Ranking the Top 5 Offseason Moves in Pittsburgh Penguins History
The NHL offseason can make or break a franchise. It’s a tool that allows coaches, players and members of the front office to take a step back and look at the larger picture to see what needs fixing.
The Pittsburgh Penguins seem to be heading in the right direction with Jim Rutherford at the reins. His recent acquisitions and moves haven given the team a sharp, new look.
Like every team, this club has had past offseason success and failures as far back as the early days. Listed here are five of the biggest moves in Penguins' offseason history.
Also, remember: A move didn’t have to be beneficial to the team in order for it to have made this list.
5. James Neal Traded to the Nashville Predators
The Penguins obviously have a lot of firepower on their top two forward lines, but before this offseason, it was hard to find anyone worth considerable value in the bottom-six heap.
After Rutherford was officially introduced as the team’s new GM, he immediately addressed this problem by trading a one-time 40-goal scorer in James Neal to the Nashville Predators in exchange for wingers Patric Hornqvist and Nick Spaling on the day of the 2014 NHL entry draft.
It was tough to see Neal go from a fan perspective, but it was a necessary decision business-wise. Hornqvist and Spaling won’t put up the same numbers No. 18 did, but they are still good players who are in the heart of their careers and will give the star players peace of mind knowing they won’t have to do more work.
4. Signing of Bryan Trottier
After four-time Stanley Cup champion Bryan Trottier was let go by the New York Islanders in 1990, he wasn’t expected to find work after calling Long Island his home for 15 seasons.
However, the Penguins decided to add the then-34-year-old Trottier to their lineup in hopes of providing depth on the bottom lines.
Trottier’s first season with the Penguins started off slow, but he made his presence known in the 1991 Stanley Cup playoffs, netting three goals and four assists that spring. His leadership would help guide the team to its first championship in franchise history as well as its second the year after.
3. Signing of Petr Sykora
In the summer of 2007, veteran Czech Petr Sykora signed a two-year contract with the Penguins. After winning the Cup in 2000 with the New Jersey Devils, it was thought that Sykora was well on the decline.
He proved his critics wrong in the two seasons he was a Pen by helping lead the club to two straight Stanley Cup Final appearances as well as winning the Cup in 2009.
His 53 goals and 104 points over the course of those two seasons gave the Penguins the added edge they needed to make such strong playoff runs, which makes him a beloved Pen despite his short tenure in the ‘Burgh.
2. Jaromir Jagr Traded to the Washington Capitals
Jaromir Jagr was always a highlight reel in the making ever since he was drafted fifth overall by the Penguins in 1990. Fans loved his flashy style of play, and in his last season in a black and gold sweater, he amassed 52 goals and 69 assists for 121 points.
In the summer of 2001, Jagr asked to be traded because he stated he was unhappy in his current situation, so the Penguins made his wish come true and traded him to the Washington Capitals in exchange for three prospects.
The deal stabbed the city of Pittsburgh right in the heart, but the team’s GM at the time, Craig Patrick, knew Jagr would’ve held out if his demands weren’t met. It was a difficult situation to be in, no doubt, and Penguins fans still wonder what the future would have been like if the Czech would have been willing to stay.
1. Mario Lemieux Is Drafted in 1984
Yes, this is extremely obvious, but what Mario Lemieux has done for this franchise is beyond legendary.
Lemieux helped save the team by stepping up in the late '90s to purchase it when it found itself in a slump financially. He also led the team to its first two Stanley Cups in 1991 and 1992.
He still runs the team today along with Ronald Burkle, and they combined to help keep the club in Pittsburgh as well as got the team a brand-new arena in Consol Energy Center.
June 9, 1984, was the day the Penguins’ future was saved from relocation. If if it wasn’t for Lemieux being selected first overall, then we could be talking about the “Top 5 Offseason Moves in Kansas City Penguins History.”