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Scouting Report: Tanner Pearson

Breaking down the game of the newest Pittsburgh Penguin, Tanner Pearson.

NHL: Pittsburgh Penguins at Los Angeles Kings Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The Penguins have made a roster shakeup after losing six of their last seven games, and it was a fairly major one. Not content with the look and feel of his team, general manager Jim Rutherford made it known last week a change would be coming if they didn’t play better. Well, after last night’s 3-2 loss to the New Jersey Devils, it was time for that change.

So farewell, Carl Hagelin, a player who brought a breath of fresh air and speed to Pittsburgh when acquired almost three years ago. He was a key piece of the team’s two Stanley Cup championship runs. But that’s in the past, with Hagelin shipped to Los Angeles in order to acquire forward Tanner Pearson.

Let’s look at Pearson and what to expect:

The first thing to jump out is the immediate past, this 2018-19 season. And, woof, Pearson has been ever less productive than Hagelin, scoring no goals and recording only one assist with the Kings so far this season.

However, it doesn’t take long to look back and see 15 goals and 40 points last season, or 24 goals and 44 points back two years ago in 2016-17. Hagelin (who is four years older) hasn’t scored 15 goals since 2014-15. Hagelin’s never scored 20 in an NHL season.

So, on its surface, it looks like the Pens may have upgraded a bit on skill and certainly made their team a notch younger subbing out a 30-year old winger for a 26-year old.

Here’s The Hockey News’ scouting report on Pearson:

Scouting Report

Assets: Oozes hockey sense, in particular in the offensive zone. Is a good goal-scorer and shoots the puck with aplomb. Can also play responsibly in his own end, when needed.

Flaws: Needs to become more consistent from game to game. Also, he lacks a physical dimension to his game, despite enough size (6-1, 204 pounds) to be a hitting factor.

Career Potential: Solid scoring winger with a little upside.

There have been other observations made as well from around the internet on Pearson.

Jesse also noted that Pearson had the “5th highest short-handed TOI for the Kings over the course of the last two years” which might come in handy since Hagelin has been a key component on the Pittsburgh penalty kill.

Here is a comparison of the two players traded for each other

Fairly similar, what stands out is Pearson is (much) better at scoring goals. Hagelin has a low shooting % but as all Pens fans learned, it’s not likely to change. Not like Hagelin wasn’t scoring because of luck or some regression to even it out, he just isn’t very skilled at scoring goals at the NHL level.

Hagelin was better at assists and some of his Corsi and shot based metrics are stronger. I think you could figure those could be team-based and stand to move a bit in new roles on new squads.

In a cap world, there are always financial considerations to take into account as well, and this LA/PIT trade did have one minor wrinkle.

This move was done no doubt by the Kings’ side of things. Prior to the trade they only had $310k in space under the upper limit of the salary cap and trading for Hagelin ($4.0 million hit) for Pearson ($3.75 million hit) would have evaporated almost all their breathing room.

In the big picture, this is no big deal for Pittsburgh. NHL teams are allowed to retain three salaries at a time. This is the first for the Pens, and likely the last given that they don’t have a ton of space. Hagelin’s contract expires at the end of this season, and with it so too will the Pens’ retention. So other than adding a bit of salary expense to the bottom line, nothing to worry about here.

Per CapFriendly, by the time of the NHL trading deadline, Pittsburgh is still on-track to be able to acquire a player with a $5.3 million salary - though that number can and will fluctuate slightly based on any further call-ups they make or future trades that happen. So for the Pens, it might have been nice to trade a $4 million salary for a $3.75 and gain a bit more breathing room, but they can definitely afford under the cap to keep this a salary-neutral trade.

The Pens will be hoping a trade and leaving his first organization for a new one is a jolt for Pearson

Tanner Pearson isn’t a perfect player, but he’s young and has a pretty solid resume of scoring goals. The Pens need more from left wingers, so it seems they’ve made at least a moderate talent upgrade by dealing out Hagelin and getting Pearson.

Whether or not Pearson can adjust to Pittsburgh’s system and perhaps not play so much on the perimeter (see above tweet) could determine if this is just an “ok, just a shakeup” kind of trade or if the Pens have ended up making a real improvement. There’s no guarantee, but on the surface this looks like a pretty good bet to make from Pittsburgh’s perspective.