Kovacevic: Why Penguins are rightly ecstatic about Florida trade


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Jared McCann crashes the net Friday night. - MATT SUNDAY / DKPS

It wasn't exactly tough to tell that Nick Bjugstad and Jared McCann were ecstatic about their arrival in Pittsburgh.

Meaning, first and foremost, that they'd made it at all.

I mean, they'd just been whisked down a wintry Parkway West by an Allegheny County Police escort. Then dropped off at PPG Paints Arena's loading dock 34 minutes before faceoff. Then met in the locker room by Dana Heinze's entire four-man equipment staff with a phone-arranged assortment of skates, sweaters and pads to speed up the suiting up. Then handed a flask of Red Bull while trudging through the tunnel out to the ice, each consuming a chug and a half en route. Then ushered to the home team's bench, finally visible to the crowd standing behind already-seated backup goaltender Matt Murray -- and I witnessed this occur in operatic harmony -- precisely in time for Jeff Jimerson's opening syllable of 'O Canada.'

This was at 7:04 p.m.

The puck dropped at 7:08.

They were Panthers in the morning, Penguins by nightfall, and Vin Diesel's supporting cast all afternoon.

"It was pretty surreal," Bjugstad would share later through a smile as big as his eyes. "I've had dreams every once in a while where I'm late to a game. That's what it felt like."

"It was pretty crazy," McCann concurred, mere moments after muttering, "Never seen this many cameras in my life."

Yeah, they're happy to be here. I heard that afterward from them, from Jim Rutherford, from Mike Sullivan, from others in the organization. And not in the obligatory way one usually hears stuff like that.

But honestly, that's not at all what was most striking about this scene.

Rather, it was how happy the victors were.

Not just the eventual 5-3 victors over the Senators on this night, but the seriously resounding victors in the seismic trade that sent Derick Brassard, Riley Sheahan and three picks in the 2019 NHL Draft to Florida for Bjugstad and McCann.

Oh, Rutherford was plenty composed when he and I met after this game, electing to focus on the players' enthusiasm about the trade.

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