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Kingerski: Johnson Buyout, Penguins Offseason Feels Chaotic

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Pittsburgh Penguins Game Jack Johnson LA Kings

To paraphrase Richard Nixon, you won’t have Jack Johnson to kick around anymore. On Monday, the Pittsburgh Penguins pulled the surprise move and bought out the maligned defenseman. As an additional Christmas present to fans, they also didn’t offer winger Dominik Simon a qualifying offer.

But the shocker move was buying out Jack Johnson. Management has publicly defended the player. Coaches have gone out of their way to defend the player publicly.

Regardless if the Penguins feel this way, buying out Johnson makes it look like they admitted a mistake. As one writer who was constantly barraged with Johnson hate (and who tried to defend the defenseman), the move makes me question the public and private defenses, too.

And yet here we are. The Pittsburgh Penguins will be eating Johnson’s salary for six years. Let’s repeat that. To save $2 million this season, the Penguins will take a nearly $1.16 million cap hit for the next two years (and save $2 million), a $1.9 million hit in three years (and save only $1.3 million), and then “only” have a $916k cap hit for the final two years (no savings).

That’s a ton of dead money for a cap-ceiling team.

The Penguins offseason feels chaotic because the Penguins’ and Jim Rutherford’s moves, when viewed individually, are debatable but not overly harmful unless you believe Patric Hornqvist’s absence will weaken the team. However, when all of the moves are taken together, the Penguins have been bailing water and throwing some back in their own boat.

The Penguins bought out Johnson and saved $2 million this season. The traded Nick Bjugstad to Minnesota but ate half of his contract, saving them $2.05 million. So, the Penguins saved a combined $4 million for this coming season.

However, if they had simply bought out Bjugstad, they would have saved $3.5 million this season, according to Capfriendly.com. Next season, the Penguins would have had $1.75 million in dead money instead of $1.16 million.

In short, the Penguins could have saved nearly the same amount this season, had a similar cap hit next season but avoided buying out Johnson and paying him for six years.

If you’d really like me to blow your mind: the Penguins could have bought out Bjugstad and stashed Johnson in the minors to save $4.5 million this season — $500,000 more than they’re currently saving, and a buyout of Johnson, if necessary, would have been easier next season.

Six years of paying Jack Johnson. Jared McCann will be 30-years-old, and Evgeni Malkin will be 40 when it’s all over. It’s not quite a Bobby Bonilla day, but that’s 2026. We’ll have TWO Presidential elections between now and then. Ryan Seacrest may even age, too.

It the big picture, PHN and this writer are having a tough time fitting all of the pieces of the puzzle together. It seems more like chasing a solution.

And, it makes the Patric Hornqvist trade more suspect, too.

Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman also reported the Penguins pressured Hornqvist to accept the trade to Florida last week by suggesting they could waive him. But, to make the deal work, the Penguins accepted about $800,000 more salary than they traded.

The Johnson buyout opens up about $4.7 million under the salary cap, according to PuckPedia.com. Sam Lafferty, Anthony Angello are yet to sign. In rough numbers, the Penguins should have just under $3 million remaining when those two put pen to paper.

Pittsburgh Penguins One-Timers

*Barring an addition, Chad Ruhwedel is the full-time RHD on the third pair. The Penguins can’t be OK with that, full time. Ruhwedel is a career depth defenseman with value, but he’s never before been tasked with being a Penguins regular.

Mike Matheson – Chad Ruhwedel looks like the third pairing. You can decide if that’s an upgrade.

*Good for Jack Johnson. Get away from Pittsburgh. Run far, far away. Penguins fans treated him worse than any athlete since Cliff Stoudt. Convicted felons received better treatment from Pittsburgh fans. Seriously.

*The Penguins offseason can’t be fully judged until the Murray trade occurs and the team officially pulls back from free agency, but it doesn’t look like we’ll give Rutherford a good grade.

*I’m very curious to see what Dominik Simon pulls on the open market. Perhaps Rick Tocchet in Arizona will remember his value? If the Penguins can sign him to a minimum contract, they could do a lot worse.

*There are no rules to fandom or online behavior, but, damn, some of you wall went way overboard and beyond anything you’d say or think in real life.

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Pittsburgh Hockey Now Editor-in-Chief, formerly 93.7 The Fan, Sportsnet Hockey Tonight, NHL Home Ice. Catch Dan tweeting @theDanKingerski and the official @pghhockeynow account.

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Dean
Dean
1 year ago

I admit, I hated the JJ deal. Let me say that again, I hated the JJ deal. I didn’t say I hated JJ. I hated the deal that GMJR gave him. It was a bad deal. If it was a 2-year deal for $4, I don’t think the noise would have been nearly so loud and over the top. But 5 years and $16.25M. Come-on! It is the same for Hornqvist. We love him. However, at his age to give him a 5-year $26.5M deal.  Come-on! 3-year $16M maybe. These are bad deals from the beginning that just got worse… Read more »

Jack
Jack
1 year ago
Reply to  Dean

1000% with you on your stance. These contacts and the GMs that offer them continue to amaze me. Everyone outside of Rutherford knew Jack at 5years was a disaster. If he signs him 1 or 2 years, people may still bunch but you’re out relatively scott free. JR is far from the only offender in this practice in all fairness. I just dont get it. I remember the Bolts bought out Lecavalier a few years ago. The Flyers slapped a 4 year contract in front of him that everyone knew would do them more harm than good. 1 year in… Read more »

Katz
Katz
1 year ago

Give up your Simon love. And as I’ve been saying for a month Murray thinks he’s worth a lot more than he is and that will end up with Rutherford getting far less. The big mistake and I keep saying it was not moving Malkin out a few weeks ago. Now you’ve got a lot of disjointed “Helter Skelter” moves chasing some end that will not arrive.

Phil
Phil
1 year ago
Reply to  Katz

In what universe is not moving a guy who played at an MVP level this year “the big mistake”

Katz
Katz
1 year ago
Reply to  Phil

He’s been a no show the last 3 playoffs, in in the last two he was invisible except for giveaways. He’s paid to show up when the stakes are highest. Tavares was traded. Gretzky was traded. Fact is in today’s market even if he did not have a NTC which team would even take him and his salary?

William Nichols
William Nichols
1 year ago

I don’t think the your math is right. In your scenario, next year they would have $1.75M dead money plus $3.25 M still tied up with JJ with yet another year to go.
Also, I think you were looking at $ payout not cap hit.

Keith Thomas
Keith Thomas
1 year ago

As for dead money. 20/21 the dead money is 3.216 (Bjugstad & JJ). For 21/22 dead money is 1.166 and then it goes up to 1.816 for 22/23. It is a HUGE amount of money that binds them to a financial anchor tied around their necks for 6 years.

Keith Thomas
Keith Thomas
1 year ago
William Nichols
William Nichols
1 year ago
Reply to  Keith Thomas

Agreed. My only point is that focusing on “dead money” rather than “cap space” is a mistake. Paying $3.25 M results in *undead money*. Less “dead money” but even less remaining cap space. Even in the worst case scenario you can plug in a replacement level player at $1.3M and get better on ice performance, so it’s the best of bad choices.

I’m a little surprised there are no takers for JJ with 50% retained, but that’s were we are. It suggests if he continues playing, someone will pay him near minimum.

Vince Gori
Vince Gori
1 year ago

And he will play for it I’m sure.

Ricardo58
Ricardo58
1 year ago

As it stands currently, I’m one of the fans who thinks the Pens are no better then when they recently loss to the Canadiens. 72 may be broken down and less swift than he once was, but there is no one on the roster who can do what he did on the PP. If you are a fan of perimeter hockey with pretty drop passes, I’m thinking this next edition of the Pens will be pleasing to you.

Dean
Dean
1 year ago

As far as a chaotic offseason, I think we will have to just wait and see the final results. GMJR has a few more moves to make. I will say that the puzzle is starting to look like a picture to me. The D is younger, faster, and has better puck movers on it. Dumoulin – L Letang – R Matheson – L Marino – R Pettersson – L Maniscalco – R (GMJR said he was giving him a chance to make the team) I think they should let 1 young guy play. Riikola – L Ruhwedel – R Guentzel… Read more »

Jason
Jason
1 year ago

All the best to JJ. By all reports he’s a good team guy miscast by Pittsburgh into roles way above his ability. Wishing him nothing but greener pastures moving forward.

But that contract was terrible the day it was signed, and his play matched it. Buying him out improves the on ice product. Which the penguins have now admitted to themselves, though as you state above, their were probably better ways to shed the Bjugstad and Johnson contract.

Simon is a bit of a head scratcher to me though. Can he now walk via free agency?

Last edited 1 year ago by Jason
Bill L
Bill L
1 year ago

I for one liked Jack Johnson and am sorry to see him go. He’s had his share of bum plays but so has a very well paid first pair defenseman with a funny haircut. They’re human. But you could always count on JJ to introduce opposing players to the boards with great enthusiasm, something that other defenseman is notorious for avoiding. Jack, if you read this, I wish you the best in whatever the future holds.

ctf
ctf
1 year ago

Part of what few seem to be looking at in these deal is the actual out of pocket money for next year. When looking at the deals and decisions that are being made, one cannot just look at the players and the cap hit. The actual out of pocket expense next year also has to been factored into the evaluation of the deals and decisions.

Hentryk
Hentryk
1 year ago

Was it really worse for Johnson than Ryan Whitney or Alex Goligoski? I mean it seems like there is always a defensemen being run out of town. Paul Martin after his 1st year comes to mind also. Martin though was able to recover in season 2, not so much for Johnson.

Keith Thomas
Keith Thomas
1 year ago

The analogy of bailing out in the front of the boat only to put it the back of the boat is perfect. It seems as this is something one would see done in a Three Stooges short. It is stooge like. The moves done in this off-season appear to be done without a strategic plan in place…. either for the next season or seasons to come. The lack a unified strategy short-term and long-term. As I said previously, the Pens need to get another set of eyeballs on what is happening here and before they make any more moves the… Read more »

Michael Hanczar
Michael Hanczar
1 year ago

Blame the media for piling on JJ, just not the fans.

Vince Gori
Vince Gori
1 year ago

Well good luck to Jack. I agree the level of hate he garnered rivaled that of serial killers, child molesters, even Presidents in this day. Everyone’s a know it all, a wannabe GM. He will be missed, the softness of what he is replaced by will come back to haunt them. I was perplexed of the change of thoughts by GMJR was mind boggling. He went from defending JJ, blaming Schultz for a lot of the problems. Them he stated JJ would have to complete for his spit, perhaps play on the right side. Well then the waive him for… Read more »

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