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Analysis: Hextall Settles all Penguins Family Business, Grading the Moves

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Pittsburgh Penguins, Evgeni Malkin OT winner

Ron Hextall’s Monday had a similarity to the final scenes of The Godfather. Hextall settled all Pittsburgh Penguins family business on Monday in a methodical yet brisk fashion. First, they decided not to qualify Danton Heinen but deliver a QO to Kapseri Kapanen. Then news broke that the Penguins would not meet Evgeni Malkin’s demands, and he will test free agency. Hextall moved forward to sign Rickard Rakell to a six-year contract.

Someday and that day may never come, I will call upon you to do a service for me…

After signing Rakell later Monday night, the Penguins have just over $10 million of cap space remaining and a few more spots to fill, including 2C. They don’t have enough money to fill their shopping needs properly, so expect some salary dumping asap.

The surprising (to some) news on Monday, despite some rosy reporters, was that Malkin balked at the Penguins’ last offers. PHN cannot confirm the last offer, but on Sunday, we reported Hextall had resisted adding a fourth year.

Update: Minutes after the original post, Dave Molinari of Pittsburgh Hockey Now reported that Evan Rodrigues will test free agency. The move is neither surprising nor unwarranted. He did the same last season and quickly signed with the Penguins. While his 19 goals were impressive, his increased opportunities due to injury would be limited next season. It’s best for both parties to see the market will bear.

Malkin Analysis: Malkin has not been able to stay healthy. Head, shoulders, knees, and toes. At 36 years old, he’s facing the end sooner than later. That’s the health situation.

The on-ice situation is muddled. He’s a brilliant hockey player still capable of things that only a few others can do. The health situation keeps him off the ice for 15-20 games per season, which has increased over the last two seasons.

His health will limit him, if not now, soon. Father time will also further chip away at his game. Lastly, the NHL is moving towards a speedy, north-south game. The creativity is done at full speed and full speed ahead.

Malkin’s even-strength numbers were pedestrian last season. Only 22 of his 42 points were 5v5, and he was a minus-10. Ouch.

By comparison, potential free-agent replacement Vincent Trocheck had 39 of his 51 points at even strength and was a plus-21. Cut Trochecks numbers in half to create a similar sample size to Malkin, and he scored just three fewer points at even strength, but the Penguins would have a plus-20 goal differential with Trocheck.

That’s HUGE. That’s a 40-goal difference over 82 games.

On that fact alone, a four-year offer was far too much for Malkin. The Penguins were wise and well within their rights to say “nyet.” PHN can confirm this has been an emotional process for Malkin. Sources from multiple angles, without directly citing emotion, have referenced the stress felt by Malkin.

Has that been a factor?

Maybe a team like the Detroit Red Wings or LA Kings…or a Metro rival splashes the cash, which the Pittsburgh Penguins wouldn’t dare. It’s not the end of the world if either side continues without the other. It happens. In the grand scheme of life, it is not that big of a deal. He’ll still be friends with Sidney Crosby, regardless.

Rackell Analysis: Rakell is a known quantity. His fit into the Penguins system was both seamless and successful. A $5 million price tag is exactly where he should be, and six years is a long term but not overly so. He’ll always have trade value. It’s not as risky as the handwringers say. It’s perfectly fair, which at this stage of the game is a win for the Penguins. I think he could have gotten a touch more on the market as some team would have overpaid.

He had 13 points in 19 games (4-9-13) and would have been a difference-maker in the Round One series against the New York Rangers if he were not elbowed in the head during Game 1.

At least the Pittsburgh Penguins got a two-minute power play, eh?

Kasperi Kapanen/Danton Heinen Analysis: I would have been far more tempted to use Kapanen as trade bait than to qualify him. If they go to arbitration, Kapanen could soak up $3 million…or more? He had a terrible season, but I suspect most arbitrators aren’t PHN commenters nor living on Penguins message boards. They look at the totality of the career, usage, projections, current salary, and sometimes they just make it up.

Heinen was a nice player. He finished his chances. He didn’t create a lot of chances. Heinen is a poor man’s sniping winger, and a few million for him would have been an overpay. The Penguins need to be a little harder to play against–something Hextall noted at the draft–and Heinen doesn’t fit that bill.

Hextall Grade: A-

Ice cold, but that’s what wins championships.

Getting Letang, Rakell, and Rust under affordable contracts is substantial work. He got a steal in the first round of the draft, as even rival teams praised the Owen Pickering pick.

He also held the line at an appropriate position with Malkin. My gut feeling is that past GMs would have caved, and the Penguins’ future would have been harmed.

Everyone wanted Evgeni Malkin to return, but it can’t be under the player’s terms. Hey, most of us have changed jobs and companies several times in our lives. Being a Pittsburgh Penguins player isn’t a lifetime appointment.

Kapanen is the decision that could burn Hextall, but with such a low qualifying offer, he kept his chip in hopes that he could salvage the asset. If he gets Kapanen at a good number, the grade goes to an A+.

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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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Pete
Pete
1 month ago

I’m really surprised by this headline as obviously the most important part of the business is yet to be accomplished. His entire offseason grade depends on which 2C we get in free agency!
Lets Go Pens. Proud of Hex so far. Now get the Big Prize!

Rob
Rob
1 month ago
Reply to  Pete

Lots of work left to be done. The team needs a #2 center!

Pete
Pete
1 month ago
Reply to  Rob

Thats what I just said. LOL

maybeTROLLn
maybeTROLLn
1 month ago
Reply to  Pete

He is literally analyzing GMRH’s most recent moves leading up to the Free Agency period.

Pete
Pete
1 month ago
Reply to  maybeTROLLn

If “all” were changed to “some” or even deleted then it would be correct.

bdgr
bdgr
1 month ago

astute analysis! It is tough to see Geno test FA and to hear he is feeling the emotion, but this is the business and the four year term just was not going to cut it.

Thanks for this recap!

FAVORITE PENGUINS Sweater you own (anyone)?
I actually have the Core Three sweaters hanging up. My favorite still has to be my Malkin – Baby Blue.

John
John
1 month ago
Reply to  bdgr

Baby Blue w/ Circular Patch/Skating Penguin Crest – Jean Pronovost!

Bachinga
Bachinga
1 month ago

“What’s with all the new faces…?”

“We’re gonna need ’em…after the Rakell signing Geno got mad…”

David
David
1 month ago

If the Pens had a bright future, or any future beyond 5 years or less, I would agree with letting Malkin walk — even though I love the guy. But this team has to win NOW or not for quite a few years. The Pens will probably be a bottom feeder in 4 or 5 years, and so sign Geno for the 4 years and help them win NOW.

Jay95
Jay95
1 month ago
Reply to  David

Apparently Hextall agrees with you…

Paul
Paul
1 month ago

The only thing certain is this: The Pens are gonna suck big time three or four years from now if not earlier. The term for every free agent signing is waaaaay too long. HexBurke kicked the can down the road, at which point neither will be with the organ-i-zation. That said, if they can land a bona fide No. 2 center — Miller, not Trocheck — the Crosby era could have one more Cup run in it.

Paul
Paul
1 month ago
Reply to  Paul

The rest of the story: Miller is 6-1, 218 and Trocheck is 5-10, 186.

Bob
Bob
1 month ago
Reply to  Paul

So how can you pry Miller?

Bob
Bob
1 month ago
Reply to  Bob

From Vancouver? Marino and what else?

Dan Dietrich
Dan Dietrich
1 month ago

Your opinion is idiotic that you don’t pay Malkin a 4th year. He is 7th ALLTIME in points per. Btw he one a trophy or 5 in the playoffs. He’s the third most important penguin in their history. No respect for anything this man has given to this team. Now for the biggest reason your opinion means zero. Four years from now its not gonna matter what happens. The core will be old and finishing up. My god. Where do they find these people man?

maybeTROLLn
maybeTROLLn
1 month ago
Reply to  Dan Dietrich

pop open a cold one

Pete
Pete
1 month ago
Reply to  Dan Dietrich

Ummmm 4th behind 66, 68, and 87. Dropping him is the right move. He cant play in a third of the games. Watch his production vs Pens 2nd Center next year.

Curt Lindner
Curt Lindner
29 days ago
Reply to  Dan Dietrich

Man, take your blinders off and you will see slow lazy passes, stupid retaliatory penalties, and no speed to get back on defense! OH THAT’S RIGHT, HE IS AN OFFENSIVE PLAYER AND HAS NO DEFENSIVE LIABILITIES! HIS PLUS/MINUS IS TERRIBLE! HE SHOULD HAVE NEVER GOT 4 YEARS! THAT’S A JOKE! THE PENS CAVED TO A WORN OUT PLAYER. 24 MIL FOR 4 YEARS AND HE WILL PLAY 200 GAMES IF LUCKY. IN A NUTSHELL HE NEVER TOOK A PAY CUT!

Jstripsky
Jstripsky
1 month ago

Gotta pay for what a player will do in the future and not what they’ve done in the past. Otherwise they would have signed E-Rod to a multi year extension for way too much money when he was on pace to score 30+ goals.

James
James
1 month ago

Geno just signed with the pens!!!!
Yesss. That’s what I’m talking about.

Jay95
Jay95
1 month ago
Reply to  James

I feel like it was a really fair deal too.

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