Matt Duchene, Joe Thornton? It's Penguins Rumor Squashing Day!
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Matt Duchene, Joe Thornton to Pens? It’s Penguins Rumor Squashing Day!



By Sarah Connors (Blues vs. Sharks-8634.jpg) | CC BY 2.0

The NHL is careening towards July 1, its annual all-out free agent feeding frenzy. Rumors abound! Call me the Grinch who stole free agency rumors or an old man yelling at clouds. Even call me that guy with the bucket of cold water.

Hockey’s silly season has arrived, but we shouldn’t lose our marbles. Does it make sense to argue about which implausible possibility is least probable and ignore which plausible possibility is most probable? (I hope Dr. Seuss enjoyed that one). It’s time to stomp some of the most far-flung possibilities which are making the rounds on the internet. It’s Rumor Squashing Day!

In the comments section below, feel free to tee up your favorite rumor. Also, if any of the following rumors actually happen, I will both eat my words and buy a round at my little neighborhood bar. You are invited. For real.

Penguins Rumor: Joe Thornton

The fan theory goes something like this–Since Joe Thornton has never won a Stanley Cup, the 38-year old will be overcome with competitive desire, eschew the declining San Jose Sharks and a dozen interested teams to sign a sweetheart deal with the Penguins in order to win a Stanley Cup.

Minor flaws in the plan: Several very good teams are interested in Jumbo Joe, including the Los Angeles Kings, who are only a few goals away from being a scary team. Those very good teams are willing to pay top dollar so Thornton can help them beat the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Some forget, the Hall-of-Fame laden Detroit Red Wings teams of the late 1990’s with players like Brett Hull, Luc Robitaille, and Larry Murphy, had a huge payroll. Those would-be Hockey Hall of Fame players joined forces but also got paid.

Here’s the last bit of dirt on the grave: Thornton is an assist machine who doesn’t play fast. The Penguins list of third line wingers aren’t great finishers and play fast.

Sorry… No, Joe!

Penguins Rumor: Matt Duchene for Olli Maatta!

So, let me get this straight: The player you don’t think is worth a bag of pucks, is too slow and is frequently the whipping boy of Penguins fanboys across the internet, is suddenly worth building a package around for a prominent young center.

RedBeard's Pittsburgh

Got it. The rumor was floated by a credible Canadian outlet, but it is hard to imagine finding mutually beneficial grounds for a trade. The Maatta-Duchene rumor also appeared last winter, too. By the way, Olli Maatta was rock solid in the playoffs. His skating was much improved. His decision making was usually crisp. He was good.

Here are the main reasons Duchene won’t be a Penguin: Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Duchene makes six million dollars per season. In a salary cap era, it doesn’t fly to have a six million dollar THIRD line center. It would be insanity to commit nearly 25 million dollars to the middle of the ice, long term.

More dirt on the grave: Duchene can be a top line or second line center, for many teams. That is worth a lot more to a team trading for Duchene than it would be to the Penguins who would be trading for a third line center.

Maybe Alex Tanguay and Milan Hejduk are still available?

Nick Bonino Will Get Overpaid…by Someone

Ok, this is the one which worries me. I may buy a round on this one.

Nick Bonino had 37 points last season and is a couple seasons removed from his career outputs in Vancouver, where he scored 39 and 49 points. Bonino does the little things. He is a gutsy center and locker room presence. The guy played, then practiced on a broken tibia in the Stanley Cup Final.

The real truth–he’s worth a solid 3.5 million per season. Bonino isn’t flashy, or offensively creative. His points come from playing with talented players. But stopping goals is also important, perhaps more important in the postseason. And Bonino stops more than his share of goals.

So, anything over 4 million would be an overpayment. And that’s unlikely. But anything less is fair market value.

Honorable Mention: Tavares to Toronto

Because every great player, every Ontario boy wants to wear the blue and white, right? Quickly moving on…

There you go… Rumors squashed. The real fun is trying to figure out who will chase Trevor Daley (Red Wings), if any team dares come after RFA Justin Schultz (none to our knowledge, yet) and who the Penguins may chase. So, enjoy the silly season!

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Pittsburgh Hockey Now owner, formerly 93.7 The Fan, Sportsnet Hockey Tonight. Catch Dan tweeting @theDanKingerski and the official @pghhockeynow account.



  1. Brian

    June 28, 2017 at 7:39 am

    I prefer the Penguins sign Bonino and think they have a shot. If he’s willing to take 3 million per season, he will resign. It probably depends on how much Justin Shultz gets.

    As far as the other rumors go, I do not see Joe T. or Matt D. coming to the Penguins. But Duchene is only signed for two more seasons, so the notion that trading for him would commit too much cap money “long term” is not an accurate one.

    • Dan Kingerski

      June 28, 2017 at 8:36 am

      True, Duchene is signed for two years. If you take a very literal view of the situation, you’re correct that isn’t long-term. However, the cost of the trade and Duchene’s age almost guarantee a long-term contract to follow. So, assuming Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin play beyond 2019, the Penguins would indeed have nearly 25 million or more (pending their 4th line center and new contracts for 87/71) committed to centers.

      • Gary

        June 28, 2017 at 9:01 am

        Only counter argument contradicting the Duchene point, is that the Pens were more than willing to pay their third line center $6 mil, when it was Jordan Staal.

        • Dan Kingerski

          June 28, 2017 at 9:08 am

          That was Ray Shero and perhaps he and Jim Rutherford (who signed Staal to be the 2nd line center) learned their lesson on that one… Great reference, though! I was hoping someone would bring it up.

      • Brian

        June 28, 2017 at 9:27 am

        Strength down the middle is the biggest reason the Penguins have three Stanley Cups. The cost of three centers doesn’t matter much when there are wingers like Rust, Sheary, Guentzel with team friendly contracts.

        Rutherford knows this team is built to win now. Why wouldn’t they want Duchene for two seasons? Who says they have to sign him long-term?

        If they did sign him, they would have to rely on cheap players on the wings, but Sprong and Aston-Reese are coming soon.

        It is rumored that Connor McDavid will sign a contract that pays him 13 million per year. How much will the Oilers pay their centers?

  2. Brian

    June 28, 2017 at 10:09 am

    As a follow-up, I just read that a McDavid deal will likely be 17-18 percent of the Oilers cap in its first season, which is the same percentage hit the Penguins took on Crosby’s first deal.

    When viewed that way, the Penguins would have Crosby, Geno and Duchene for 25 percent of their cap hit on a longer term deal, does it seem that bad?

    • John

      June 28, 2017 at 4:46 pm

      Edmonton is going to have a problem with Connor McJesus taking that amount and then you add Draisaitl. Edmonton has its own salary cap. It’s much lower than Pittsburgh’s. So, when people say MJesus is only taking 19% of Edmonton’s cap. That isn’t correct. That is 19% of the NHL cap, not Edmonton’s. He would be taking closer to 30% of the cap.

      As far as Thornton … don’t want. 38 year old guy coming off ACL and MCL problems … wants a two or three-year deal at 6 million. That would be stupid.

      Duchene … would love to have, but not realistic. I too laugh at the idiots that use Maatta as the start of the deal. Same ones who pose him,. ripped him to death saying he isn’t good. First, we have a lack of depth on D. Daley isn’t a given to come back; DP is still a major question; Steit won’t be coming back … and the D free agent class sucks. So, trade a top 4 Dman that is controlled for a third-line center with two more years left. You will have to add a first AND another piece. That piece is Sprong, Sheary or Rust. Colorado turned down a deal from the Islanders involving Hamonic and a 1st.

  3. Brian

    June 29, 2017 at 7:31 am


    What do you mean when you say Edmonton’s cap? Just because the team has spent a few million less each season doesn’t mean they will not spend to the cap to compete for a Cup. McDavid plays more than 20 minutes a game there. Should they have let him walk?!

    As for Thornton, if Joe wants more than 1-2 million then there is no chance I see him ending up in PGH. If he is willing to sign a short deal with a shot at winning, then I wouldn’t mind him on the third line and second PP. A lot of hockey writers seem to think there is a possibility.

    As far as the lack of depth on D goes, free agency isn’t even here. It’s funny how some fans act like the Penguins are in rough shape just because there will roster turnover. The core isn’t going anywhere.

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