NHL Trade Rumors: Michael Leighton and Jamie Oleksiak Join Pittsburgh

2018 NHL Playoff Race

Entering the season the Pittsburgh Penguins were ready to make another run at the Stanley Cup. Pittsburgh had just come off winning their second on back-to-back Stanley Cups. As the best team in hockey nothing could stop Pittsburgh. However during the off-season, Pittsburgh lost some key players that were vital to their Stanley Cup runs. Character players like Nick Bonino, Matt Cullen, Chris Kunitz, and Trevor Daley left via free agency. Another character player the Penguins would lose via a trade in the expansion draft was Marc Andre Fleury.

At the time the Penguins did not know how crucial the loss of Fleury would be. Pittsburgh believed the signing of Antti Niemi would be the answer. Unfortunately for the Penguins and Niemi, the experiment did not work out. Niemi was placed on waivers and the Penguins have been looking for veteran presence for Matt Murray ever since. Pittsburgh may have found their replacement with their recent trade.

With Pittsburgh struggling, the team knew changes needed to be made. Many fans thought drastic changes were coming instead GM Jim Rutherford opted for smaller changes which would add depth to his team.

Pittsburgh acquired Michael Leighton from Arizona in exchange for Josh Archibald, goaltender Sean Maguire, and a 2019 sixth-round draft pick.

Is Michael Leighton the answer to Pittsburgh goaltending problems? Pittsburgh is hoping so. However, Leighton will remain in the American Hockey League, while Tristan Jarry remains the backup in Pittsburgh.

There were other goalies available to trade for, but Leighton was the cheapest option. Leighton is signed to a two-way contract worth $650,000 at the NHL level, and will report to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins of the American Hockey League. He will be an unrestricted free agent at the conclusion of the season.

During his time in the NHL, Leighton has appeared in 110 career games with Chicago, Nashville, Philadelphia, and Carolina. He spent the better part of three seasons with the Hurricanes from 2007-10 when Rutherford was Carolina’s GM. So it would makes that Rutherford would want to bring a player in that he has a history with.

Leighton’s best season came during the 2010 season when he backstopped the Philadelphia Flyers to a 2010 Stanley Cup Final appearance. As a matter of fact during the 2010 postseason, Leighton had a record of 8-3 with three shutouts.He was originally drafted by Chicago in the sixth round (165th overall) of the 1999 NHL Draft.

Another move the Penguins made this week was adding depth to their depleted defense. The Penguins acquired Jamie Oleksiak from Dallas.

Here was another cheap pickup for the Rutherford and the Penguins. Oleksiak, only 24, is scheduled to make $965,000 this season. At the conclusion of this season, Oleksiak will become a restricted free agent.

Oleksiak, a 6-foot-7, 255-pound blueliner, has skated in 21 games this year with the Stars, producing three points (1G-2A). He has played parts of the last six years with Dallas, tallying 22 points (7G-15A) in 140 career games.

Pittsburgh depth at defense has been a problem this season. The team has not been able to fill the holes left by those who came before them. Oleksiak will bring size to a team that is lacking toughness in front of the net. Too many times this season, Pittsburgh has let the other team outwork them in front of their own net. With Oleksiak on board, Pittsburgh is hoping they can prevent the early goals that have plagued them all season.

This is only the beginning in Pittsburgh. Once the holiday freeze is over in the NHL, look for Rutherford and the Penguins to make other moves. Rutherford has been notorious for making moves once the calendar turns to January instead of waiting for the trade deadline. Pittsburgh still wants to add a veteran presence for their locker room that can help them win come playoff time.

It will be an interesting coming weeks and months for the Penguins. One thing is for sure do not count out the defending champs.

Read More:

Puck Wire: Top Hockey News Of The Day – December 21

Photo Credit: By Michael Miller (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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