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$7 Million and Too Many Unsigned; Can Rutherford Escape Cap Jail?

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Pittsburgh Penguins Jared McCann vs. Braden Holtby Washington Capitals

Following the Pittsburgh Hockey Now report and subsequent information from national sources that at least one potential suitor cooled to the Pittsburgh Penguins price for goalie Matt Murray, the Penguins find themselves in a bind.

According to CapFriendly.com, the Penguins have about $8.1 million in salary-cap space, but that does not include the eventual promotion of goalie Casey DeSmith to the NHL roster. After DeSmith is added to the NHL roster, Penguins GM Jim Rutherford has about $6.9 million to sign four lineup regulars, including goalie Tristan Jarry, forward Jared McCann, winger Dominik Simon, and Sam Lafferty.

Oh, and the Penguins also need a third-pairing defenseman.

So the Penguins calculus is changing, too. There was some wonder if the Penguins could net an NHL return, such as a third-pair defenseman, or, as a rival GM wondered to PHN if the Penguins would use Murray as the asset to shed salary. However, those wonders appear to have been answered to the negative.

And so GM Jim Rutherford probably must say goodbye to a talented player, or two, and force head coach Mike Sullivan to insert depth options into the starting lineup.

Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet reported Rutherford was testing the waters to trade Jared McCann, who could make nearly $3 million next season. And likely sub $1 million winger Sam Lafferty into the lineup? RHD Chad Ruhwedel and his paltry $700,000 salary pressed into the starting lineup?

Let’s assume Tristan Jarry will make nearly $3 million, too. An All-Star goalie with arbitration rights has a pretty good case. After signing Lafferty and Jarry, the Penguins would have about $3 million left. Then factor signing Dominik Simon or another depth forward at a minimal salary, and the piggybank will have $2.2 million.

Assuming something close to an $800,000 cushion for emergency spending, Rutherford will have about $1.4 million for talent upgrades if he moves McCann. Based on playoff configurations and roster regulars, the lines could look something like this (Perhaps Jason Zucker will play with Sidney Crosby, but for now, we’ll keep the playoff lines):

Guentzel-Crosby-Kapanen

Zucker-Malkin-Rust

Lafferty-Bjugstad-Hornqvist

Aston-Reese–Blueger–Tanev

There’s talent above, but it’s not a completed puzzle. The blueline may suffer even more under the current trajectory. We don’t expect a Penguins trade involving Kris Letang.

Dumoulin-Letang

Pettersson-Marino

Johnson-Ruhwedel

Moving past the loyalties, hopes, or induced misanthropy for any one player, does the above look like a Stanley Cup lineup?

Third Line: McCann, Nick Buugstad, and Patric Hornqvist Penguins Trade?

It’s out there. If the Penguins deal McCann, they would have about $1.4 million in available funds to accept an NHL player. That’s probably not enough to yield a quality third-pair d-man or a third-line player in return.

If the Penguins top prospect Sam Poulin can elbow his way into the lineup, the Penguins could demote Simon or Lafferty to the AHL, but the math doesn’t really change. Poulin will count $894k against the cap.

Dealing McCann might be necessary to avoid an unwieldy contract not commensurate with his 14 goals and 21 assist season. Like the Murray deal, trading McCann probably won’t make the Penguins significantly better in the short run. At 24-years-old, and only a 35-point scorer, McCann is still more potential than production.

Nick Bjugstad may be the easiest name to toss out in a Penguins trade, but after playing only 13 games this season and not distinguishing himself over the past several NHL seasons, it’s not hard to surmise there is not a line of teams itching to take on his $4.1 million salary.

In fact, it would probably cost the Penguins an asset to move Bjugstad, and Rutherford doesn’t have many left. It would also leave the Penguins with a hole at the third-line center.

The above math leaves us…Patric Hornqvist.

The crazy Swede who infuriates defensemen, figuratively brings buckets of energy, and often leaves a little blood on the ice makes over $5 million. The Penguins signed free-agent winger Brandon Tanev to a six-year deal last July 1. Tanev’s blend of speed and recklessness could replace Hornqvist at even strength.

But replacing Hornqvist on the power play is a task too great for the current roster, as the Penguins coaches learned in Game 1 of the Qualifying Round series against the Montreal Canadiens.

Hornqvist had 17 goals in 52 games this season.

And, this entire math is predicated on the Penguins spending to the salary cap next season. Sources told PHN, and other outlets, that is not a given.

From here, it doesn’t appear Rutherford has many good options. The Pittsburgh Penguins trade potentials exist, but going forward, it’s unlikely they’ll make the Penguins better.

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Katz
Katz
11 days ago

They won’t consider the choice that makes sense. Ask Malkin to waive his NTC. I’m not sure they could move him anyway because his contract out of line with his playoff production. But perhaps he would go to Russia and his Contract would be freed up?
Change is needed and hard decisions are required. Dasvadonya Geno is the best choice by far.

John
John
11 days ago
Reply to  Katz

What are you talking about? You want to let Geno walk and go to Russia? He was hurt during these play in games, he had surgery right after the season ended. He was a top player this last year and had one of the highest points per 60 min (i think top 3 in NHL). If he is going anywhere the penguins will trade him and get some return (I don’t think they should or will trade him).They could literally free up cap space this year by buying out certain players.

Tony Gambardella
Tony Gambardella
10 days ago
Reply to  John

Malkin has been a ghost for 3 post seasons in a row! GOOD BYE!!!!

drewcpappas
drewcpappas
10 days ago
Reply to  Katz

You do realize Malkin was playing with a bum wrist Let’s just say you get rid of Malkin, who replaces him? You realize you are not replacing a 4th line center. If you think getting rid of Malkin will get you closer to a cup we must be watching different teams

Tony Gambardella
Tony Gambardella
10 days ago
Reply to  drewcpappas

3 Post seasons not enough productivity!

Ed Andrews
Ed Andrews
10 days ago
Reply to  Katz

you only get rid of Malkin if your going to start a rebuild, and i pretty sure Crosby will not like that very much. Pitt will need to start using thier prospects available, Maybe JR is losing it I really do not see why they needed KAp, instead of a 3rd line ctr and L or R top 6 defender. I think Tanev is not even close to Hori, but i think they need to let people go which means horni, Bjud, sheary simon, Buyout JJ, and trade McCann there is a lot of dead weight on this team.

Tony Gambardella
Tony Gambardella
10 days ago
Reply to  Ed Andrews

Think of this you could have gotten ride of Malkin before last year and signed MacKinnon (1 of sids best friends) for LESS tell me who you’d rather have!

drewcpappas
drewcpappas
9 days ago

Sign MacKinnon? Are you serious? So I guess Colorado was just going to let him go? Come on, if you want to engage in serious conversation you have to come up with something better than that

Tony Gambardella
Tony Gambardella
10 days ago
Reply to  Katz

Omg!! Someone agrees with me!! Like Malkin but cost for production isn’t there! He’s lazy and takes 2 many penalties no less at the wrong time! Could get another #2 center for way less!!

mike71
mike71
11 days ago

forgot some things, Maniscalco’s 853,333 can be removed and Lafferty is waivers exempt, so he will most likely be sent down for cap reasons. those moves free up close to another 2 million, so getting Jarry, McCann and Simon should be doable. Start the year platooning Rikola and Chad. does it look like a Stanley cup winning roster? no. but luckily you don’t have to play for the Stanley cup on day 1. this roster could maintain a playoff position while GMJR sees how players develop and things shake out around the league.

drewcpappas
drewcpappas
10 days ago
Reply to  mike71

You are right about not playing for the Cup on day 1, but the problem I have is what do you have to offer to get better? They have already traded next years #1 pick.

Dean
Dean
11 days ago

Trade Murray + Bjugstad to the Aves for Bowers, Helleson, Grubauer 

Provides Aves the Goalie they want plus an upgrade in 3rd line center if healthy and Pens take a risk on 2 high-end prospects.

Dater
Dater
10 days ago
Reply to  Dean

That might be possible, but I doubt it. A bit too much for Murray

drewcpappas
drewcpappas
10 days ago

Dan, you are saying the Pens have $8.1 mil salary cap space. I assume this is spending to the cap ceiling? Didn’t Rutherford say he was going to try and not spend to the ceiling? I am getting more and more concerned that the window is shut as far as this team competing for a cup. I don’t want to sound too negative, but right after the elimination Rutherford said he was going to make changes. Picking up a 3rd line winger and giving up your 1st round pick isn’t my idea of making changes to compete for a cup.

jackw
jackw
10 days ago

I love Hornqvist, but relatively speaking, what he brings for $5.3 million is not even close when compared to any of the “core”, so I find it ludicrous that anyone would suggest trying to move Malkin. I do think that changes need to be made, and it’s worth considering parting with Hornqvist, Murray, McCann and Buugstad even if they net essentially nothing in return. Then, roll with some younger players and demand that Sullivan craft a system that exploits the team’s strengths. Give him a very short leash and be ready to replace him if the team starts sluggish.

Cal
Cal
10 days ago

I suggest an attempt to get Bogosian on a cheapo deal.

Tony Gambardella
Tony Gambardella
10 days ago

Should have gotten rid of Malkin last off season and signed MacKinnon! No good C in FA so need to make 2 moves more then likely. Malkin is lifeless in last 3 post seasons and is a penalty machine! Needs to go!

Jeffrey Knipple
Jeffrey Knipple
10 days ago

Dan, kind of related, but wonder if you would consider doing a ‘really deep’ story on the 3 defensive pairings of a modern day NHL team. Cause as we watch these Conference Finals, not including the Pens, it sure seems as though the teams seeing success are running 2 really solid defensive pairings and a 3rd as well that doesn’t allow them to get caught for long periods in their defensive zone. Essentially, their defensive players are moving or skating the puck clear quickly and not allowing for the other team to set up neutral zone type traps. Whether one… Read more »

Michael Giobbe
Michael Giobbe
10 days ago

It’s all JJ’s fault.

Steven Pavlik
Steven Pavlik
10 days ago

Yikes. That above lineup sounds like a fringe playoff team. Nick Bjugstad is a waste of a 3LC.

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