It’s not often that two NHL clubs swap pieces and both walk away as winners, but that seems to be exactly the case with the Pittsburgh Penguins and Anaheim Ducks.
The teams engaged in a trade of offensive weapons earlier this season, with the Penguins trading away David Perron (and journeyman defender Adam Clendening) to the Ducks in exchange for speedy winger Carl Hagelin on January 15th. It was a tough deal to call at the time, as both players possessed tremendous skill, yet both were in the midst of very mediocre seasons.
However, nearly one month since the trade, both players have been undeniable success and have guided their teams back towards consistent success.
The central theme that drove both Perron and Hagelin out of their previous locker rooms was a failure to live up to expectations.
In his final 15 games in Pittsburgh, Perron – who flirted with 30 goals in 2013-14 as an Edmonton Oiler – tallied only a meagre five assists. The sum was a disappointing one considering Perron’s history of scoring, but was an even worse failure considering he often suited up alongside elite centremen like Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
However, Perron never seemed to quite fit with the Penguins’ style. He amassed a decent 12 goals and 22 points during his first run with Pittsburgh (over the latter 43 games of the 2014-15 season), leading to the assumption that a full offseason and training camp with the organization would bring elite numbers once again. Instead, Perron posted a total of four goals and 16 points through his next 43 games as a Penguin, prompting Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford to send him packing.
The same can be said of Hagelin. A somewhat underrated gem with the New York Rangers due to his blinding speed, Hagelin looked set to be a key offseason addition for the Ducks when he joined the team prior to the 2015-16 season. One of the fastest skaters in the league, it seemed Hagelin would add simply another lethal dimension to Anaheim’s already dangerous scoring arsenal.
And yet, just like Perron, the fit just wasn’t right for Hagelin and the Ducks. The 27-year-old posted only 12 points in 43 games for Anaheim, and the team’s offense as a whole looked decidedly stagnant.
Fast forward to today, and each player has looked exceptional in their new threads.
In 10 games with the Ducks, Perron has scored at a point-per-game pace, potting four goals and six assists in that span. Those four goals in 10 games already equal the number of tallies Perron posted in 43 contests with Pittsburgh earlier in the season, and the hard-nosed winger has fit in excellently on the Ducks’ top line with Ryan Getzlaf.
Hagelin hasn’t been too shabby either. The Swedish native’s speed has served as a significant upgrade for the Penguins. He’s partnered with Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel on the club’s second line, and the combination of Hagelin’s and Kessel’s speed has been a game-changer. Hagelin has scored six points in 10 games as a Penguin, and due to the chemistry he’s developed with Kessel, the latter forward seems to have regained his scoring touch as well, racking up nine points in 10 games since Hagelin’s arrival.
Style of play seems to be the central factor in both players’ resurgent efforts. Perron’s hard-nosed, more physical brand of hockey is a much better fit in the Western Conference rather than the East, especially on a Ducks roster that boasts a plethora of heavy bodies. It was in the West that Perron became a star, finding success in both St. Louis and Edmonton. Similarly, Hagelin’s speed has fit in excellently with the Penguins’ identity, and seems a natural fit in the skillful Eastern Conference – wherein Hagelin first rose to prominence with the New York Rangers.
Regardless of the reason for their newfound success, it’s clear both wingers are much more at home with their new clubs, and the move has paid off plentifully for both the Penguins and the Ducks. Since the deal, the two teams have each won seven of 10 games (tied for the second-most among all NHL clubs) and have scored an identical 36 goals (tied for the third-most in the league). More importantly, both have climbed back into a playoff position and, with their offenses now rolling once again, are looking set to prove they’re still worthy of contender status.