PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford has been attempting to acquire a top-six forward since the first month of the season. He found one in David Perron.
The Penguins traded forward Rob Klinkhammer and a first-round pick in the 2015 NHL Draft on Friday to the Edmonton Oilers for Perron, who led Edmonton with 28 goals last season. Perron will enter Pittsburgh's top-six forward group, which has been decimated by injury and illness the past two months.
"We were finally in position so that we could find a guy who could come in, help our forwards, give us more depth up front," Rutherford said. "He can play both wings comfortably. He's a right shot. He likes to play the left side, but based on our injury situation, we suspect he would start on the right side with us until we get our full team back, but we're very pleased we could make this addition today."
Left Wing - PIT
GOALS: 5 | ASST: 14 | PTS: 19
SOG: 74 | +/-: -17
Rutherford was in talks with the Oilers for more than a month, but the discussions became more serious during the past week. He said it is possible the Penguins could acquire another top-six forward this season, but it would be more difficult.
"It gets a little trickier now," Rutherford said. "We can still make moves, but any future moves we make, we would have to take somebody out of our lineup, and I like what the guys have done to this point. Everybody, in different ways, has contributed to where we are. So, we'll just watch the team to see what the needs are, and if we feel we still have needs, we have lots of time to still add."
The Penguins wanted to bring in a top-six forward as early as possible to allow him time to gel with his new teammates prior to the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Rutherford said he prefers trading for players well before the trade deadline because he feels players acquired at the deadline often don't pan out.
"If you look at the deadline deals, there are not many of those deals that impact the playoffs," Rutherford said. "You don't have a lot of time to get a guy into your team and get accustomed to your team. I like to make a deal in January, and this is a time where David can come in and there will be an adjustment period, of course. But he can get used to his teammates. Everybody can get to know each other.
"With that being said, as we get close to the deadline, if something makes sense for us, we'll still do it. I just think you have a better chance of that player having an impact in the playoffs if you get him sooner than later."
The Penguins' current top-six group includes high-profiled forwards Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Chris Kunitz, but also regular third-line center Brandon Sutter, Bryan Rust, who recently was recalled from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League, and forward Beau Bennett, who has missed 29 games this season because of various injuries and the mumps.
Forward Patric Hornqvist is sidelined with an upper-body injury, and Pascal Dupuis will not play for the rest of the season because of a potentially career-ending blood clot in his lung.
Even when Hornqvist returns, Perron is pegged to play on one of the top two lines, alongside either Crosby or Malkin.
Crosby and Malkin have been paired together on the top line, with Crosby as center and Malkin on the left wing, in an attempt to retain some of the spark that carried the Penguins to the top of the Eastern Conference through the early portion of the season.
Partnering two of the NHL's top players hasn't paid off. The Penguins have lost four of their past five games and have failed to score more than two goals in three consecutive games. Crosby has two goals in his past 14 games, and Malkin, who leads Pittsburgh with 16 goals, has one in his past 10.
When Perron enters the lineup, it is likely Crosby and Malkin will return to their roles centering the top two lines. That could help delineate the offensive production throughout Pittsburgh's four lines and allow Crosby and Malkin to play more freely.
But Perron's addition does not only impact the Penguins offensively. They were able to acquire the wing without trading any of their highly touted defensive prospects, including Derrick Pouliot. That was something Rutherford said played an important role in his negotiations with the Oilers.
"[Not letting go of a defensive prospect] was the good part of it," Rutherford said. "We have a good group of young defensemen and they've been coming along really nicely in their development stage, and to be able to hang on to those guys was good."
The Penguins did let go of a skilled young player, in Rutherford's opinion, by trading a first-round pick at the 2015 NHL Draft. But he said Pittsburgh added a proven NHL player who could remain with the Penguins for seasons to come.
"It's going to be a good draft, but it's the same as how you look at any player. Is the player going to do well or is not going to do well?" Rutherford said. "Will the draft pick work out or will not work out? But certainly, that draft pick should be a good young player, but we also got a player that's fairly young. Perron's only 26.
"He's coming into the prime of his career and as long as the contract works out long term and he fits here, he could be a good player here for a good six, seven years."