February 23 2017 09:44AM
(Photo credit: James Guillory/USA TODAY Sports)
On Thursday the Pittsburgh Penguins moved to shore up their blue line in preparation for another run at the Stanley Cup, cashing in a second-round pick for 35-year-old left-shot rearguard Ron Hainsey.
What kind of player did Pittsburgh land here?
At one point in his career Hainsey was a two-way, all-situations blueliner, one who reliably put up 30-plus points. That was ages ago now, and he's settled in as more of a defensive specialist. Still, he plays a lot; his 22:19 per game ranked third on Carolina's blue line, which is an impressive number for anyone but especially so for a guy who doesn't get power play work.
Coach on Hainsey: "We know he's a mobile guy w/ good size. We think he plays a style that fits in our group. He can kill penalties for us."— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) February 23, 2017
Hainsey's penalty kill work deserves special attention off the top. The Hurricanes have been running neck-and-neck with Boston (one team has Tuukka Rask, the other does not) this year for the best shorthanded unit in hockey, and on defence the 'Canes have run just three players regularly:
- Jaccob Slavin: 174 minutes
- Hainsey: 171 minutes
- Brett Pesce: 109 minutes
- Justin Faulk: 30 minutes
Rutherford on Hainsey: "I'm familiar with him because I signed him in Carolina. He's a real character guy. He's a good penalty killer." pic.twitter.com/Gz8nYpZm9x— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) February 23, 2017
At even-strength, Hainsey has spent the last two seasons playing with Justin Faulk. The duo has routinely posted exceptional shot metrics and lousy on-ice goal numbers, which should probably be expected given that Cam Ward and Eddie Lack have been the club's goaltending duo over those two seasons and this is the M.O. of the Hurricanes more generally.
Looking at their numbers, it seems likely that the pairing's results have been driven by Faulk, but Hainsey did decent work as the complementary piece and the Pens didn't pay for more than a complementary piece anyway.
It's hard to see exactly where Hainsey fits into Pittsburgh's blue line scheme at the moment, because injuries have left things more than a little confused.
Kris Letang is healthy (edit to add: or maybe not) after missing time earlier this season, but Olli Maatta is out with a hand injury for six weeks and Justin Schultz is on an indeterminate timeline thanks to a concussion. Add to that Trevor Daley's knee surgery and things look grim. The Pens have played nine different defencemen over their last 10 games, and with due respect to Chad Ruhwedel, Steve Oleksy and Cameron Gaunce it would be preferable to get a more established player into the rotation.
Hainsey does that. Pittsburgh GM Jim Rutherford has brought in an experienced player who can legitimately help on the penalty kill, shore up a ragtag defence immediately and down the line won't look out of place whether he's anchoring the third pair or filling in on the Letang unit. This is a solid add, and the timing could not be better.
The second-round selection is Pittsburgh's own, which is likely to fall somewhere around 60th overall. The Penguins still have the assets to make further moves at the deadline, as they own all their other picks for 2017 and 2018, and additionally own Ottawa's 2017 fifth-rounder thanks to the Mike Condon trade.
However; even with Carolina retaining 50 percent of Hainsey's salary the Pens have almost no financial wiggle room, so further moves will need to take that into account.
Minor-league right wing Danny Kristo was also included in the deal. He's a 26-year-old pending free agent with 13 points in 40 AHL games this year and thus has close to zero value as an NHL trade asset. His inclusion in the trade is almost certainly an attempt by the Penguins to keep the number of contracts on their 50-man reserve list balanced.
The return may therefore be seen as a second for Hainsey, which is right about what we would expect from this kind of player. It's more than Pittsburgh paid last year for Justin Schultz (a third-round pick),but just about equal to the return Carolina got on John-Michael Liles (third- and fifth-round picks, along with a contract throw-in) at the same deadline. It's neither high nor low; this is the market rate.
In short: Hainsey's a solid player who checks off several boxes, and the Pens paid fair value to add him.