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What does trading for Jared McCann and Nick Bjugstad mean for the Penguins’ Cup contention?

With the Penguins trading for two new players, let’s take a look at what the advanced metrics say about their play.

Pittsburgh Pengiuns v Florida Panthers

This afternoon, the Penguins made a big splash, acquiring Nick Bjugstad and Jared McCann from the Florida Panthers.

Before we get into analysis of the players acquired in the trade, my immediate thoughts on Jim Rutherford’s asset management and approaching this trade:

Without any data whatsoever to back it up, we already know that Derick Brassard was beyond underwhelming for the Penguins. Just what are they acquiring though?

The Penguins are acquiring two very good players! Now, to look a things relatively to their time in Florida:

Bjugstad has struggled this year when in the lineup, and has been below average in terms of production. McCann has been a perfectly average forward in terms of even strength points, ice time, and points production. One would have to think that being put with above average teammates in Pittsburgh would only help both of their cases.

Both Bjugstad and McCann have been on-ice for a negative expected goal differentials, but that doesn’t seem to be anything too egregious, as most of Florida’s forwards are in the same boat.

McCann shoots from an incredibly far out distance compared to average — almost 10 feet further than average for all forwards. He has scored a few more goals than the data expects him to, but where he needs to make hay is in front of the net. Time for some lessons with one Patric Hornqvist.

Bjugstad’s shooting distance is nowhere near as far out as McCann’s and his xG data lines up fairly closely with his actual data. The key for Bjugstad is to stay healthy and to keep putting pucks on net.

The Penguins acquisitions of these players, while moving out Derick Brassard and Riley Sheahan, in my opinion, increases Pittsburgh’s chances of contending for a Stanley Cup in 2019 and moving forward. Center depth for the Penguins down the middle being Crosby-Malkin-Bjugstad-McCann is closer to replicating what led to success in 2016 and 2017 than what was currently being deployed. While I don’t shame Rutherford for trying to replicate such success with Derick Brassard and Riley Sheahan, it just didn’t work out, and there is nothing wrong with moving on from something that was never going to work.

All in all, the Penguins asset management here was spot on, flipping an underperforming and expiring contract with some lottery tickets for proven talent that can thrive in a better system. Jim Rutherford’s fastball still has the heat.