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Trades with rivals has become a relic of the past

It’s rare in the salary cap era to make big trades like the good old days

Pittsburgh Penguins v Philadelphia Flyers Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images

While the Penguins have made some monumentally huge trades with rivals, one thing that might stand out is that those trades are pretty aged. In the modern day and age, teams are not willing or excited to work with their rivals. This was most on display at the deadline in 2017. The Pens were buyers, loading up on depth defensemen. The Flyers were selling and Mark Streit was an impending free agent.

Pens’ GM Jim Rutherford had talks with Flyers then-GM Ron Hextall but “the price was too high”. The price wasn’t very high for Tampa, who got Streit in exchange for expensive veteran Valtteri Filppula and a fourth round pick. Tampa then flipped Streit to Pittsburgh later that afternoon for a fourth round pick, leaving Rutherford to chuckle that “the price went down”. Rivals just don’t want to work together very much, especially considering the era of time gone by when the Pens would send Mark Recchi to Philly for Rick Tocchet in a massive trade. Needless to say, you haven’t seen a hockey trade like that in a long time, and you probably won’t see one like that again, either.

Let’s take a peak at the history of the Pens’ trades with their rivals. For some of these, you have to get in the way back machine:

Trades with rivals

Last bonafide NHL trade
Last bonafide NHL trade
Carolina Hurricanes: Jussi Jokinen to PIT for conditional pick (April 2013)
Columbus Blue Jackets : 4th round pick to PIT for Mark Letestu (Nov 2011)
New Jersey Devils: Stephane Richer to PIT for 7th round pick (March 2002)
New York Islanders: Bill Guerin to PIT for conditional pick (March 2009)
New York Rangers: Rico Fata, money to PIT for Alexei Kovalev (Feb 2003)
Philadelphia Flyers: Kent Manderville to PIT for Billy Tibbetts (March 2002)
Washington Capitals: Kris Beech, money to PIT for Jaromir Jagr (July 2001)
Last trade, period
Carolina Hurricanes: Josh Jooris to PIT for Greg McKegg (Feb 2018)
Columbus Blue Jackets: Blake Siebenthaler to PIT for a 7th round pick (Feb 2019)
New Jersey Devils: 3rd round pick to PIT for Beau Bennett (June 2016)
New York Islanders: Bill Guerin to PIT for conditional pick (March 2009)
New York Rangers: Benn Ferriero to PIT for Chad Kolarik (Jan 2013)
Philadelphia Flyers: Dan Hamhuis rights to PIT for 3rd round pick (June 2010)
Washington Capitals: Tomas Vokoun to PIT for 7th round pick (Jun 2012)

There’s not a lot going on up there, especially in regards to the NHL’s institution of the salary cap in 2005 and then also in 2013 at the formation of the current Metropolitan Division.

There are many causes of this. While there’s a salary cap to navigate now, it’s kind of an old school mentality to not work with — and potentially help — your rivals. The Penguins traded with Carolina and Columbus a lot more pre-2013 before the formation of the Metropolitan Division.

In the 1990’s we saw the Pens and Rangers willing to flip Petr Nedved and Alexei Kovalev, or the Islanders willing to send Darius Kasparaitis over for Bryan Smolinski. The value was about even, but the rivals would swap.

That wasn’t always the case. Crusty, cantankerous old Lou Lamoriello (long the GM of the Devils) almost never traded with the Pens. He sent veteran bit player Stephane Richer at the deadline in 2001, and the teams traded at the draft in 1996 to swap picks to allow Pittsburgh to move up to draft Pavel Skrbek in the second round, but otherwise the Pens/Devils didn’t have a trade since 1983.

The Pens and Devils did agree to a trade for Beau Bennett in 2016 once Ray Shero was in place in Jersey. But by then Pittsburgh didn’t really fear the injury-prone Bennett would make for any semblance of a threat to them — which was proven correct. Other than that, the PIT/NJD trade history is virtually bare.

Other organizational rivalries have persisted too. Lamoriello is now running the Islanders, and unsurprisingly he hasn’t made any deals with the Pens in that stint either. That’s highly unlikely to change.

The Pens and Flyers did culminate a trade for Dan Hamhuis, a decade ago now. But that was an impending free agent who didn’t want to sign in Philly (and wouldn’t want to sign in Pittsburgh) but other than that, they haven’t worked together in trades in recent memory. The Flyers have a new GM, but their old organization wasn’t willing to send a bottom of the lineup/healthy scratch 38-year old defenseman to Pittsburgh, the chance the two teams can work together for any kind of important deal feels totally impossible.

Ditto with Pittsburgh and Washington, the Capitals shipped goalie Tomas Vokoun to the Pens just days before he would have been a free agent and could have signed there anyways, and otherwise they just don’t work together for transactions. As prime rivals in the standings, it just doesn’t make sense. If this were the 1990’s, we probably would have seen Bryan Rust dealt for Jakub Vrana a few years ago. Alas, it is not those days any longer.

This is one thing to keep in mind, and one reason why I was hesitant to think the Pens would be able to acquire Chris Kreider from the Rangers. NYR ended up not trading him at all, but would they really have sent him to Pittsburgh?

The Penguins are one of the most active teams in trading players, but chances are in this day and age they will be dealing with out of division teams, often out of conference. That is the way the game and management styles have morphed over the past 10-20 years.