The Stanley Cup took a skate Wednesday evening in Vegas, opening the first NHL buyout window, which begins Friday at 5 p.m. ET. The Penguins have not exercised the buyout window since former GM Jim Rutherford bought out Jack Johnson in October 2020. Still, the 2023 window will be the new Penguins president of hockey operations and Interim GM Kyle Dubas’s first major personnel decision.
Will the Penguins buy out Mikael Granlund?
The window runs through June 30, so an immediate decision is not necessary, and since Dubas has been on the job barely two weeks, perhaps he will take more time investigating every angle, from trade to keeping Granlund.
Currently, the Penguins have just over $20 million of salary cap space and lineup regulars who are pending UFAs Jason Zucker, Brian Dumoulin, and Tristan Jarry. The Penguins have 16 players under NHL contract, including defenseman Mark Friedman who spent most of 2022-23 with the WBS Penguins.
Granlund, 31, has two years remaining on a deal with a $5 million AAV.
The Penguins have six or seven roster spots to fill with that $20 million, and a Granlund buyout counts $833,333 against the cap for 2023-24, then $1,833 million for three years, a savings of over $3 million in year two, but a cost of $1.833 million in years three and four.
Last season, Granlund had 41 points in 79 games but only five (1-4-5) in 21 games after the Penguins acquired him from Nashville for a second-round pick.
This writer already advocated buying out Granlund to maximize salary cap space in the final year of a flat cap salary cap. And, thinking outside the box, could Dubas swing a trade for another team’s buyout candidate in hopes teams find value?
We’ve already seen a rare sign-and-trade this month. Anything seems possible.
Additional Buyout Candidates:
The Penguins likely do not have another buyout candidate, but several others across the league could become available. A least one buyout candidate seems like he might be a nice fit with the Penguins.
Joel Armia, Montreal Canadiens
Armia, 30, has been plagued by injuries in recent seasons. He has two more seasons with a $3.4 million AAV. A buyout would cost the Canadiens just $33,333 in 2023-24, and just over $1 million in year two, before costing the rebuilding Canadiens $1.433 million in consecutive seasons.
Armia is a big bottom-six forward who can skate (6-foot-3, 218 pounds). He’s a penalty killer with some offensive game, though his stats don’t leap off the page. He’s good for 30 points a season, but no more. He was injured and missed eight games in January after an elbow from New York Rangers defenseman Jacob Trouba. He also missed over a month with an upper respiratory infection from late February through late March and played just 43 games in 2022-23.
At 6-foor-3, 218 pounds, he could give the Penguin some size among a forwards crew that lacks it.
Marco Scandella, St. Louis Blues
Scandella, 33, missed a good chunk of last season after hip surgery. He’s a defenseman in his mid-30s who has seen better days. The Blues shut down Scandella late in the season after he suffered a foot injury.
Scandella, a left-handed defenseman, had just two points (1-1-2) in 20 games. He has one year remaining on his contract with a $3 million AAV, so a buyout won’t cost the Blues a ton, but they could opt for the savings nonetheless.
Scandella is a big defenseman who could skate, though his hip and foot injuries are a concern. The Penguins need a left-handed d-man, and if he became available via free agency, he might be worth a low-risk contract.
Matt Murray, Toronto Maple Leafs
It seems a bit preposterous, but Murray is both familiar to the Pittsburgh Penguins and Dubas. Those two Stanley Cup rings Murray has were in service to the Penguins. Murray and Dubas also have a long history going back to the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, where Dubas was the GM.
Injuries and spotty play have decimated Murray’s once-meteoric rise. Could Dubas and Sullivan team up to give Murray one more chance on a low-risk deal where it all began?
Murray played in 26 games last season with an unhealthy .903 save percentage.
Again, it seems silly, but Murray is only 29 years old. Could he be a third goalie on a budget contract as he rediscovers his form with his first professional team, the WBS Penguins?
Easy Buyout Candidates to Pass
Ryan Suter, Dallas Stars.
He looked like he was done by the Western Conference Final. Everything eroded, and he had an awful series.
The zippy winger with some offensive upside has never found consistent scoring despite getting ice time with the best player on the planet, Connor McDavid.
The Washington Capitals’ problem can remain theirs. Mantha has the talent to be a good top-six winger, but his production has fallen so far that it hardly seems worth considering. He had just 27 points in 67 games last season.