The NHL season is back in full swing, and so is the trade market, apparently.
The Chicago Blackhawks got the ball rolling on Wednesday morning, dealing forward Alex Nylander to the Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for Sam Lafferty.
This marks the third time that the youngest Nylander has been traded since being selected by the Buffalo Sabres with the eighth overall pick in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. Nylander has struggled mightily to develop into the top-six forward his scouting report pegged him to be since turning pro, having played just 84 total games at hockey’s highest level across five seasons, with 13 goals and 32 points to show for it.
This season, Nylander has spent his entire campaign in the AHL with the Rockford Ice Hogs, racking up 12 points in 23 games for the Blackhawks’ affiliate.
Perhaps the Penguins can squeeze some value out of a player of Nylander’s pedigree. It wouldn’t be the craziest thing to happen, that’s for sure. In fact, Mike Sullivan’s squad has become well-known for their habit of finding useful role players in hockey’s bargain bin, taking previously under-valued assets like Bryan Rust and Evan Rodrigues and slotting them alongside one of Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin to fabulous results.
Clearly, Nylander has the tools. You don’t become a top-10 pick by accident. He just needs to learn how to ply them. But the clock is ticking.
Lafferty, on the other hand, brings far less draft sparkle than the player he’s being dealt for today, having been selected in the fourth round of the 2014 NHL Entry Draft by the Penguins, 113th overall.
The 26-year-old has managed to become a nice little depth forward over the past few years, staying on the Penguins’ active roster since the end of the 2019-20 season where he currently sits with two points in 10 games.
If you’re comparing upside between the two, Nylander definitely takes the cake. But the Blackhawks likely made this deal out of a need for an actual NHL player to slot in their lineup at this very moment, and Lafferty certainly offers them that more than a developing prospect.
Either way, dissecting the aftermath of a trade is a nice return to normal.