The one-for-one deal will see Nylander leave the Blackhawks organization after just 65 regular season games. Selected eighth overall in 2016, he arrived in Chicago after a trade from the Buffalo Sabres in 2019, played the entire 2019-20 season before suffering a major knee injury that kept him out all of last year. Through 23 games in the minor leagues this season, he has eight goals and 12 points.
A dynamic forward in Sweden and the OHL, Nylander managed just 19 games with the Sabres before being shipped out of town for Henri Jokiharju. His work ethic has been questioned at times (rightly or wrongly), while his consistency has always been an issue. Even in the minor leagues there have been times where he disappears, and so much time off due to the knee recovery has not helped. There is still upside in the 23-year-old, something that the Penguins will obviously try to coax out, but it’s beginning to seem like Nylander has missed his opportunity to be an impact player at the NHL level.
That seems to be Chicago’s take, as Lafferty represents a depth option without much upside. The 26-year-old forward has 94 games under his belt at the NHL level, with six goals and 21 points to show for it. None of those six goals have come since the start of the 2020-21 campaign, with him seeing far less ice time in Pittsburgh over the last two seasons. In fact, he’s played just ten games this year despite Pittsburgh dealing with many injuries and averages fewer than nine minutes even when he gets into the lineup.
Nylander will be a restricted free agent at the end of the season and remain in Pittsburgh’s control as long as the team issues him a qualifying offer. That’s no guarantee, though the threat of arbitration is still a year away due to his lost season.