First of all, great to see Seth Rorabaugh writing again for the Trib. He had a great interview recently with Penguins’ general manager Jim Rutherford about what might happen based on the NHL trading deadline.
In acquiring forward Jason Zucker from the Minnesota Wild on Feb. 11, the Penguins could defer the 2020 first-round draft pick they sent to the Wild to 2021 if they were to miss the 2020 playoffs per parameters of the transaction. The Penguins control the option on that trade, and it expires on June 1.
Additionally, their acquisition of forward Patrick Marleau on Feb. 24 from the San Jose Sharks sent a conditional third-round pick in 2021 to Sharks that could be upgraded to a second-rounder if the Penguins win the Stanley Cup this season.
There are several other conditional transactions around the league that could be affected by how the NHL concludes (or doesn’t conclude) the season. It has not been determined how the league will determine a course of action with those conditions.
Rutherford seems to be primarily concerned with the pick that went to San Jose.
“They’re different kinds of trades,” Rutherford said. “The Minnesota trade is a player that we have in his prime that we have another three years left. It wasn’t a rental.
“The San Jose trade was a rental and a draft pick. That point has been raised to the league as to what is the fairness of that, when you get a rental player to take a run in the playoffs, and you only get the player for a couple of handful of games. That has been raised with the league.”
The last part and comment is perhaps the most interesting. Rutherford, or another general manager or governor has brought rental trades to the league’s attention. Given how many teams this could effect, surely the league is going to have to weigh options and make a ruling.
Ultimately though, I’d bet the Pens are S.O.L. on items like the Marleau trade where they got a player on an expiring contract for a draft pick. Yeah, it sucks that a pandemic has altered the season. But if Marleau was playing with the Pens on his first game and blew out his knee or something like that, Pittsburgh couldn’t petition the league to then reverse the trade they made.
Acquiring a rental player inherently comes with some risk involved. Obviously no one would have ever expected a global health crisis to come into play, but welcome to life in 2020.
It’ll be interesting to see if the league has a different take on it. Pittsburgh wouldn’t be the only team involved here; Vegas gave up a 2020 second rounder for goalie Robin Lehner, Erik Gustaffson went to Calgary for a third rounder, as did Ilya Kovalchuk to Washington for a third. Several other teams traded fourth or fifth round picks for lesser rentals like Mike Green, Cody Eakin and Nick Cousins.
Also based on Rutherford’s comments here, one would think the Pens would be fine with kicking the 2020 first round pick to Minnesota, or at least knowing that eventually that will happen.
The bigger question might be if some of the “buyers” at the deadline like Vegas, Washington, Calgary and Pittsburgh could convince the NHL that if the season can’t resume, they deserve some sort of action to help protect the trades they made. Whether or not anything comes of that (and I remain dubious the league will or should actually do it), remains to be seen.
But, ya never know until you ask. And though the league has a million other more important items and decisions to make moving forward, this has at least been brought up on their radar. So I guess we’ll see if they might decide to somehow find a way to compensate the buyers if their rental deals end up getting spoiled by a force majeure.