Three months ago, the Florida Panthers and Pittsburgh Penguins swapped underachieving centers and young bottom-six forwards alike, but how did the trade really pan out?
In case anybody needed a recap, the Florida Panthers traded forwards Nick Bjugstad and Jared McCann to the Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for Derick Brassard, Riley Sheahan, and three 2019 draft picks.
Those draft picks include Pittsburgh’s second round and fourth-round picks, as well as the Minnesota Wild’s fourth-round selection.
The trade looked to fill both teams’ needs as the Penguins were searching for immediate help amongst the bottom six, with Brassard underwhelming since his trade from Ottawa.
With just 15 points (9 goals, 6 assists) across 40 games during the 2018-19 season, the Pens decided to move on.
Sheahan also wasn’t contributing as much as expected. There was still potential for him that was yet to be unlocked, but Pittsburgh – a win-now organization – weren’t willing to patiently wait for the former first-round pick to pan out. They basically got Jared McCann for him, who was younger and better at the time of the trade.
The Panthers took a risk moving on from a loyal servant of the organization in Bjugstad and a talented young center in McCann.
There was the fear that both would spread their wings and fly with the Penguins come playoff time to help the Penguins regain some stability in the postseason after losing to Washington the year before.
The purpose of this trade for Florida was to free up cap space. Both Brassard and Sheahan had one year remaining on their contracts, which freed up immediate cap room for this summer’s free agency period.
Brassard and Sheahan both underperformed in Pittsburgh, but there was a legitimate talent that got them there in the first place.
Brassard, a proven playoff warrior, was a key part of the Ottawa Senators team that took Pittsburgh to double overtime of game seven in the Eastern Conference Finals back in 2016-17. Sheahan was a former first-round draft pick, who still had a small window to improve under.
A lot of the trade assets and ideas behind the trade have yet to be seen. Before we get too far ahead, let’s see how the trade panned out through the course of the regular season.
For Florida, the trade never really gave too much of an impact. Brassard got off to a lively start, but quickly diminished, putting up 4 points (1 goal, 3 assists) in 10 games as a Panther.
Despite his wishes to remain with the franchise and spark a late playoff push, the Panthers moved on from the 31-year-old.
Brassard was traded to the Colorado Avalanche at the trade deadline, ironically while the Panthers were still in Colorado. The Panthers gave up a sixth-round draft pick plus Brassard in exchange for Colorado’s third-round pick next year.
In true Panthers style, Brassard debuted for the Avs against Florida, scoring a crucial goal in his debut midway through the third period.
Otherwise, Brassard really failed to shine in the Avs’ sweater, scoring 4 goals with 0 assists in 20 games during the season while tallying just 1 point in 9 playoff games for Colorado.
Sheahan’s form slightly improved with the change of scenery. Sheahan posted 10 points (2 goals, 8 assists) in 33 games under Bob Boughner, spread across the bottom six, mostly appearing as the fourth-line center or third-line right-wing. With an expiring contract, it’s not sure whether Sheahan will be back next season.
For Pittsburgh, Bjugstad brought around the same level of play he did for Florida. A modest 9 goals and 5 assists across 32 regular-season games, but was held scoreless during the playoffs as the Pens were swept aside by the Islanders in four games.
Bjugstad’s contributions were average in year one but should expect to improve as time goes on.
It was Jared McCann who made this trade worthwhile for Pittsburgh. An eye-popping 17 points (11 goals and 6 assists) across 32 games made McCann a top-six forward for the Pens, playing alongside Sidney Crosby a few times.
While he was held to just 1 assist in 3 playoff games, his future looks bright in the black and yellow.
McCann’s run of form could make the Panthers regret this trade. To be fair, not a lot of people expected the goalscoring of the 22-year-old to emerge so fast, as McCann had just 18 goals in 143 games as a Panther.
If this blip of form continues consistently into next season, the Pens will definitely try to give him a decent sized contract to try to retain him.
Now, let’s talk about the future. The Florida Panthers’ main goal behind this trade was to free up cap space for this summer.
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There are some heavily valued free agents this offseason, which the Panthers wouldn’t be able to pursue had Bjugstad and McCann’s contracts still been on the books.
While McCann and Bjugstad’s contracts were relatively cheap – $1.25 million for McCann and $4.1 million for Bjugstad – Dale Tallon might have had more problems targeting the big fish of free agency in July.
Yes, missing out on McCann’s emergence of form stings. He always had the potential to perform the way he has, whether it was in Vancouver, Florida, or even Pittsburgh.
In total, the Panthers gained around $5.25 million in cap space, a 2019 second, a 2020 third, and two 2019 fourth-round picks for Bjugstad, McCann, Brassard, and a sixth-round pick. The Panthers should also gain an additional $2.1 million in cap space if Sheahan doesn’t re-sign.
Whether these picks or the cap space pans out for Florida in the end is still a mystery, but it may become more clear come July 1st.