The Pittsburgh Penguins remain very much in character even though this is general manager Jim Rutherford’s first season in Pittsburgh.
The Penguins have annually been among the most aggressive teams at the trade deadline, adding such pieces as Marian Hossa, Bill Guerin, Chris Kunitz, Jarome Iginla, Brenden Morrow, etc. Those moves played a role in two straight Stanley Cup finals appearances in 2008 and 2009, with the Pens winning it all in 2009. The fact that they have lost to lower-seeded teams in the playoffs for five straight seasons has not dulled ownership’s demand for a winner.
Hence Rutherford’s addition Thursday of defensive forward Daniel Winnik from the Toronto Maple Leafs for two draft picks (a second in 2016 and a fourth in 2015) and pending UFA prospect Zach Sill. It’s a good haul for the Leafs, who are looking to shed assets in the face of another embarrassing collapse, although they will retain 50 percent of Winnik’s salary to make the deal work for the Penguins, who are tight to the salary cap.
But Winnik is a strong catch for the Penguins and was being targeted by a number of teams looking to upgrade their penalty kill and add depth to their third and fourth lines.
If one theme came out of the Penguins' second-round playoff loss last spring to the New York Rangers, a series that Pittsburgh led 3-1, it was that the Pens needed more grit and character.
True or not, the mandate from ownership was clear: be tougher come playoff time.
Earlier, Rutherford (who won a Cup in Carolina in 2006) acquired skilled winger David Perron from the Edmonton Oilers for role player Rob Klinkhammer and a first-round draft pick. Winnik is a definite upgrade on Klinkhammer. Rutherford also acquired Max Lapierre from the St. Louis Blues for Marcel Goc.
Whether the Penguins are tougher to play against come April or May is unknown, but they’re definitely different.