General manager Jim Rutherford shocked some around the league when he said he might have to change his approach to team building to help protect his superstars. He took the first step towards doing that on Friday in Chicago when he acquired Ryan Reaves from the St. Louis Blues.
Rutherford sent a first round pick (31) and center Oskar Sundqvist to the Blues in exchange for Reaves and a second round pick (51).
The initial reaction to the deal was that it might have been an overpayment, but Rutherford was very satisfied.
“When you want to get the guy that’s the best at doing what he does, then you have to pay a price,” Rutherford said from the draft floor. “Regardless of what we paid, we’re really happy to have him. “
Reaves is known as one of the best tough guys in the league. The 6-foot-1, 225-pound forward is signed through the 2017-18 season and carries a salary of $1.125 million dollars.
The 30-year-old led the Blues and finished 10th in the league with 239 hits last season. He also chipped in seven goals, 13 points, and 104 penalty minutes in 8- games.
Rutherford laid out this plan during a press conference ahead of the Stanley Cup Final. At the time he said that he might have to take the matter of protecting his players into his own hands because the league wasn’t doing enough in that regard.
“I hear year after year how the league and everyone loves how the Penguins play,” said Rutherford. “ ‘They play pure hockey and they skate.’ Well, now it’s going to have to change and I feel bad about it, but it’s the only way we can do it. We’re going to have to get one or two guys…and some of these games that should be just good hockey games will turn into a sh—show. We’ll go right back to where we were in the ’70s and it’s really a shame.”
Reaves might not be a complete throwback to the old days in that he is capable of playing the game, but his acquisition is a direct departure from the style that Penguins have played in recent seasons.
“He can play. He skates very well for a big guy,” Rutherford said. “He gets in on the forecheck, which is what we like. He lays some big checks on the forecheck, so he can certainly fit into our system and play.”
Rutherford said that they just felt that a move was needed to balance things out. Looking at incidents throughout the season as well as the situation that Sidney Crosby knocked out of action during the series against the Washington Capitals pushed him to make the deal.
“I don’t think it’s just the playoffs. I think it’s just over the whole course of the season,” he said. “We won the Cup two years ago. Teams played us even harder than they usually do and now we expect to come again this year. It was important to get him.”
Lost in the shuffle of the deal was the fact that they included Sundqvist in the package. The Penguins selected him in the third round (81st overall) back in 2012 and he spent the majority of his career in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
The 23-year-old is coming off of one of his finest seasons in WBS, scoring 20 goals, 26 assists and 46 points in 63 games. He played 10 games in Pittsburgh, but didn’t register a point.
It wasn’t an easy decision, but getting tougher was worth it for Rutherford.
“It was. We talked about it over and over and over and we recognize that Oskar is a good young player, but we also recognize that we’re getting a little bit tired of getting beat up game after game.”
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Side note to this deal – Paul Steigerwald told this story to Josh Getzoff and I during an episode of Penguins Live Weekly earlier in the season.
He was in one of the common areas in the press box during an intermission. There is usually a big congregation of media and NHL officials interacting, trading tales and talking shop.
Steigerwald ran into former NHL on ice official Rob Shick and they talked about the state of the league and how games are officiated. Shick currently works with junior officials.
They conversation went something like this according to Steigerwald.
“Rob, you see the way Dubinsky and others manhandle Crosby out there. What does he need to do to get a call? Can they just call the rulebook?”
“Paul, maybe they should try to police this stuff themselves like other teams do. Maybe they need to go out and get a guy like Ryan Reaves to protect their guys.”
Flash forward and Reaves is a Penguin.