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NHL Free Agency

4 Buyout Candidates for Penguins to Watch

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NHL buyout candidates, NHL free agency, Pittsburgh Penguins analysis

Bargains and gambles. If the Pittsburgh Penguins hope to stretch their salary cap space and add talent without long-term entanglements or big-name trades, Penguins president of hockey operations/GM Kyle Dubas might have a few veteran options at a minimum cost.

The NHL buyout projections are making the rounds, and there are a few players whose careers, or at least the NHL portion, are over. Goalies Cal Petersen and Jack Campbell have seen their NHL careers slide to the AHL despite more than generous salaries. Philadelphia could pocket a few million with the Petersen buyout, and Edmonton might have to swallow hard and pay off Cambell over the next six years.

Despite a few well-meaning fan-inspired trade proposals, including Campbell to the Penguins in disappointment-fueled trade proposals for Penguins goalie Tristan Jarry, barring a flip of the magnetic poles, such a move seems wildly implausible.

Other big names in Penguins’ positions of need include Ryan Suter, who could be a buyout casualty in Dallas; at 39 years old, he’s looked painfully a step slow in each of the last two playoff runs. Cam Atkinson is also a Philadelphia buyout candidate but would not be a candidate to fill the Penguins’ scoring needs.

There are a few buyout candidates lists on the interwebs today. The Athletic’s was a bit surprising with Philip Grubauer and Jacob Trouba. Those names seem a little unlikely, but the intersection of general consensus and a few lists include a few names who might fortify the Penguins’ lineup.

The buyout window begins either on June 15 or 48 hours after the Stanley Cup is awarded, and since the NHL keeps pushing the Cup Final later and later every year, we’ll just stick with after the Cup. Last June, Matt Duchene was a buyout casualty

3 Buyout Candidates for Penguins

Torey Krug

Last summer, Krug blocked a trade from the St. Loius Blues to Philadelphia. This summer, Krug is a buyout candidate as St. Louis tries to avoid a full-scale rebuild and instead retool on the fly. Krug has three years remaining on his contract with a $6.5 million cap hit, so he’s not a probable buyout, but if he hits the market, it could be the right fit for the Penguins.

Krug, 33, is a third-pairing defenseman with good puck skills and power-play acumen. With Jack St. Ivany on the right side and Ryan Graves struggling, there is an opening for a more offensive defenseman on the left.

Krug had 39 points this season and can move well enough. If his price drops after a possible buyout, he could be the right short-term answer on the Penguins left and offer a little power play help.

Barclay Goodrow

The grinding forward, who is an annual playoff hero, could add some heft to the Penguins’ bottom six. The 6-foot-2, 204-pound forward can disappear for a bit in the regular season and scored just four goals in 80 games this season. However, he had six tallies in 16 playoff games.

The New York Rangers will need cap space, and Goodrow is an expensive bottom liner. He’s got one year remaining on his contract with a $3.64 million annual value, and the numbers work out for a buyout. Some jam, some responsibility, more penalty-killing prowess, and offense when it matters.

If Goodrow becomes available, Dubas could fortify the bottom lines and make a veteran or two expendable to acquire the draft picks he craves. And Goodrow could become trade fodder at the deadline for even more picks if the Penguins fail to assert themselves in the playoff race.

Elvis Merzlikins/Spencer Knight

Trade? Or buyout? The Columbus Blue Jackets would prefer to trade Merzlikins, but he makes $5.4 million for the next three years, and there are no takers, even on the goalie-desperate market.

Florida will (probably) have a Cup-winning roster and not enough salary cap space. If they buy out the formerly promising Knight’s current $4.5 million salary for two more years, it will drop to only $750,000 over four years. It’s as close as an NHL team can get to walking away scott-free.

Both could be a reclamation project, just like Alex Nedeljkovic was this season. Both had a starter’s pedigree. For Merzlikins, things went sideways after the death of popular teammate Matiss Kivlenieks, who was killed protecting teammates and their families from a wayward firework at a team party. The last two seasons for Merzlikins have admittedly been a struggle, beginning with the tragedy and being compounded by the chaos of the team.

Knight has gone through the NHL/NHLPA Players’s Assistance Program and is only 23 years old. His salary will be difficult to trade despite his potential.

The Penguins probably need a second goalie, and one with the potential to increase their own value while becoming a 1A goalie could be the right deal. Perhaps a one-year deal for the goalie to prove themselves and cash in next summer would work for all parties while Penguins top prospect Joel Blomqvist readies himself for his NHL journey.