The Penguins seem intent on doing something highly unusual with their first-round draft choice Friday evening: Use it to secure the rights to a teenaged prospect.
If, in fact, they hold onto their No. 1, the 21st in the opening round, it will be the first time since 2014, and just the second in the past seven seasons.
They have routinely dealt their top choice during the past decade or so to bolster their lineup for a long playoff run, and have three Stanley Cups in 11 seasons to show for it.
Trades involving first-rounders tend to be high-risk/high-reward moves, and the Penguins have made some that worked out brilliantly, and others that were abject busts.
Here’s a look at all the ones they have pulled off, ranked from the best to the worst.
1. No 4 overall in 1969, with cash, to Boston for Jean Pronovost and John Arbour. Although Arbour barely merits a footnote in team history, Pronovost became a 50-goal man and arguably the franchise’s biggest star before Mario Lemieux came along. (Note: Contemporaneous reports conflicted over whether the Penguins gave up their No. 1 or just money in this transaction, but the Bruins ended up with that choice – with no other explanation offered for its acquisition – and recent research by the Penguins and NHL concluded that the pick was part of the trade.)
2. No. 3 overall in 2003, with 2003 second-round compensatory choice and forward Mikael Samuelsson, to Florida for No. 1 overall in 2003 and a 2003 third-round choice. General manager Craig Patrick negotiated the deal to secure the rights to goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, who was part of three Cup-winning teams before going to Las Vegas in the 2017 expansion draft.
3. No. 12 overall in 1977, with winger Blaine Stoughton, to Toronto for winger Rick Kehoe. Stoughton had a solid career, while Kehoe became a prolific, reliable goal-scorer who had the misfortune of playing primarily on terrible teams.
4. No. 30 overall in 2016, with forwards Kasperi Kapanen and Nick Spaling, defenseman Scott Harrington and a 2016 third-round choice, to Toronto for wingers Phil Kessel and Tyler Biggs, defenseman Tim Erixon and a second-round choice in 2016. Freed from the relentless attention he endured with the Maple Leafs, Kessel thrived on a team whose style dovetailed nicely with his skating and skills set and was a major contributor to a pair of Stanley Cup titles.
5. No. 29 overall in 2008, with forwards Colby Armstrong, Erik Christensen and Angelo Esposito, to Atlanta for wingers Marian Hossa and Pascal Dupuis. Hossa had the instant impact GM Ray Shero wanted, helping the Penguins reach the 2008 Stanley Cup final, but it was Dupuis who became a fixture here until blood clots ended his career prematurely.
6. No. 4 overall in 1972 to Minnesota for defenseman Bob Woytowich. While he won’t go down as one of the leading luminaries in franchise history – Woytowich relied more on smarts than skill – any guy whose fans called themselves his “Polish Army” is worthy of a prominent place on this list.
7. No. 11 overall in 1976, with defenseman Steve Durbano and winger Chuck Arnason, to Kansas City for No. 2 overall in 1976 and forwards Simon Nolet and Ed Gilbert. The Penguins invested the pick they got from the Scouts in Blair Chapman, a high-scoring right winger in junior hockey who played 402 games in the NHL and cracked the 20-goal barrier three times.
8. No. 4 overall in 1971, with center Lou Angotti, to St. Louis for center Ron Schock, right winger Craig Cameron and a second-round choice in 1972. This swap didn’t exactly alter the balance of power in the NHL, but Schock was responsible enough that he eventually did a stint as the Penguins’ captain.
9. No. 6 overall in 1978, with a 1978 eighth-round choice, to Philadelphia for center Orest Kindrachuk, winger Ross Lonsberry and defenseman Tom Bladon. The Penguins went through a phase during which they served as a soft landing spot for players who had exhausted their usefulness to the Flyers, but Kindrachuk and Lonsberry put up respectable numbers during their time here.
10. No. 28 overall in 2013, with forwards Ben Hanowski and Kenny Agostino, to Calgary for right winger Jarome Iginla. Iginla is a certain Hall of Famer, but not on the basis of his performance with the Penguins. At least in part because coach Dan Bylsma insisted on using him at left wing.
11. No. 16 overall in 2015, with winger Rob Klinkhammer, to Edmonton for winger David Perron. Although Perron had shown a decent scoring touch in St. Louis and Edmonton, he seemed to get it out of his system when he joined the Penguins, for whom he scored 16 goals in 86 games before being dispatched to Anaheim in the Carl Hagelin trade.
12. No. 31 overall in 2017, with center Oskar Sundqvist, to St. Louis for winger Ryan Reaves and a 2017 second-round choice. Rutherford wanted some muscle to look out for his skilled forwards, and Reaves certainly provided that. Coach Mike Sullivan never seemed to have confidence in him, though, and Reaves was sent to Las Vegas to open the salary-cap space needed for the Penguins to acquire Derick Brassard in 2018.
13. No. 22 overall in 2018 to Ottawa in a three-team deal for center Derick Brassard. Brassard never adapted to – or, for that matter, accepted – the role of third-line center behind Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin and appeared in just 54 games with the Penguins before being jettisoned to Florida.
14. No. 1 overall in 1983, with winger George Ferguson, to Minnesota for No. 15 overall in 1983 (which became left winger Bob Errey), defenseman Ron Meighan and winger Anders Hakansson. The Penguins would have had the top choice in the draft if GM Baz Bastien hadn’t made this mid-season swap with the North Stars. Among the players the Penguins could have had if they’d held onto the pick was Errey’s junior linemate, Steve Yzerman. There was a deferred payoff, though, as Hakansson was sent to Los Angeles that fall for a 1983 sixth-round draft choice named Kevin Stevens.
15. No. 10 overall in 1979 to Washington for winger Hartland Monahan. Remember him? Probably not, even if you watched him play. Monahan’s career stats line with the Penguins: Two goals, no assists in seven games. Yes, seven games. A couple of weeks after acquiring Monahan, Bastien packaged him with Syl Apps and shipped them to Los Angeles for Dave Schultz, Gene Carr and a fourth-round draft choice.
16. No. 7 overall in 1981 to Montreal for winger Rod Schutt. A popular, though unproven, piece of franchise lore holds that Bastien thought he was getting all-star winger Steve Shutt, not Rod Schutt, from the Canadiens. Apocryphal? Perhaps. But it’s a pretty good illustration of how the Penguins’ management was viewed during the dark days of the early 1980s.
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