The NHL trade deadline day is one of the most exciting days of the season on the hockey calendar. Teams are gearing up for the playoffs if they think they can make a run, or they are shedding off veteran players and loading up with younger assets if they need to shift gears and look further into the future.
Trade deadline moves can fortify teams and add the needed extra ingredients to go on long playoff runs. The Pittsburgh Penguins have been the NHL’s best and most successful team in the salary cap era, and they’ve had to navigate dealing with the cap and the motives of other teams along the way.
Here are some of the best deadline days for the Pens’:
Sometimes to be good, you gotta be bad. The Pens’ tank was on, and here they traded 27-year old Randy Carlyle, who had won the Norris trophy in 1981 for a future first round pick. They ended up with the 9th overall pick and used it on Bodger, who went on for a 1,071 game NHL career. (Sadly though, Gary Roberts was picked 12th overall. Just imagine Scary Gary and Mario Lemieux together in the late ‘80s and early 90’s!)
Throw-in Moe Mantha had three 40+ point seasons for Pittsburgh from 1984-86, which out-scored Carlyle alone in that short stretch, so that worked out pretty well too for the Pens.
But the Pens’ primary goal was making sure they were in a position to get Lemieux. They needed to get bad and deal away a good NHL player like Carlyle for future assets to ensure Pittsburgh would bottom out in 1983-84 and have the first overall pick to use on Mario. All’s well that ends well!
—Penguins acquired Ron Francis, Grant Jennings and Ulf Samuelsson from Hartford for John Cullen, Jeff Parker and Zarley Zalapski
Technically the day before the deadline, but this one still counts. It’s one of the most legendary trades in franchise history. Eddie Johnston, formerly the Pens’ GM, made a deal with a team he knew well. It’s seen as lopsided all these years later, but Johnston’s hands were tied: new Hartford ownership had stripped Francis of his captaincy and ordered Johnston to trade Francis. Samuelsson’s agent threatened that Ulf would go back and play in Sweden. Johnston just had to do what he could. Cullen did have 94 points in 65 games that season with Pittsburgh, he was a really good player — and the type of teammate like Ryan Malone and Colby Armstrong that the Pens’ players who won the Cup were sad those type of “good guys” weren’t still around.
Still, a day of dreams for the Pens to acquire a hall of fame caliber player and person like Francis.
—Penguins acquired Marian Hossa and Pascal Dupuis from Atlanta for Colby Armstrong, Erik Christensen, Angelo Esposito and Pittsburgh’s 1st-round pick in 2008 draft
This was such a game changer, and a bold move that put the Penguins on the map, and really elevated to being serious championship level contenders that they’ve more or less remained at for the last 12 years.
The Pens give up their first round pick the year before plus a first rounder in that year, and two under-25 NHL caliber decent/nice players for Hossa and Dupuis. This move also made them an upper limit cap team, even in the Mellon Arena days, sending a clear message that Pittsburgh wanted to make a great team with 20-year old Crosby and 21-year old Malkin.
The throw-in of Dupuis (mainly to balance out contracts and because Atlanta didn’t want to pay his modest salary) ended up being a really great piece of serendipity too, being as his influence was felt a lot longer than Hossa’s in Pittsburgh.
—Penguins acquired Bill Guerin from NYI for a conditional third round pick (ended up traded to Phoenix and being goalie Mike Lee).
For a throwaway mid-round draft pick that turned into nothing of NHL value (as most mid-round NHL draft picks do) the Penguins added a first line winger with a ton of experience. Do the Pens even win the 2009 Stanley Cup without Guerin’s two goal game (including a OT GWG in Game 2) vs Philly? Or without his six points in the seven game series against Washington? It’s worth thinking about. Perfect deadline deal to add a very key piece to a championship puzzle for virtually nothing.
—Penguins acquired Ben Lovejoy from Anaheim for Simon Despres
—Penguins acquired Ian Cole from St. Louis for Robert Bortuzzo and a 2016 seventh round pick (Filip Helt)
This one planted some seeds for the following 2016 playoff run with Cole and Lovejoy acquired in 2015 that would eventually pay off for the following playoff season. A lot of attention is paid to Jim Rutherford’s trades and signings from summer 2015 to Feb 2016 that brought Phil Kessel, Nick Bonino, Carl Hagelin, Matt Cullen, Trevor Daley and Justin Schultz to Pittsburgh, and rightfully so. But Rutherford’s sculpting of the 2016 championship team began earlier, being as Lovejoy was the #4D on that team and Cole was a #6D growing into something better as years would go by.
Despres and Bortuzzo were not slouches in their own right, but after the dust settled these moves ended up having a positive ending, eventually, for the Pens.