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Ron Hextall’s first trade deadline with the Penguins looks like a success

They added an upgrade without doing anything to disrupt the way the team is playing.

Minnesota Wild v Los Angeles Kings Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Penguins made one major addition before Monday’s NHL trade deadline when they sent two conditional draft picks to the Los Angeles Kings for veteran forward Jeff Carter.

Where exactly does Carter fit and what role is he going to play? No idea! But it is an intriguing move mostly because it was so unexpected. In the weeks of trade rumors leading up to the deadline I do not recall seeing a single reference to Carter and the Penguins, so it definitely came out of nowhere.

That does not mean it is bad.

Quite the opposite, and for a couple of reasons.

For one, I really do think Carter can help. I know he is not the same player he was at his peak when he was a 35-40 goal guy, but it is not like his production has completely evaporated. He still scores at a second-or third-line rate with strong possession numbers. He can play third line center and allow Jarred McCann to play on the second line wing alongside Evgeni Malkin and Kasperi Kapanen. Or he could play on the wing next to McCann on the third line or on the wing next to Malkin and Kapanen.

There is a lot flexibility there and a lot of options for the coaching staff to pick from.

Add in the fact that it only cost the Penguins a couple of future picks (not a first-rounder), with the Kings retaining half of the contract, and it looks like a winner.

But there is something else about it that I really like. What I really like about this trade, is what it is not.

For weeks all we heard about the Penguins’ trade deadline plans was how they wanted to add a big physical forward. Every day those same words kept getting repeated. Big physical forward. Big physical forward. Big physical forward. Big physical forward. It created this nightmare situation where the Penguins were going to bring in some grinding face-puncher that could not play just so they could say they added a big physical forward.

That became an even bigger concern on Sunday when there was a report that the team was close to acquiring Nicolas Deslauriers from the Anaheim Ducks, a player that would have done nothing to upgrade the roster or further their chances of winning the Stanley Cup. If anything, it would have been far more likely that it would have been a depth piece that coach Mike Sullivan would not have wanted to use because he did not fit the team’s style or system.

Fortunately, that report turned out to be premature. The fact they did not even go down that road at all is what makes the deadline a success for me, even before you get into Carter’s potential value.

This just is not a team that needed a major change right now, and going in that “physical direction” at this point in the season might have negatively altered the style of play and make up of the team. If you want to transform the roster into a different type of team or a different style, you do it in the offseason when you can come in with a blank slate and start from scratch.

You do not do it when the team is rolling along 34 of the way through the seasno and fighting for the top spot in the East Division.

Right now this is a team that did not really need any sort of major shift given the way it is clicking.

The depth scoring is better than anybody expected to be at the start of the season.

They are locking things down in the neutral zone.

The goaltending has turned around.

They have played through the injuries at an impressive rate, and with Jason Zucker and Teddy Blueger already back in the lineup and Evgeni Malkin and Kasperi Kapenen inching closer you are getting all of the additions that you need right there.

The way this team is playing right now, and the way so many players have exceeded expectations, let them play it out.

There was a need to maybe address the third line center position, and whether it is Carter playing that spot or McCann sticking there (with Carter alongside him or in another wing role) they did just that.