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Trending Penguins Players: Knowing when it’s time to move on

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Trading Carl Hagelin was a start. they should not stop there.

NHL: Tampa Bay Lightning at Pittsburgh Penguins Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

This week the Pittsburgh Penguins, obviously in need of some kind of a shake up, parted ways with Carl Hagelin in a trade with the Los Angeles Kings.

When it comes to what you see in the box score it is far from an earth-shattering trade. He had three points even though he spent most of the year in a top-six role skating next to a top-10 player in the league. Not great! But it was still a bit of a shock given what Hagelin had meant to the Penguins over the past three years and how much success he had here.

He was a key figure on back-to-back Stanley Cup winning teams.

He personified what the team was.

He helped make the players around him better by doing a lot of grunt work that often times went unnoticed or was not fully appreciated.

His addition to the roster helped change the roster into what it became.

He was important.

But it wasn’t working anymore, and it was probably time to move on. Time to get a little younger. Time to bring in some fresh blood. Time to try something new.

Given what Hagelin meant to the team and the locker room, seeing a player like him go out the door almost certainly got people’s attention (even if it did not show in the results on Thursday).

It might be time to move on from another player that was a big part of those same Stanley Cup winning teams as the 2018-19 season continues to go in an unexpected direction. We will get to that eventually in this week’s Trending Penguins Players.

First ... just like last week, is there anyone that is playing well?

Sort of!

Who’s Up

Patric Hornqvist I’ve said this before this season, but you have to give Hornqvist credit because you know he is always going to bring everything he has every single night.

Even with all of the losing lately he has continued to do that and has been one of the few players over the past week that has actually made a cameo appearance on the scoresheet.

He scored two goals on Thursday, assisted on another, and has four points over the past three games. He has also continued to play with the same reckless abandon that he always does.

At least you know someone gives a damn when he is on the ice.

Sidney Crosby The captain did not play on Thursday night and may not play for a few more games but prior to that he was carrying the offense with five points in three games. And did you see that pass he made to set up Phil Kessel for that power play goal in New Jersey? Holy hell that was something.

Who’s Down

Once again, it is mostly everyone. But two players really stand out in particular.

Matt Cullen We need to have a very real talk about Matt Cullen because, yikes, this is one reunion that is not working.

At all.

I know he seems to have a lifetime contract with the general manager for some reason, and the head coach is seemingly going to be loyal to the players he has won with in the past, but as I said on Twitter last night his level of play this season, combined with the penalty he took when his team was already down two players for an extended period of time, would get most players on the next day’s waiver wire.

He has three points in 17 games. His possession numbers are not only — by far — the worst on the team, they are among the worst in the entire NHL. He has not made a single, tangible contribution on the ice all season. And in the one situation where you expect a trusted, smart veteran to make smart, trustworthy plays he took the type of penalty that would get a younger player glued to the bench for the rest of the night. Yet he did not miss a shift the rest of the way.

Given the way he played in Minnesota this past season — spoiler: it was not good — and the fact he is one year older into his 40s this should not be a surprise.

He had a fantastic career. He was a key player during a great chapter in Penguins history.

But just like Carl Hagelin sometimes you just have to say thanks for the memories and move in a different direction.

Riley SheahanHis season numbers are ugly. He is still playing around 14 minutes per night, has just two points on the season (only one in his past 15 games), has not scored a goal since the second game of the season, and this past week was actually given good linemates in Phil Kessel and Jake Guentzel.

When is the last time you noticed him in a game?

The third-and fourth-lines might be the single biggest issue on this team right now and players like Sheahan and Cullen at the center of that problem.

Mike Sullivan — Mostly because I just don’t get what he is doing lately. Splitting up the top power play was strange. Elevating Bryan rust to the top line alongside Sidney Crosby so you can jumpstart him, keeping Hagelin on the second line through his lack of offense, while anchoring your two best wingers (Kessel and Guentzel) to Riley Sheahan seemed counterproductive. Playing Cullen, Derek Grant, Zach Aston-Reese, and Garrett Wilson over Daniel Sprong makes it seem like it’s personal (and I say this as someone that is not a particularly big Daniel Sprong fan at this point — he has not stood out at all — but he at least provides the potential for offense which is more than almost all of those other players provide). Splitting up Kris Letang and Brian Dumoulin. It is just all ... strange. Very strange. Not sure I understand the reasonings behind most of it, and it is certainly not producing results. Or even showing the sort of process that could potentially lead to results.