The Penguins blueline has as much stability as Donald Trump’s cabinet right now. Within a one week time span, Justin Schultz was concussed in a game against the Jets. Schultz is currently day-to-day. In the same game, Oli Maatta injured his hand and will now be out six weeks following surgery. Against Carolina, it was Trevor Daley’s turn to face the injury bug. Daley has since undergone knee surgery and will out six weeks as a result.
The icing on the cake is Kris Letang is apparently banged up with an upper body injury, and it was announced that he is also day-to-day. This really does not come as a surprise since Letang has been limited to just 41 games so far this season.
For those not counting, this means that the only defensemen left standing (five) are Ian Cole, Steven Oleksy, Brian Dumoulin, Chad Ruhwedel, and Cameron Guance. Oleksy, Ruhwedel, and Guance have all played most of their season in the AHL.
Luckily, this situation has changed. GM Jim Rutherford stepped in and traded Danny Kristo and a second round pick for Ron Hainsey, who at this point will be the Penguins top defenseman in about two more games at the rate injuries are piling up.
- The Penguins were able to address an immediate and critical need. The Penguins now have 6 defensemen.
- Hainsey has played in all 56 of the Hurricanes games so far this season. The Pens desperately need someone who is healthy and unlikely to be bothered by reoccurring injuries.
- The Penguins did not have to sacrifice any player from their current roster to improve their defense. The only player to be sent back to Carolina was Kristo, a player who was in and out of the WB/S Penguins roster at various points the past of the season.
- Hainsey is old (35). There is a good chance his age will start to catch up with him as the season progresses. Hainsey has played the most career games (891) without a Stanley Cup playoff appearance, more than even Oli Jokinen. There is a strong probability that if Hainsey can miraculous stay healthy as a Penguins defenseman that this streak will end. However, no one knows how well Hainsey will deal with potential post season play.
- Giving up a draft pick sucks. A second round draft pick is basically a lottery ticket with a 7% chance the player will play in the NHL and a 31.1% chance the player will play 100 games. Eventually, the loss of draft picks will be problematic for the Pens, but that time is not now.
Overall, this is a great move by Rutherford. He addressed an immediate and urgent need without giving up much at all. As long as the Penguins can stop getting injured and get healthy, they are trending towards a very exciting post season of play.