keyboard when you're not suffering the unchecked abuse.
Oskar Sundqvist seemed like a great prospect with his size and reach (and, laughably the PIttsburgh paywall site was preaching for months that the Pens would protect him in the expansion draft, which your money would have been not well spent since they didn't)....Anyways, Sundqvist is what he is; young and with potential to be a rangy 4C with a RH shot, but certainly doesn't look like any kind of difference maker to this point at the NHL level.
Which means this trade was about moving down 20 spots to pick up one mean man. It's easy to criticize but after seeing Pens players get run over, beat up and have no response....It's tough to blame Pittsburgh for adding a missing element.
You don't (and shouldn't) have to be pleased at paying a high price for it, and perhaps it was too much and will be an ill-founded move. But when you go into the season, it's a good idea to have a big brother there that's willing and able to stand up for you. The Penguins got that at the draft. We'll see if it proves to be a big help or not.
One other thing: The reaction on Twitter right now and the reaction at PPG when Reaves fights Tom Wilson will be very different— Jonathan Bombulie (@BombulieTrib) June 24, 2017
And, it's true he did beat up Tom Wilson which is always is a plus:
Which, I mean, let's not get it twisted and make this clear - trading down 20 spots in the draft (especially when it's from the late 1st to 2nd) to get Ryan Reaves seems very excessive. If you want to say that's not wise, I would agree with you.
But, all I'm saying is - think about the 2017-18 Penguins. They are a team built on skill. They are generally a smaller and non-physcial team (especially with Kunitz's status currently unknown). The Pens are a team that's been pushed around, and have star players who take abuse, more abuse than they should.
Let's hold no allusions, Ryan Reaves isn't going to stop Brandon Dubinsky or Cal Clutterbuck or Tom Wilson or anyone else from being the dirtbags that they are....But when those guy do what they do, if you ask any hockey player, you want a guy like Ryan Reaves on your side to at least settle the score rather than let it go unchecked and encourage further shots.
Call it barbaric, call it unnecessary, call it what you will. You won't be wrong. But the NHL is still a violent, physical sport. A team doesn't need 12 skill forwards to be successful. But you just might need one tough customer to help you along. The Penguins probably did pay too heavy a price and in a few years this might look bad -- especially if a prospect like Timmons or Hague that they could have drafted at #31 turns into a stud. But in this current window the Penguins do need a fearless type of muscle to have their back. And they acquired it at the draft.
All in all, I'd rather have the Penguins carry on and build with skill. But I certainly can understand and see why they added a forward who's legitimately an NHL player that is also ready, willing and able to stand up for his teammates.