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Right-Side Options for Penguins Dwindle, Who is Left?

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Pittsburgh Penguins free agent availables, trevor daley, ron hainsey, andy greene

Chad Ruhwedel and Zach Trotman are the other right-handed defensemen on the Pittsburgh Penguins roster after All-Star Kris Letang and soon-to-be sophomore defenseman John Marino. Perhaps incorrectly, many have assumed the Penguins trade targets would include a right-handed defenseman, or GM Jim Rutherford would add one via free agency.

The free agency options are dwindling.

On Saturday, offensive defensemen with right-handed sticks were in demand. Troy Stecher, formerly of the Vancouver Canucks, signed a two-year, $3.4 million deal with the Detroit Red Wings.

Tyson Barrie inked a one-year, $3.75 million deal with Edmonton.

Even Zach Bogosian signed a one-year, $1 million deal with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Bogosian is the scorn of Twitter and analytics folks, but he generates offense and big hits, though his career in Buffalo included spotty play, as well (But who hasn’t struggled in Buffalo?).

Toronto also signed T.J. Brodie, who is a right-side defenseman with a lefty stick, to a four-year, $20 million contract.

Rumored Penguins wishlist occupant Chris Tanev signed with Calgary for four-years, $18 million. And Trevor Van Riemsdyk signed for one-year, $800,000 with the Washington Capitals, who also signed Justin Schultz on Friday.

We’ll skip the expected high-priced players, such as Sami Vatanen and Travis Hamonic, who will command several million dollars. According to Puckpedia.com, The Penguins have about $1.8 million of salary-cap space (though they can stash a couple of players in the minors to increase that total to $2.5 or even $3.2 million).

Pittsburgh Penguins Right Defenseman Availables

So, who is left on the free-agent market? Warning: Not for the faint of heart.

Andy Greene

Greene, 37, is a left-handed defenseman who can play the right side. He was a perfect fit for the New York Islanders, and after years of losing in New Jersey, he looked rejuvenated in the NHL playoffs.

Greene’s pitch would include leadership, steady play to balance the offensive-minded D-men expected to play on the left side on the Penguins third-pairing. In 21 playoff games this season, Greene had 47 blocks and four points (2g, 2a).

The cons are simple. He’s far from the player he once was, and he’s a lefty.

Ron Hainsey

The aging Hainsey won a Stanley Cup with the Penguins in 2017. It was Hainsey’s first playoff run, and he was undefeated. After a couple of seasons shepherding the young Ottawa defensemen, perhaps he could platoon with Ruhwedel.

Hainsey is 39-years-old and is slick skating days are past, but he knows how to play the game. Hainsey is also a lefty who plays the right side.

Trevor Daley

And while we’re at it, another former Pittsburgh Penguins Stanley Cup winner is on the market for a last shot. Daley, 36, is still a good skater though perhaps not as elite as he was a few years ago. He suffered through the epically bad 2019-20 Detroit Red Wings. He is defensively responsible and quick.

Daley also will not command much more than the league minimum. PHN considers him the best option on the list.

Cody Ceci

The longer Ceci lingers on the market, the lower his price becomes. The Penguins twitter world is currently without a scapegoat, and Ceci, a stay-home defender without good puck skills, would fit the bill. He could also be a nice counter-balance to Matheson on the left.

As one industry source said, “It could work if you don’t give him too much responsibility.”

OK, perhaps it’s a bad fit as he would play with Matheson.

Ceci played 56 games with eight points (1g, 7a), and there was this GIF that went viral, mocking Ceci’s playoff performance.

But, he’s out there and was a 15th overall pick. He showed great promise in Ottawa before things went sideways. Maybe someone will decide the reclamation project is worthwhile. However, the analytics community won’t be happy.

Madison Bowey

He can play soft and inconsistent with bad decisions. He can also get his nose dirty and blaze past the forecheck. Bowey is still an incomplete player. Last season, he scored 17 points (3g, 14a) in 52 games with Detroit.

He could be a candidate for a two-way deal that pays big dividends. PHN can’t help but be intrigued by his physical skills.

Jan Rutta

Rutta was a depth defenseman in Chicago and again in Tampa Bay, where he just lifted the Stanley Cup. Rutta is a big Czech defenseman (6-foot-2, 204 pounds) who can move well. He’s not physical, and he must improve in the D-zone.

At 30-years-old, he likely won’t morph into a new player, but he could be an upgrade over Trotman as depth.

 

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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.

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