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Penguins acquire Schultz from Oilers - 02-27-16

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

Following today's 4-1 win against the Jets, the Penguins fortified their blue line by acquiring defenseman Justin Schultz from the Edmonton Oilers in exchange for a 2016 third-round draft pick. Schultz, 25, is on a one-year contract with a salary cap hit of $3.9 million. He is scheduled to be a restricted free agent when it expires. As a condition of the trade, the Oilers will retain half of his salary cap hit.

In 45 games this seaoson, Schultz has 10 points (three goals, seven assists). A native of Kelowna, B.C., he is not expected to join the Penguins until "Wednesday or Thursday" due to the immigration process according to general manager Jim Rutherford.

The Ducks drafted Schultz in the second round (No. 43 overall) in 2008 but he never played for that organization. Following his junior season at the University of Wisconsin, Schultz opted to turn professional. By that point, Shultz was eligible to become an unrestricted free agent as the Ducks had lost exclusive signing rights to him. Several teams engaged in a bidding process for Schultz before he ultimately signed with the Oilers June 30, 2012.

Schultz has largely struggled in his four seasons with the Oilers. In 2013-14, he appeared in 74 games and set career highs with 11 goals and 33 points but his production has regressed since then. This season, he has averaged only 20:07 of ice time per game, only fourth-most among all Oilers defensemen.

Schultz joins a Penguins team which is currently playing without injured defenseman Ben Lovejoy who is sidelined long term due to a long-term injury. Additionally, reserve defenseman David Warsofsky is currently on a conditioning assignment in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton as he recovers from a concussion he suffered in Jan. 15. 

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A few highlights:

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EN Says: This is a reclamation project. At one time, Schultz was expected to be a key player who would finally provide stability to the Oilers' graveyard of a blue line. Former general manager Craig MacTavish suggested he could win a Norris Trophy. But with that organization constantly changing general managers and coaches, Schultz, like a lot of other players in Edmonton, struggled to meet his potential.

We're not sure how to fairly evaluate Schultz given Edmonton's doldrums. He's clearly a skilled player and has been able to produce a respectable amount of points at as recently as last season when he had 31 points in 81 games. But he slid down the Oilers' depth chart this season and was even a healthy scratch on a few occasions.

Going back to his days with the Hurricanes, Rutherford has never been afraid to take on a reclamation project and he has even done that in his brief tenure with the Penguins. Heck, right winger Phil Kessel is a reclamation project in some respects.

Schultz seems like a low-risk, high-reward project. Sergei Gonchar, the team's defenseman development coach will presumably work quite a bit with him. We're not sure if Gonchar, who has only been on the job for a few months, is capable of truly helping defensemen develop their game, but he'll have his work cut out with him in Schultz. 

As far as his style of play, Schultz is a puck mover. He takes offensive chances and will occasionally vacate his defensive responsibility to create some offense. While his game is perhaps undisciplined, he seems like a good fit for how head coach Mike Sullivan wants defensemen to play.

An aspect of this trade which shouldn't be overlooked is Lovejoy's injury. His absence seemed to shift the Penguins' focus to fortifying their blue line. Also, like Lovejoy, Schultz is right-handed. Ian Cole, who has replaced Lovejoy for the past three games, is left handed. Presumably, Schultz will play with defenseman Derrick Pouliot, a left-handed shot.

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Rutherford spoke with media following the trade. He's a partial transcript:

On Schultz:

"He's still a pretty young guy. There's some things that he has to work on his game. We think a change of scenery for him is going to be good and we'll see how it goes. We retain his rights for at least one more year and we'll see how the fit is."

Why did he struggle with the Oilers:

"That's hard to say. That's a team that's been building with a lot of young players. They've been going through that rebuilding. Just have really a lot of young skilled players and it hasn't come all together. I think they're coming closer now. Sometimes, when you have that many young players, that can be difficult for everybody. We're hoping a change for him can be good."

Would he play with Pouliot:

"That would be two younger offensive guys playing together. That's something the coach has to sort out. We want to get as many NHL guys here so we have depth at all positions. Very good on the offensive side. Still needs some work on the defensive side."

Have the Penguins filled all their needs prior to the trade deadline:

"We're still in business. I'm not saying we're doing something else but why would we close the door when we have a couple more days here. You never know what comes up."

On giving up a draft pick and not a player in the trade:

“It's turned out when you have injuries, there's good and bad to it. The good was is we got to see some of these young guys that we believed in come in here and play. A lot of teams have been asking for our young guys. That's one thing I really wanted to stay away from."

On the Oilers retaining salary:

"It was important for them to retain some salary because we've got to be careful with our cap. As for where he fits in, time will tell. He won't even get here until Wednesday or Thursday because of immigration. It's just another option for the coach. We're going to play a lot of games in March. Hopefully we're going to play a lot of games right through to June and you need a lot of players. There will be a lot of time for everybody. "

(Photo: Derek Leung/Getty Images)

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Jersey hunt - Jets at Penguins - 02-27-16

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

The best jerseys at today's Penguins-Jets game:

-Lets start with No. 1. Brent Johnson:

-No. 10 is a popular choice. Ron Francis:

-Brenden Morrow!

-Darius Kasparaitis:

-Nick Bonino:

-Petr Sykora:

-We're pretty sure the is the first Carl Hagelin jersey we've encountered:

-A rare Rick Tocchet/Martin Straka combination:

-The old third line is represented here with Jordan Staal and Tyler Kennedy:

-And Matt Cooke:

-There's a Wisconsin fan here today:

-The only Jets fans we've spotted today is wearing the jersey of the recently traded Andrew Ladd:

-Penguins scout and former Cleveland Barons goaltender Gilles Meloche:

-This is hardcore. Dany Sabourin Wheeling Nailers:

-This is was sharp. A Pittsburgh Hornets jersey from their seasons in the early 1960s:

-Based on record we've been able to find, this jersey is either for center Gary Collins or defenseman Keith Walsh:

-All-Star jerseys are popular. Marc-Andre Fleury:

-And Evgeni Malkin:

-Patrick Lalime:

-Former Thrashers and current Penguins forward Pascal Dupuis:

-Jerseys of the Day: Several fans are remembering the original No. 9 in franchise history, the late, great Andy Bathgate, today:

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Pregame thoughts - Jets at Penguins - 02-27-16

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

According to head coach Mike Sullivan, right winger Tom Kuhnhackl remain a game-time decisions due to a "lower-body" injury. We're not certain if this ailment is related, but he appeared to be hobbled a bit after blocking a shot during Wednesday's 5-1 road loss to the Bruins Wednesday. Regardless, he was working up a sweat in the hallway near his team's dressing room playing "warm-up" soccer with right winger Bryan Rust just prior to 1 p.m.

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To no surprise, goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury has been confirmed as the starter. 

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Centers Evgeni Malkin (above) and Nick Bonino are slated to return today after recovering from injuries. Malkin's return figures to impact the power play which has been 1 for 23 (4.3 percent) in his absence.

"We hope so," Sullivan said. "We certainly hope so. It certainly was going pretty strong there for a long period of time, not just a short stretch. We know that he's going to have an impact there. Whether it will take some time to re-stablish that chemistry, we he can have an impact. I think he will. He's a really great player. He has great instincts. I think him and Sid, they really work well on that side as far as creating motion and movement and being instinctive. And I think because of that, they are difficult to handle. But certainly our hope is they can re-establish that chemistry before [Malkin] got hurt."

-Malkin has scored more than a few goals with that thundercracker of a one-timer from the right wall. Sullivan was asked if that shot from that spot by Malkin is unique:

"I think there's a lot of guys that have good one-timers. I think what makes [Malkin] unique is a combination of a great shot but also his playmaking ability. He has both attributes. Not only can he shoot the puck but he's dangerous but he's just as dangerous making plays and passing the puck off that flank as he is with the one-timer. I think that's what made that power play or at least helped that power play enjoy the success it had before he got hurt. He's a unique player."

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The return of Bonino (and to a lesser extent Malkin) will ease the work load for centers Sidney Crosby and Matt Cullen who have been asked to take a lot of faceoffs the last few weeks with those players as well as center Eric Fehr each sidelined due to injuries. Bonino is the team's third-best faceoff specialist with a success rate of 53.3 percent.

Crosby doesn't seem to mind if he has to take fewer faceoffs.

"Both guys are able to take draws," Crosby said. "It's probably going to cut down on minutes too. You don't want to get stuck out there in the [defensive] zone sometimes. If you lose a draw, sometimes it happens. I think the flow and getting everyone back into it, it will be good those are guys are back in a lot of areas, but definitely there."

Sullivan concurred.

“It helps a lot," Sullivan said. "They're both veteran guys that have the ability to win draws. I think it will hopefully take some pressure off of Sid in particular in taking some of the defensive zone draws.”

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-The Coyotes are scheduled to have 11 members of their front office, including general manager Don Maloney, in the press box tonight. Before you get too excited and start working out any trades for any Coyotes players, they are playing in Pittsburgh Monday.

(Photos: Harry How/Getty Images)

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About the Jets - 02-27-16

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

A preview of the Jets.

When and where: 3 p.m., EST, Consol Energy Center.

TV: Root.

Record: 26-30-4, 56 points. The Jets are in last place of the Central Division.

Leading Scorer: Right winger Blake Wheeler, 56 points (17 goals, 39 assists).

Last Game: 6-3 road win against the Stars Thursday. Center Mark Schiefele had a goal and three assists for the Jets.

Last Game against the Penguins: 1-0 home win Dec. 27. Goaltender Connor Hellebuyck made 30 saves for the Jets.

Jets Player We Would Bet Money On Scoring: Defenseman Dustin Byfuglien. He has a four-game scoring streak.

Ex-Penguins on the Jets: Right winger Chris Thorburn.

Ex-Jets/Thrashers on the Penguins: Associate general manager Jason Botterill, right winger Pascal Dupuis, center Eric Fehr, left winger Chris Kunitz, player development coach Mark Recchi.

Useless Jets/Thrashers Trivia Vaguely Related to the Penguins: Jets right winger Drew Stafford (170 goals) is one of four Wisconsin-born players with 100 or more career goals. The others are Penguins right winger Phil Kessel (266), Sharks center Joe Pavelski (254) and former Flames/Blackhawks/Sharks defenseman Gary Suter (203).

The last time the Penguins played the Jets, this happened: 

Probable goaltenders: Marc-Andre Fleury (24-14-6, 2.43 GAA, .919 SV%) for the Penguins. Michael Hutchinson (7-11-1, 2.89 GAA, .908 SV%) for the Jets.

Injuries: For the Penguins, defenseman centers Nick Bonino (hand) and Evgeni Malkin ("upper body") are probable. Right winger Tom Kuhnhackl ("lower body") is questionable. Right wingers Beau Bennett (right shoulder), Pascal Dupuis (blood clots), defensemen Ben Lovejoy ("upper body"), David Warsofsky (head) and center Eric Fehr ("lower body") are on injured reserve. For the Jets, center Bryan Little (vertebrae) is out. Defensemen Grant Clitsome ("lower body") and Mark Stuart ("upper body") are on injured reserve.

Potential lines and defensive pairings: Neither team held a morning skate. The Penguins' lines and defensive pairings at practice Friday were:  

14 Chris Kunitz  - 87 Sidney Crosby - 72 Patric Hornqvist
62 Carl Hagelin - 71 Evgeni Malkin - 81 Phil Kessel
23 Scott Wilson - 13 Nick Bonino - 43 Conor Sheary
11 Kevin Porter - 7 Matt Cullen - 34 Bryan Rust

58 Kris Letang - 3 Olli Maatta
6 
Trevor Daley - 8 Brian Dumoulin 
28 Ian Cole - 51 Derrick Pouliot

-Consider this a guess at the Jets' lines and pairings based off their practice Friday and their game Thursday:

27 Nikolaj Ehlers - 55 Mark Scheifele - 26 Blake Wheeler
6 Alexander Burmistrov - 85 Mathieu Perreault - 12 Drew Stafford
40 Joel Armia - 17 Adam Lowry - 56 Marko Dano
22 Chris Thorburn - 9 Andrew Copp - 14 Anthony Peluso

39 Tobias Enstrom - 33 Dustin Byfuglien
7 Ben Chiarot - 55 Tyler Myers
2 Adam Pardy- 8 Jacob Trouba

Notes:

-Malkin and Bonino are each expected to play after being sidelined several games due to injuries.

-To make room for them on the roster, Lovejoy was placed on injured reserve.

-The Penguins recalled defenseman Steve Oleksy from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

-Center Marko Dano is expected to make his Jets debut.

-The referees are (No. 4) Wes McCauley and (No. 27) Eric Furlatt. The linesmen are (No. 93) Brian Murphy and (No. 96) David Brisebois.

(Photo: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

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Empty Netter Assists - Plotnikov on the move? - 02-27-15

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

Penguins

-According to his agent Mike Liut, the Penguins are trying to trade left winger Sergei Plotnikov (above).

-Centers Evgeni Malkin ("lower body") and Nick Bonino (hand) were activated from injured reserve while defenseman Ben Lovejoy ("upper body") was placed on injured reserve.

-Defenseman Olli Maatta got paid.

-Former Penguins right winger Andy Bathgate has died. He was 83. 

-Head coach Mike Sullivan speaks:

-Malkin speaks:

-Captain/center Sidney Crosby speaks:

-Shootout goals by center Dominik Simon and left winger Kael Mouillierat gave the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins a 3-2 win against the Portland Pirates. Goaltender Matt Murray made 32 saves in the victory which snapped a five-game losing streak.

-Goaltender Brian Foster made 27 saves for the Wheeling Nailers in a 5-1 win against the Greenville Swamp Rabbits.

-Highlights:

-"It means a lot to me. It means that one country that I played for recognized me as an athlete who contributed to the sport and appreciated me as a player. It’s truly a huge honor to be inducted, especially coming from a little town in Lithuania and being among the greats of Russian hockey. It’s an amazing feeling and a cool thing to tell your children when they get older." - Former Penguins defenseman Darius Kasparaitis on recently being inducted into the Russian Hockey Hall of Fame.

-Happy 32nd birthday to former Penguins goaltender John Curry. A free agent signing in 2007, Curry spent parts of two seasons with the Penguins. In 2008-09, he appeared in three games and had a 2-1-0 record with a 2.40 goals against average and .913 save percentage. During 2009-10, he appeared in one game, had a 0-1-0 record along with a 12.50 goals against average and .643 save percentage. He was released from the organization after the 2010-11 season. In four games with the Penguins, Curry had a 2-2-0 record with a 3.79 goals against average and .867 save percentage.

-Happy 67th birthday to former Penguins defenseman Ab DeMarco (right). Acquired midway through 1973-74 along with defenseman Steve Durbano and left winger Bob Kelly in deal which sent defenseman Bryan Watson, left winger Greg Polis and a draft pick to the Blues, DeMarco spent parts of two seasons with the Penguins. He finished 1973-74 by appearing in 34 games for the Penguins and scoring 19 points. After eight games and three points in 1974-75, DeMarco was traded to the Canucks in exchange for defenseman Barry Wilkins. In 42 games with the Penguins, DeMarco, one of six natives of Ohio to play for the Penguins (centers Brian Holzinger, Mike Rupp, Bryan Smolinski, defensemen Moe Mantha, Jr. and Ian Moran were the others), scored 22 points.

-Happy 28th birthday to former Penguins center Dustin Jeffrey. A sixth-round pick in 2007, Jeffrey spent parts of six seasons with the Penguins. As a rookie in 2008-09, Jeffrey appeared in 14 games and scored three points. In 2009-10, he was limited to one game and failed to record a point. During 2010-11, a knee injury limited Jeffrey to 25 games and 12 points. In 2011-12, Jeffrey saw action in 26 games and scored six points. During the lockout-shorted 2012-13 campaign, Jeffrey played in 24 games and recorded six points. After 10 games and 1 assist in 2013-14, he was claimed off waivers by the Stars. In 100 career games with the Penguins, Jeffrey had 28 points. He is currently a member of the AHL's Springfield Falcons.

-Happy 48th birthday to current Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan. Promoted from the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in mid-December, Sullivan has directed the club to a 15-11-5 record.

-After the Jump: Christian Ehrhoff and Rob Scuderi exchange zip codes.

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