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Pens add muscle with Reaves

by Sam Kasan @PensInsideScoop / Pittsburgh Penguins

The Pens' star players took a lot of abuse during the past two seasons, especially during their back-to-back Stanley Cup championship runs in 2016 and '17.

On occasion, that abuse crossed the line beyond just the normal physical play one expects during a game. 

The Pens tackled that issue by adding a little bit of muscle to their lineup with arguably the best deterrent in the NHL.

Pittsburgh acquired forward Ryan Reaves from the St. Louis Blues during Day 1 of the NHL Draft at Chicago's United Center on Friday night.

"We won the Cup two years ago and teams played us even harder than they usually do," general manager Jim Rutherford said. "Now we expect it to come again this year. It was important to get (Reaves)."

Pittsburgh also received the Blues' second-round pick (51st overall) in this year's draft while giving up its first-round pick (31st overall) and center Oskar Sundqvist.

While it may seem like Pittsburgh gave up a lot to acquire Reaves, there is no doubt that he fills a need the Pens desired to address.

"When you want to get the guy that's the best at doing what he does then you have to pay a price," Rutherford said. "Regardless of what we paid, we're very happy to have him."

The Pens mantra over the past two seasons, since Sullivan took over as head coach, was to "just play." As in, the team would ignore the cheap shots and extra curricular activities that opponents would employ.

Pittsburgh was highly successful in that pursuit, as evidenced by its consecutive Cup victories. But the team is hoping that Reaves' mere presence will be enough to keep opposing teams honest and away from those tactics.

"Ryan is a guy that, when he's in your lineup, people take notice," head coach Mike Sullivan said. "One of the tactics that teams deploy against us is they try to be physical, they try to bang us, slow us down.

"I think Ryan can help us with a little bit of pushback in that regard."

Reaves is arguably the toughest player in the entire NHL. The 30-year-old is more known for his abrasive forechecking than his playmaking - his 13 points this year were a career high.

At 6-foot-1 and 225 pounds, Reaves is a tank on skates and relishes in playing a punishing game.

"He's a guy that brings a physical dimension to our team, which is something that I think can help us moving forward," Sullivan said. "He's good on the forecheck. He's a sound two-way player that we can put on the ice."

Although Reaves is a big guy, his skating is very underrated and has improved greatly since being drafted by the Blues in 2005 (fifth round). And the Pens expect him to fit in well with their system, which places an emphasis on speed and skill.

"I think he's a good skater. He can get there," Sullivan said. "We think he can fit right in. The challenge is to try to play the style of play that the Penguins are trying to play and do what he does best, that's bring that physical dimension to our team."

But more importantly, Reaves will be a good fit inside the locker room as well as on the ice.

"He's a really good person," Sullivan said. "We think he'll fit into our locker room extremely well and help our veteran leadership and team chemistry." 

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