The Chicago Blackhawks have traded forward Alex Nylander to the Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for forward Sam Lafferty, the team announced Wednesday. Lafferty will join Chicago in Arizona, where they will begin a three-game road trip.
While there's a surplus of bottom-six forwards on the roster, the addition of Lafferty gives the Blackhawks an established NHL player and allows their prospects to take on larger roles and overripen in Rockford, which was part of the motivation behind the trade, a team source told NBC Sports Chicago.
It also gives both players a change of scenery. It was tough to see a path where Nylander could crack Chicago's top-nine on a consistent basis while Lafferty was likely going to be squeezed out of the rotation in Pittsburgh with the pending return of Evgeni Malkin.
Lafferty, 26, has two assists in 10 games this season for the Penguins and has 21 points (six goals, 15 assists) in 94 career games across three NHL seasons. He carries a right-handed shot, can play all three forward positions and is expected to play in a third- or fourth-line role with the Blackhawks.
"Hardworking role player," said one Eastern Conference scout. "Can play in the middle or wing. Above average size and plus skating. Competitive and provides energy."
Lafferty, who was selected by Pittsburgh in the fourth round (No. 113 overall) of the 2014 NHL Draft, is set to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. His current contract carries a cap hit of $750,000.
Nylander, 23, had 12 points (eight goals, four assists) in 23 games this season for the Rockford IceHogs but hasn't shown enough consistent growth in his game to warrant a call-up to the NHL roster. He will report to Pittsburgh AHL's affiliate, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.
Nylander was acquired by Chicago on July 9, 2019 from Buffalo for defenseman Henri Jokiharju. He had 10 goals and 16 assists in 65 regular-season games during his stint with the Blackhawks.