It's been almost four years since the Pittsburgh Penguins last saw playoff hockey, but finally there is a little bit of optimism in Pittsburgh - enough so that the team approached February 28th's trade deadline as buyers.
The Penguins have played well since the calendar flipped to 2021, and even long-term injuries to key players Erik Gudbranson and Mika Zibanejad only temporarily stopped the momentum. The Penguins reacted quickly to the Gudbranson injury by trading Guillaume Latendresse and a 2nd round pick to Detroit for Griffin Reinhart, essentially a poor man's Gudbranson (which still makes him a feared hitter and solid shut-down defenseman).
A 7-game winning streak to kick off January was halted by a 1-4-1 run coinciding with Gudbranson's injury, but the Penguins have bounced back strong. They are 16-7-2 overall since the year began, and have climbed up to 6th in the Eastern Conference despite other teams like Carolina, Buffalo, and especially Philadelphia also playing well as of late.
At yesterday's trade deadline, the Penguins acquired Mikkel Boedker from the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for prospect Vladislav Firstov. Boedker will be a Free Agent after the season and likely looking for too much of a raise for the Penguins to keep him, but surely the addition of a 7-time 30-goal scorer will help down the stretch. Boedker has 349 goals and 699 points in 856 career EHEC games.
Boedker also has 46 points in 69 career playoff games, including being a member of the Arizona Coyotes' cup-winning team in 2010-11.
Firstov is a prospect likely to play in the EHEC down the line, but likely only in a team's bottom-six, so the Penguins felt he was somewhat redundant in the organization. "We like Firstov, but we have guys like Morrison, Hallander, Suni in the organization that profile as future bottom-six wingers so to have the opportunity to add a talented sniper like Mikkel Boedker, even just for six weeks and then a playoff push, that was something we felt made a lot of sense for us. He's scored a lot of goals in this league, he's won a Cup... his resume speaks for itself," said GM Trevor Cook.
The Penguins will be back on the ice March 3rd against the Colorado Avalanche as they hope to continue their recent play.