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Kingerski: Johnson Buyout, Penguins Offseason Feels Chaotic



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 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 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.