Just days removed from the Pittsburgh Penguins’ elimination from the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs and the post mortem in Pittsburgh has already begun. When you end your season as Stanley Cup champions, you get afforded some leeway with these things. When you lose in the second round to a bitter rival, fan and media scrutiny is a little stronger. Just ask the Washington Capitals about that…
While Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford isn’t about to lose his job for his inability to deliver a third consecutive Cup to the franchise, he’ll rightly be criticized for the moves he made or didn’t make this season. More than that, he’ll face even greater scrutiny with the moves he makes this upcoming offseason. One of Rutherford’s most aggressive moves this season was the acquisition of center Derick Brassard from the Ottawa Senators, by way of the Vegas Golden Knights.
You may recall that the trade was consummated then recanted by the NHL, then ultimately re-worked by Rutherford in order to appease the league and their concerns over salary cap circumvention. In the end, Brassard was acquired by the Penguins, along with prospect Vincent Dunn and a third round pick in exchange for Ian Cole, Ryan Reaves and goaltending prospect Filip Gustavsson. Vegas facilitated the deal between the Sens and the Pens by retaining 40%, $2 million, of Brassard’s $5 million annual salary.
Brassard put up three goals and eight points in 14 regular season games with the Penguins and just a single goal and four points during 12 playoff games. While those numbers aren’t awful by any stretch of the imagination, Rutherford and the Penguins acquired Brassard for the express purposes of getting some clutch play in the postseason. Brassard has a reputation of playing big in big games… but so far he has failed to live up to his billing in Pittsburgh.
With one year remaining on his contract it’s likely that Brassard returns next season, however Penguins insider Jason Mackey believes that the team could look to move the veteran center this offseason.
… they may want to consider moving Brassard, a player other teams would surely covet.
The key here, as with any trade, is what would the return be? With Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Riley Sheahan already down the middle of the ice, Brassard gives the team an additional offensive weapon. Surely they could find a trade partner for Brassard if they were open to the idea, but it’s not as if a player like Jean-Sebastien Dea is about to step into Brassard’s role anytime soon. Therefore any trade involving Brassard would have to include another center coming back.
All things considered, don’t expect a Brassard trade this offseason. Is it a possibility? Yes, absolutely. But it’s also possible that Brassard merely had a difficult time adjusting to a new team, a new city and a new coaching system. With the benefit of a full offseason of training and a full season in the Penguins organization, there’s reason to believe that Brassard can become the player the team needs him to be in 2018-19.