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Playing GM with Penguins Cap Strapped, Few Trade Asset Team

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pittsburgh penguins lines, bryan rust, sidney crosby, jake guentzel

It’s more than a barren field. The Pittsburgh Penguins and GM Ron Hextall are behind the eight-ball, or rather it seems like they are under it. The Penguins are trapped by a core that’s at least 34-years-old, had only two draft picks before the final round in the 2021 NHL Draft, no first-rounders in the 2020 draft, and the only expendable Penguins trade pieces have undesirable contracts.

Not exactly an easy situation, eh?

We’ll play GM now, and we’ll probably play the little game again if the offseason presents additional moves or changes. For now, it seems we’ve quickly hit Canadian lake season when everyone takes a vacay.

Everyone except PHN, anyway.

It’s time to play Pittsburgh Penguins GM and hope our sources who may read this are forgiving sorts as we do their jobs for them. Many of your suggestions over the past few weeks probably seeped into the column, if not in a positive way, then in ideas this faux GM must consider.

Complicating matters, no UFA still on the market scored more than 21 points last season. Get a good look at the remaining UFAs on Puckpedia.com. There are no more king-size candy bars to save your allowance for. There are only Neco Wafers and Good and Plenty’s left (I like root beer and grape Neco Wafers. Sugar Daddy’s are awful).

The Pittsburgh Penguins have about $1.6 million in cap space when they send one forward and one defenseman to the WBS Penguins. Despite signing Danton Heinen as a UFA. Sam Lafferty and Chad Ruhwedel are the most likely to be “buried” contracts.

Or, we have $900,000 if our mythical team keeps Ruhwedel and roll with eight defensemen.

Penguins Trade Negatives

In this fake leather chair with the high back, trades are almost a no-fly zone. We won’t get into wild hypotheticals. We don’t see Hextall dishing Jake Guentzel for a power forward or worrying too much about Bryan Rust’s next contract and trading him, either. Nor would we.

For the moment, the Penguins trade options are quite limited.

Marcus Pettersson reportedly gained some interest, but not at the full boat. The Penguins’ choice is to eat salary or attach an asset to move him.

GM: Let’s start camp with P.O. Joseph and Mark Friedman behind Pettersson, but ready to compete for the job. Pettersson can be moved for long-term relief if the pair earns enough confidence from head coach Mike Sullivan. However, the most we’ll part with is a second-round pick, or Filip Hallander, or one of the goalie prospects (Calle Clang, Joel Blomgqvist) with Pettersson, and no salary hold back.

We think that’s enough. If it is not, we can wait.

Obviously, moving Pettersson would not beget a “wow factor” free agent, so there’s no rush, but freeing the capital would allow the Penguins to add a bigger fish before the NHL trade deadline.

In fact, there may be teams that begin training camp over the salary cap or directly against it, and a good deal could be had. However, we (or Hextall) cannot complete another Penguins trade involving a forward without acquiring another asset to replace the lost player unless a prospect is ready.

Penguins Prospects

It’s unlikely the Penguins prospects Sam Poulin, Filip Hallander, or Nathan Legare are immediately ready for top-nine duty. Poulin has a chance, but it’s an outside chance of being in the lineup on opening night.

Poulin could make a winger expendable before the NHL trade deadline, but the odds are very low that he elbows past Jason Zucker into the Penguins’ top six. At worst, a prospect will replace Evan Rodrigues in the current lineup. At best, a prospect will bump Brock McGinn down to the fourth line.

GM: We’re not banking on the forward prospects kicking down the door until next season, but we’ll treat them as depth to play as needed.

The interesting debate would be trading one to improve at the NHL trade deadline. We’ve been around and around on the possibility. However, the Penguins don’t figure to be good enough to trade their future for a shot at the Cup, and the salary cap space negates the possibility of dealing only draft picks and prospects for a good player.

Our “budget” allows for only one prospect or draft pick to go, and we’d spend it to move Pettersson–IF the others are ready.

UFAs

GM: First, we’d fill the RHD spot. With $1.6 million, our options are limited. A source with first-hand knowledge said the team hasn’t had contact with defenseman Erik Gudbranson. Given the Tom Wilson factor in Washington, and the New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers, and even Columbus Blue Jackets adding (or keeping) guys who can use their fists, we would put a $1 million offer to Gudrbanson.

He was making $4.5 million. Reaves just signed a new deal with the Rangers for $1.75 million. So, that may not be enough.

Choice No. 2 is Sami Vatanen. Again, he was making $2 million, so we don’t think a $1.2 million deal gets it done, but we’ll reach out.

Failing those two, Michael Stone is our third choice. He made just $700,000 with Calgary last season, so we’ll take that deal if we can get it.

We would also try to pry Julius Honka out of his Swedish deal, if possible. Some players have an NHL out, so we’d dangle a $1 million, two-way offer with a guarantee to start the season in the NHL and an understanding it takes time to adjust. Honka is the ultimate restoration project, but he never escaped Dallas to get a chance.

For center depth, Reilly Sheahan would get a call. We would extend a $750,000 offer while Evgeni Malkin is out of the lineup and not lose sleep sending Sheahan to the WBS Penguins or recalling when needed.

Our backup would be a two-way deal for Carter Rowney.

As for experienced goalies to start in WBS, Louis Domingue would be our first choice. Jon Gillies would also be on our radar. Gillies only played 12 NHL games, but the pickings are slim, and we don’t think Devan Dubnyk takes a one-year deal.

Also, we’ll leave the Kris Letang and Evgeni Malkin contract talks for another day.

Now–this is just me playing GM. It’s not based on sourced information, except where noted. Use the comments section to have at it, my armchair GM colleagues.

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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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Rob
Rob
1 month ago

I think they have to sit back and wait until training camp. Maybe throw out some PTO’s and see if any show something in camp. After that, see how the season starts to play out and react. There are a lot of question marks that can only be answered by the players on the ice.

Adam Shearer
Adam Shearer
1 month ago

With Malkin starting the year on IR, doesn’t that give us more $ to spend? Waiting for his $ to hit our bank account sounds like the best option?

Don
Don
1 month ago

Erik Grudbranson would add toughness if he would sign for 1m.If you move Chad R down then you only affected cap by 250,000. It is my understanding Friedman can play both RD and LD and would be the perfect 7th defensemen if someone is hurt.I would like to keep Peterson to see if he has a better year,plus as we saw last year you can never have too many defensemen! We may have to with 13 forwards and 7 defense unless someone goes to LTIR. I am positive about this team, lets go Pens.

Michael Bartus
Michael Bartus
1 month ago

This might be an unpopular opinion but Dan touched on this a few weeks back. We potentially have 3 expiring contacts at the end of the season that frees up $20M. See where we are at come trade deadline and see if EM KL and JC will waive no trade clause. Time to move on.

Kris Francis Peterinelli
Kris Francis Peterinelli
1 month ago
Reply to  Michael Bartus

Yeah as much as I would want to “honor” Malkin for his past achievements, we need to move on like the Stillers did with Polamalu and not hold onto them too long like chuck noll did with this steal curtain guys. Also, I love Rust, but if we are going to get bigger then that might be someone else to not resign. Letang, however, needs to stay if he will take 6 million or less for a couple more years.

Don
Don
1 month ago

You are correct, 1,000,000 to sign Grudbranson less 750,000. Savinsgs to send Ruhwrdel down equals a 250,000.cap hit. Since we only have 120,000. In cap,we will need to send a forward down unless Malkin starts season on LT I R. Cap is tight but workable.

Don
Don
1 month ago

Dan,love your articles!

Condor14
Condor14
1 month ago

Sacrilegious as this might sound-if they are indeed not in a cup run category anymore why not explore the options of trading 58 or 71 when healthy. 58 can’t have much tread left on tires. TOI is always 23-26 minutes a night. Although still elite player 71 does not show it as many shifts as he used too. They have played many years without protection. Drastic drop-offs are rapidly approaching.

Jack McCrory
Jack McCrory
1 month ago

I don’t think that you can lose sight of the fact that the regular season is merely about making the playoffs. Positioning is the penguins have shown doesn’t matter. There is simply too much money tied up in three moderately productive players. No longer superstars. It’s a long season, play with what you have and see where you’re at a few months in.

Lars Nelson
Lars Nelson
1 month ago

I am sure the Pens do not want to spend a ton of money on the WBS Pens, but I would try to have the best team possible there so our limited prospects play at a higher level and we have experienced callups. Domigue is a great choice as a potential backup if there are injuries.

mike384
mike384
1 month ago

The first thing I would try to do is trade Pettersson for another bad looking contract, which plays diffrent position ideally RD. If that fails, then I’d try to go after Eric Grudbranson or Frederic Gauthier.

Peter Hoffman
Peter Hoffman
1 month ago

Whatever you do dont re-sign 58 and 71 for big $$.
Use that $$ for young talent next year!!

joe Cursi
joe Cursi
1 month ago

I would like them to make a trade however this is the Anti-JR so that is not going to happen. I honestly think they are comfortable going into the next season sporting the status quo. I like the Gudrbanson, Son-of-Sami, and or Stoney. But all will likely find mo money elsewhere and already have been rumored to be on some other teams radar. They will get a couple training camp try outs and unless they totally poo the bed will not look at adding anything else until after the Olympic break.

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