There has been so much talk around the Penguins going back to the offseason about finding another center to play behind Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford has said repeatedly that he wasn't in any hurry to fill that role. Partly because of the emergence of Greg McKegg, partly because of Carter Rowney's breakout last season and partly because Crosby and Malkin can carry the load, among other factors. But in the last 24 hours, a deal came together that Rutherford couldn't pass up.
At 6 p.m. on Saturday, the Pens announced that they had acquired forward Riley Sheahan and a 2018 fifth-round draft pick from the Detroit Red Wings in exchange for forward Scott Wilson and a 2018 third-round draft pick.
Rutherford had made a couple of offers for Sheahan in the offseason after July 1 had passed, but at the time, Detroit wasn't sure if they were going to move him. However, once they signed forward Andreas Anthanasiou to a one-year deal on Friday and needed to clear cap space, talks picked up.
"I feel a lot more comfortable now, that certainly if we had an injury ahead of us or something, that we've added an experienced NHL center," Rutherford said from the media room in Amalie Arena ahead of the Pens' matchup with the Tampa Bay Lightning. Words that may prove to be prophetic, as Rowney left in the first period after blocking a shot and did not return.
What Rutherford likes the most about Sheahan as a player is his size and mobility.
"He's a heavy guy," Rutherford said of the 6-foot-3, 214-pound center. "He can play against other team's top guys, he can play certainly against the bigger, stronger guys. He's a strong skater, but down low, he can handle those bigger, stronger guys."
Just 25 years old, Sheahan has played his entire NHL career with the Detroit Red Wings after being the club's first-round draft pick (21st overall) in 2010.
While he's notched 98 career regular-season points (38G-60A) in 292 contests, Sheahan is coming off a year where he tallied just two goals in 82 regular-season games. However, Rutherford said he isn't concerned about that lack of production - especially because the two years prior to last season, Sheahan had scored 14 and 13 goals, respectively.
"He's dropped off the one year, but there's a good sample size there," Rutherford said. "He's still a young guy, he really should be coming into his prime. So he should be able to do it. He can play with good players here in the position he is going to play.
"I know he's a real good guy, he's a real good pro. I know he can strengthen our center-ice position. What his production is going to be, I can't predict that."
Rutherford also can't predict how the lineup will shake out, saying he is going to let the coaches decide how they're going to use Sheahan, McKegg and Rowney, who are all capable of playing wing. All that matters is that for now, the Pens are stronger at the center position.
What Rutherford does hope for is that Sheahan can take his game to another level here in Pittsburgh, just as players like Justin Schultz have been able to do before him.
"Players that have come to Pittsburgh are excited about playing in Pittsburgh," Rutherford said. "So that starts it, and our coaching staff is very good at working with these guys. And as long as guys want to work close with the coaching staff and listen to them and buy into what we're doing, then they have a chance to improve their game. It's been shown with the number of guys we've brought here. I really believe that's what's going to happen here with him."