As if the Pittsburgh Penguins didn’t have enough questions hanging over their heads after a second straight curt playoff dismissal, the Penguins’ future salary cap is not entirely in their own hands. The Penguins may have a number in mind, but it will not be their choice in several cases.
The Penguins have a handful of valuable restricted free agents with NHL experience. Most of those players figure to be prime contributors next season and beyond. Those RFAs will not suffer the same fate as Penguins defenseman Marcus Pettersson. Last season, economics and the Penguins forced Pettersson to sign his $890k qualifying offer rather than a contract befitting a top-four defenseman.
“Jim (Rutherford) and I are big believers in a combination of youth with our veteran leadership. An element of youth is good for a team,” Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan said on Wednesday. “Guys are hungry and enthusiastic. That can become contagious. When you look at our teams that have had success, we’ve had that combination.”
The Penguins RFA list includes expected NHL regulars, Jared McCann and Dominik Simon. Forward Evan Rodrigues, whom the Penguins acquired from Buffalo at the trade deadline with Conor Sheary, didn’t really get a chance to show what he could do. But, he will also be an RFA with arbitration rights.
And the RFA’s could break the Penguins likely lower payroll next season.