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Penguins Blog: Possible Quinn Effect; Where Do Pens Go From Here?

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Pittsburgh Penguins, Erik Karlsson, Sidney Crosby, Ryan Graves

Perhaps we were spoiled by former Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford, who was a horsetrader with a black belt degree. Deals could come together in a week. Maybe older fans (and analysts, ahem) were spoiled by the swashbuckling Craig Patrick style; trades or moves would be swift, and sometimes many, trying to change his team.

Where do the Penguins go from here? The Stanley Cup Final is perhaps over on Saturday, which will unleash the first buyout window early next week. While it would be an M. Knight Shyamalan-worthy twist if Penguins president of hockey operations/GM Kyle Dubas bought out any of his veterans, it’s worth watching.

Buying out Ryan Graves would put the defenseman on the books for 10 years. The thought is staggering, even if it’s for less than a million per year.

Side note: The NHL buyout rules should have options and compliance buyouts. In Graves’s case, he’d get one-third of his total, so why shouldn’t a team be able to swallow that over the remaining term or in one year, and the player get on with his career elsewhere but a good bit richer?

A buyout in the first window seems unlikely. The only real candidate would be Reilly Smith, and he figures to at least have a little bit of trade value.

A second window could open later this summer if either P.O. Joseph or Emil Bemstrom is qualified and files for arbitration.

We certainly made some waves by advocating Dubas be the manager who takes a reclamation chance on Patrik Laine, who needs a fresh start after a rough few years in Columbus. He’s only 26 and has been through hell and back. We’ve also outlined bad contracts around the league who might be trade fodder for Graves and, more importantly, able to help the Penguins.

However, Dubas’s methodical, tight-to-the-vest approach is far more similar to former GM Ron Hextall than Rutherford or even Ray Shero.

Dubas’s stated goal is to acquire draft picks and young players, while Sidney Crosby is around to mentor them. However, that’s easier said than done; as noted above, the Penguins’ trade bait isn’t exactly what one might call enticing. Unless Dubas is prepared to shred the roster by trading significant veterans, such as Bryan Rust (who has a no-movement clause for one more season), Erik Karlsson, Marcus Pettersson, or even, to a lesser extent, Rickard Rakell, he’s not going to get high picks or impressive prospects in return.

Rock meet hard place.

David Quinn Effect

Perhaps David Quinn’s hiring signals a willingness to alter the Penguins’ attack, at least somewhat. When the Penguins acquired Karlsson, he spoke of the on-ice schematic similarities between Quinn and Penguins coach Mike Sullivan. Except there is one significant difference: Quinn unleashed his talented defensemen Adam Fox in New York and Karlsson in San Jose.

“It’s a nice thing. I had a great relationship with (Quinn). I think he’s a fantastic coach who did some really good things,” Karlsson said at his introductory press conference on Aug. 9, 2023. “… obviously that makes it a little more comforting knowing they come from the same school.”

Of course, Karlsson meant “school” figuratively, though it’s also true literally, as Sullivan and Quinn were Boston U teammates.

The Penguins didn’t get the most out of Karlsson this season. His game felt constrained. Sullivan most likely doesn’t have the option to shift the focus to the defensemen, unlike San Jose, because of a couple of all-time great centers, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. A defenseman leading the charge can keep the puck off the stick of the pivots.

And would the Penguins truly improve by taking the puck off Crosby’s stick?

Malkin likes the puck, too, but that’s another matter as Malkin reaches the end of his career and his skating declines.

Perhaps Quinn can help Sullivan devise a strategy to make everyone happy and get the most out of everyone involved. Perhaps Quinn can unleash the best of P.O Joseph or even Graves. Todd Reirden certainly did neither.

There are questions about the Quinn dynamic. Things didn’t go smoothly in San Jose, and a few players were ruffled, but that much losing is bound to bring negativity and hard feelings.

But at least until Dubas starts making changes to the roster, the Quinn move is all there is.