Penguins get: Striker Mikael Granlund
Predators get: 2023 second round pick
Sean Gentille: The “muddy window” analogy is going to be popular in Pittsburgh tonight, and understandably so. Falling behind in the Eastern Conference arms race, then trying to fix a two-year losing streak in three days only to add a player as ineffective and uneconomic across the board as Granlund is sure to scare some people. It should.
Look, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are only going to get so many bites at the apple. The chances of them being as good and healthy as they have been this season again are … small. Additionally, years of going for it under Jim Rutherford, and then overpaying supporting casts under Ron Hextall, have shrunk margins. Still, even after the trade-a-palooza of the past week, it felt like the Penguins still had a path to relevancy in the East.
They were into Jakob Chychrun. He wouldn’t have fixed their bottom six problem, but he would have given them a second legit No. 1 defenseman to pair with Kris Letang. And Chychrun is 24. Adding one of the Canucks’ big-ticket forwards — JT Miller or Brock Boeser — would have been less helpful. They are good but overpaid. Slightly tougher sell than Chychrun, but win-now teams have to make tough calls.
And if that failed, hey, at least they would have gotten away with under Kasperi Kapanen’s contract for next season. Sitting out a season as a buyer — ridiculous as it would have seemed, and antithetical as it would have been to the organization’s approach from 2005-2021 — could at least have been marketable.
Instead, they locked themselves into a player that appears to have been designed in a lab to fix literally none of their problems. Granlund is 31. He is small. His scoring production is poor. His effect at five-on-five is worse. He earns $5 million. He earns that amount for two seasons after this one.
Poff goes on top for this season. Poof goes the flexibility for the next. Now, as always, Hextall’s Penguins are locked into a pay sheet with irreplaceable pieces at the top, immovable pieces in the middle, and irrelevant pieces at the bottom. They are worse today than they were yesterday, and they will probably be worse tomorrow. That’s it. Maybe the window slammed. Maybe it closes gently.
Or perhaps we should turn to another analogy: the boiling frog.
Dom Luszczyszyn: It’s never a good thing when the trending topic on Twitter after a trade is immediately #FireTeamGM, but Penguins fans have every right to be angry about Hextall’s latest deal.
As the rest of the Eastern Conference tries to beat each other up in an epic arms race, the Penguins responded with a Nerf gun. A super soaker. A slingshot. Nothing that actually matters when it comes time to face one of the actual beasts in the East, a matchup the Penguins were ill-equipped for before the trade and remain ill-equipped for afterwards.
Granlund was previously a fantastic player and it is possible that he can deliver in a smaller role as the team’s third line centre. Possible, but unlikely. His recent results have been so woeful it’s astonishing he was the goal.
At five-on-five, Granlund has scored 1.33 points per 60 this year. It’s bad enough, but it’s not like it’s a massive departure from his scoring in recent years: 1.57, 1.58, 1.38. Over the past three years, he ranks 256th among forwards between Kyle Palmieri and Sammy Blais. Not good company.
Unfortunately, that’s not the worst. There’s the other problem that at five-on-five, the Predators earned just 45 percent of expected and actual goals this year with Granlund on the ice. Both are among the team’s worst grades, and that despite the fact that he spent most of the minutes with Filip Forsberg, Matt Duchene and Nino Niederreiter. All three did much better without him. The problems with Granlund are primarily on defense where the Predators allow 3.28 expected goals against per 60 with him on the ice, 0.44 worse than his teammates and one of the worst marks in the entire league. Offensively, the team scores 0.49 fewer goals per 60 with Granlund on the ice. On both ends he has been a wreck.
Unfortunately, it’s not the worst either.
The worst part is that this isn’t a one-year mistake: it’s one that will hang around for two more seasons after this one. Granlund, 31, will probably only get worse from here. That the Predators were somehow able to get a second for a deeply negative value fortune is an absolute coup, a master class from David Poile’s farewell tour. It’s nothing but an absolute win for them.
For the Penguins, using what little roster space they have on an old and ineffective player is a completely baffling decision. it’s not just a loss. It’s not just a bad grade. It could be the final nail in the coffin of whatever last chance Pittsburgh had to make a run in the Crosby, Malkin, Letang era.
(Photo: Joe Sargent / NHLI via Getty Images)