Conor Sheary and Matt Hunwick were traded to the Buffalo Sabres by the Pittsburgh Penguins for a conditional fourth-round pick in the 2019 NHL Draft on Wednesday.
Sheary, a 26-year-old forward, had 30 points (18 goals, 12 assists) in 79 games this season and two assists in 12 games during the Stanley Cup Playoffs. He has two seasons remaining on a three-year, $9 million contract (average annual value $3 million) and can become an unrestricted free agent July 1, 2020.
Signed by Pittsburgh as a free agent July 1, 2015, Sheary has 93 points (48 goals, 45 assists) in 184 regular-season games and 19 points (six goals, 13 assists) in 57 playoff games. He won the Stanley Cup with the Penguins in 2016 and 2017.
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"He was part of our Cup team. He was here for two Stanley Cups. He's a good player," Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford said.
Hunwick, a 33-year-old defenseman, had 10 points (four goals, six assists) in 42 games with the Penguins after signing a three-year contract (average annual value $2.25 million) with Pittsburgh on July 1, 2017. He has 117 points (25 goals, 92 assists) in 521 NHL games with the Boston Bruins, Colorado Avalanche, New York Rangers, Toronto Maple Leafs and Penguins.
"This is just part of the system now, you know? With the [NHL salary] cap system, it makes it hard to keep all the players," Rutherford said. "If you're going to free up cap space, these are the kind of things you have to do. But we thank him for what he's done. We do have a lot of good NHL wingers, so we can afford to move somebody out. That was part of this deal."
Video: Penguins send Sheary and Hunwick to Sabres for pick
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and 105.9 The X reported the Penguins are expected to use some of the cap space freed up by the trade to sign Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Jack Johnson, who can become an unrestricted free agent July 1.
Sabres general manager Jason Botterill, an associate GM under Rutherford until being hired by the Sabres on May 11, 2017, said he was happy to add a player with playoff experience. The Sabres were 25-45-12 this season and finished last in the NHL standings.
"I think it's great. He [Sheary] knows how to play in pressure situations against other teams' top defenders, top players." Botterill said. "We've talked a lot about bringing in players who have playoff experience. Bringing in both Hunwick and Conor, who have played in playoff games, is very key for our group."