New additions won’t make big difference


PITTSBURGH — The NHL locked the doors Monday afternoon, freezing rosters with the trade deadline.

The Penguins did some minor tinkering, which speaks to their big picture. They don’t need an overhaul.

They mostly need previously reliable veterans to play to the level they’ve achieved in the past, and that starts with goalie Matt Murray.

General manager Jim Rutherford added two defensemen at the deadline, and one of them is strictly for organizational depth.

The need for defensive help arose during the disastrous outdoor game in Philadelphia, when the Penguins lost Kris Letang and Brian Dumoulin on the same sequence. They join the injured Olli Maatta, who may or may not be ready for the playoffs because of a shoulder injury.

So Rutherford acquired Erik Gudbranson, who is big, somewhat slow and handy with his fists, which has become an issue. All they had to give up was Tanner Pearson, who ends one of the most inconsequential Penguins careers in franchise history.

The fact the price was so low says ominous things about Gudbranson, but what were the Penguins going to do? They don’t have much salary cap room, and they didn’t have a lot to offer in deals.

Vancouver fans were cheering Gudbranson’s departure on social media. It is worth noting the Penguins have had success picking up another team’s castoff before — Justin Schultz was similarly undervalued with Edmonton.

The other trade was even more minor, as defenseman Chris Wideman was acquired from Florida for forward Jean-Sebastian Dey. Wideman was assigned to the minor leagues.

The real issue here isn’t these deals. It’s the inconsistency of Murray in goal (three of the goals he allowed outdoors were atrocious) and the prolonged slumps of Phil Kessel and Patric Hornquist.

This is about Penguins who have had success and been vital contributors in the past, not new additions who figure to make a minimal impact.

Late signing

Add Josh Harrison’s name to the list of major league players clobbered by the slow free agent market in baseball.

Harrison recently signed with the Detroit Tigers for $2 million. The Tigers made that offer some time ago. Harrison kept hoping for something better, but nothing materialized.

He was hurt by the triple whammy of being 31, coming off a lousy year and having a significant injury history.

So he’ll play for $2 million. That’s big money in the real world, but a far cry from the $10.5 million he would have made had the Pirates picked up his 2019 option. They wisely passed and will play Adam Frazier at second base.

Harrison can make an extra $1 million from the Tigers if he reaches certain levels for plate appearances.

Remembering Roy

A fond farewell to Roy McHugh, the superb Pittsburgh Press journalist who passed away at 103. (That’s right, 103).

He was a craftsman, a graceful writer who had a knack for capturing the essence of his topic without ever being intrusive. There should be an anthology of his columns as a teaching tool. The shame is he never wrote his memoirs, although he assisted Art Rooney Jr. and Myron Cope with their excellent autobiographies.

Roy was still working when I was breaking into the business. I learned a lot just by observing the quiet, unassuming man who wrote better than everyone else.

He set the standard.

John Mehno can be reached at johnmehnocolumn@gmail.com.


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