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Penguins acquire Alex Nylander from Chicago for Sam Lafferty

A minor trade!

Chicago Blackhawks v Pittsburgh Penguins Photo by Joe Sargent/NHLI via Getty Images

For the first time since July and only the second time since last April, the Pittsburgh Penguins have made a trade!

Lafferty, a fourth round pick from 2014, had fallen out of favor with the Penguins. He went a month between playing from October 28th - November 29th, despite the injuries and COVID situations the Penguins went through.

This was his third season in Pittsburgh, and arguably he regressed each and every year. Flipping him for a new piece is only going to be a positive, the Pens didn’t have much for Lafferty to do, playing only 10 games and just an average of 10:39 per game. Lafferty scored no goals and recorded two assists this season, after not scoring any goals in 34 games last season.

The player the Pens acquired is interesting for a few reasons. Here’s his hockeydb:

The most noteworthy item about Nylander is he was drafted eighth overall by the Sabres. He comes from a famous hockey family, with father Michael being a really good NHL player for a number of years. Alex’s older brother William is a star player with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

But it hasn’t gone quite the same for Alex, now not finding footing in Buffalo or Chicago, despite a decent looking statistical season last year, he did not make the team in NHL training camp and has been in the AHL all season.

A few months shy of his 24th birthday, Alex Nylander isn’t really young for a hockey prospect, though he has only played 84 career NHL games. He has had ample time to develop in the AHL, coming up on almost 200 career games at that level and is still not an overly impressive point-producer for that realm.

But the amount of 20-24 year old AHL talent in the Pens’ organization is not impressive full either, and Nylander will at least get one more change of scenery. As the Pens noted, he is a restricted free agent at the end of this season and the team could walk away from him then if they so choose.

This seems like a classic Ron Hextall thoughtful type of tranascation. The Pens are flush with forwards at the NHL level, especially with players like Kasper Bjorkqvist and Radim Zohorna playing well. Add in vets like Dominik Simon, Brian Boyle and the return to health of players like Evgeni Malkin, Jake Guentzel and Bryan Rust and there is just no need or room for Sam Lafferty.

So Hextall flipped him, which gives him a chance to impress a new team or try to get something going in his own career, and gives Pittsburgh a younger player with a one-time high pedigree who hasn’t been able to build upon it. Everyone would probably acknowledge there is a low chance Alex Nylander will ever be an NHL impact player, or even hold an NHL roster spot for a long period of time. But that chance is greater than the impact/ability of a replacement-level grinder like Lafferty who basically only takes up space.

Nice change of scenery move for both clubs, with the small chance that the Pens can work with Nylander and attempt to pull something out of him that he hasn’t been able to showcase yet as a professional.

And with Evgeni Malkin about to come off the LTIR list, trimming a bit more salary for dropping an NHL salary (Lafferty) and grabbing an waiver-free player already assigned to the AHL, that is another aspect where this trade quietly offers a little edge to help the Penguins accomplish what they need and want to do financially speaking.