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Status of the Penguins first round pick in 2020 remains unknown

It’s possible, but not certain, that Pittsburgh might keep their first rounder this season

2019 NHL Draft - Round 2-7 Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

A small but important storyline about the NHL’s plan to restart the 2019-20 season involves the Penguins, Wild and a February trade. The trade involved Pittsburgh sending their 2020 first round pick to Minnesota, however their was a condition on the pick. Via CapFriendly:

Conditions: If Pittsburgh misses the 2019-20 playoffs, Pittsburgh has the option to send their 2021 1st round pick instead.

The Tribune Review added another bit of information last month, that apparently written into the trade was a time-sensitive detail:

The Penguins control the option on that trade, and it expires on June 1.

In a normal year, that would be fine, since clearly by June 1st a team knows if they’re in the playoffs or not.

But now, even in the NHL’s new plan, are the Penguins in the playoffs?

Commissioner Gary Bettman has declared the regular season as complete, but the Pens will be in a “play in” situation where as the fifth seed in the east, they will play the 12th seeded Montreal Canadiens in a five game series.

Is that quite the playoffs? They’ve qualified for play beyond the regular season, yet have not advanced (yet) to the actual, normal, typical playoff format.

This is a question still unresolved and seems a matter of interpretation. It’s also unknown if the statistics from the play in round will even count to the playoffs. If not, that seems to be another matter where this stage is somewhere in between regular season and playoffs.

The league will have to rule on this, but it’s really on applicable if Montreal knocks out Pittsburgh. Should the Pens move onto the next round, at that point there’s little doubt that their trade condition will have been satisfied.

Even if the Pens do hold onto that pick, the odds are overwhelming at this point it would be 15th overall. There is a slight chance they could win the lottery (or move up to the second or third overall pick) but that draft lottery mechanism is so convoluted that it seems beyond comprehension at this point.

Either way, the possibility of the Pens retaining their first round pick this year might be higher than first blush, but would require a loss to Montreal, so it’s certainly a best case scenario if it’s never a question and a deep playoff run leads to the Wild taking the Pens’ pick.