Connect with us

Penguins

Molinari: What Should Penguins Get in Defenseman Trade?

Published

on

Pittsburgh Penguins John Marino, NHL COVID protocols

Ron Hextall doesn’t make a habit of divulging his personnel plans for the Pittsburgh Penguins.

He made a concession to the obvious after signing former Tampa Bay defenseman Jan Rutta Wednesday, however.

Hextall acknowledged that, with nine defensemen on one-way contracts — none of whom are exempt from waivers — he is going to have to trade one. Probably two, for that matter.

Hextall did not, of course, specify who he expects to deal; the only guy who would appear to be off-limits is Kris Letang, because of the no-movement clause in the contract he signed last week. (Brian Dumoulin and Mike Matheson have limited no-trade clauses.)

Marcus Pettersson was the focus of much trade speculation during the past season, and John Marino was mentioned pretty often, too. Neither was a surprise, given that both have salary-cap hits of more than $4 million and did not perform to expectations.

There was no real urgency for Hextall to make a move then, however, because the Penguins generally carried the standard complement of seven defensemen on their major-league roster, and had a waivers-exempt guy, P.O Joseph, who could move back and forth from Wilkes-Barre, if needed.

The situation, though, has changed. Rutta has been added to the mix — yeah, Nathan Beaulieu has been removed by becoming an unrestricted free agent, but he never really was in it after being acquired from Winnipeg — and Joseph now would have to clear waivers to go to Wilkes-Barre during the coming season.

The chances of Joseph making it through unclaimed are about the same as those of Dominik Simon winning the Rocket Richard Trophy in 2022-23.

Of the top nine defensemen on the Penguins’ depth chart, five are right-handed, although two of those, Rutta and Mark Friedman, have experience playing on both sides.

Having so many righties is one of the reasons, albeit not the only one, Marino might be the defenseman most likely to move on.

After having an exceptional rookie season, Marino struggled mightily in his second and was ordinary in his third. Along the way, he went from being Letang’s eventual successor as cornerstone of the Pittsburgh Penguins’ defense corps to working on the third pairing.

Nonetheless, Marino showed in 2019-20, after then-GM Jim Rutherford acquired his rights from Edmonton for a sixth-round draft choice, that he is capable of being a factor at both ends of the ice.

Other teams couldn’t help but notice, and there surely are some GMs who believe that Marino can get back to that level. Frankly, that doesn’t require a hyperactive imagination; Marino’s biggest challenge might be simply regaining confidence in how well he can play this game.

Good right-handed defensemen are a precious commodity, and Marino might represent an opportunity for a team to obtain one at a yard-sale price, compared to his value of a few years ago. Sure, it’s possible he will remain ordinary for the remaining five years on his contract, but a club with a little cap space to spare could recognize the potential payoff for acquiring him.

While it would cost more than Rutherford paid to secure Marino’s rights from the Oilers, that investment could prove to be a particularly shrewd one if Marino gets his game back in synch.

With his major-league roster seemingly fleshed out following Day 1 of free agency, Hextall would be well-advised to do something that disappeared from the Pittsburgh Penguins’ management playbook years ago: Swap a playing asset — i.e., a real, active player — for a future one.

To wit, a draft choice. You’ve probably heard of those, even though the Penguins have had so few, for so many years.

Re-signing Evgeni Malkin and Letang leaves no doubt that the Penguins remain in win-now mode, but their surplus of defensemen allows Hextall to look to the future. The future beyond the next game, that is.

Because there are no significant holes in the major-league lineup (although some spots could be upgraded), there’s no urgency to get an active player back in a deal for Marino, or any other defenseman.

Since NHL rules allow teams to exceed the salary-cap ceiling of $82.5 million by up to 10 percent during the offseason — the Pittsburgh Penguins are hovering near the ceiling, depending on how the roster would be constructed — Hextall doesn’t have to move immediately. He can take time to explore the market, see precisely which teams are seeking what. and how intent they are in adding that piece.

Need a left-hander? Yeah, he can spare one of them. A righty? You came to the right place for those, too.

Pick the one you like, and make it known what you’re willing to pay. And the currency in this case is a draft choice. Which round? That’s negotiable, of course. The price will be higher for Marino than, say, Chad Ruhwedel.

Hextall often talks about trying to contend for a Stanley Cup while trying to replenish the franchise’s pool of young talent, which has been drained by so many trades designed to provide immediate roster upgrades.

Those objectives usually are at cross-purposes — if a team tries to focus on its present and its future at the same time, it likely will not really do justice to either — but having a couple of extra defensemen puts Hextall in a position to do just that.

It’s an opportunity he should not squander.

Subscribe to PHN+
28 Comments
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
28 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Dean
Dean
24 days ago

The Pens still need to make big moves to be a contender. The core’s best chances are this year and next and the Pens can’t afford to waste a chance. They are losing ground to the top teams, and they have additional teams in the east that will make it even more difficult just to make the playoffs. The Pen’s have real problems and real needs. 1.    Zucker – at best, is not healthy 2.    Kapanen does not fit with Malkin 3.    They are missing at least 2 forwards one being a legit top 6 4.    No clear plan for the D 5.    Adding players… Read more »

William Maloni
William Maloni
24 days ago
Reply to  Dean

And bring in some muscle, too!!!

maybeTROLLn
maybeTROLLn
24 days ago
Reply to  Dean

Looks like you have it all mapped out, fam! Just gotta get you a meeting with Hextall and the Pens. are. SET.

Bob
Bob
24 days ago
Reply to  Dean

Good luck trading Zucker with his salary hit unless Oens retain some.

Vittorio
Vittorio
24 days ago
Reply to  Dean

And what plan is that Dean? The bulk of the Top 6 is set cause nobody will take Zucker, why you and others can’t see that? Archibald is a depth signing but apparently it’s now a crime to do that us that what I’m hearing Dean? Okay how and where exactly does Strome fit as the 3rd Line Center when Carter is still here and how much do you pay him? Hey since you want to act like the GM and run your mouth like a GM, why don’t you apply for the GM Position instead of shootin your mouth… Read more »

maybeTROLLn
maybeTROLLn
24 days ago
Reply to  Vittorio

Strome to cali for 25 milli

Vince Gori
Vince Gori
24 days ago

I’m open to moving anyone but Letang, Matheson, Ruuta, or Ruhwedel. All others can be on the table. So you don’t think Simon can’t win the award? He is my brainstorm for the Pens and free agency: yesterday Jagr did his annual reminder that he was a free agent. He is past his prime, and he knows it. What the Pens should do is sign him to a one game contract, dress for that game and let him take at least one shift. At the end of the game he can come out remove his jersey, hoist it up next… Read more »

maybeTROLLn
maybeTROLLn
24 days ago
Reply to  Vince Gori

big Chad guys

Rich Filardi
Rich Filardi
24 days ago

Need a wing to play on the 2nd line. Cant count on Zucker.

Paul
Paul
24 days ago

As long as this organ-i-zation is building a museum exhibit, I want Jagr back and I want him now! Play 68 on the PP at home games, and he would good for a dozen points. Easy. Last season Zucker was paid $6.25 mill to score 17 points, for goshsakes. #FreakinStud #ManCrush

Last edited 24 days ago by Paul
Mark Fisher
Mark Fisher
24 days ago
Reply to  Paul

Are you this miserable all of the time or just where the Pens are concerned?

Paul
Paul
24 days ago
Reply to  Mark Fisher

Are you kidding? I’ve never been more anxious for an NHL season to start. Expect big things out of the Avalanche and Maple Leafs, my two fave teams to watch. Oh, and the Premier League season is only days away. Whoo-hoo!

maybeTROLLn
maybeTROLLn
24 days ago
Reply to  Mark Fisher

Looks like Zucker smiled at his wife

Phil
Phil
24 days ago
Reply to  Mark Fisher

Mark, some in this fan base are completely spoiled and ungrateful. They dont realize that we have won 5 Stanley cups. 3 since 09. Their are some teams that barely ever make the playoffs. But for this fan base making the playoffs and losing is an insult to them! Anything but a cup every year is the only thing that will shut them up. They dont realize it’s not rational. Their are some teams that have never made it to the finals. And some franchises that have never won a cup. But us fans that live in reality understand its… Read more »

Paul
Paul
23 days ago
Reply to  Phil

I don’t live in the past. (Pittsburgh is notorious for this.) I live in the present with an eye on the near future, and I don’t like what I see in either one. This franchise has lost its way. It’s either unwilling or unable to change with the times. The NHL is a young man’s league. Hockey players don’t get better in their 30s. They get worse, sometimes a lot worse. This will not end well.

Last edited 23 days ago by Paul
Phil
Phil
23 days ago
Reply to  Paul

Paul your not a fan or support. So go cheer for the avalanche your a fair weather fan. And a bandwagon fan. Despite your vilifying of this team and constant doomsday analogy they keep winning! And it’s still not good enough for you. Your not a rational person when I comes to this team. You dont even care to let it play out! So your ungrateful for the success this organization and players have given the city and fan base. And this organization gave us something not many fanbases ever get 5 Stanley cups! 3 since 09. So 71,58,87 deserve… Read more »

DaGama
DaGama
24 days ago

What happens if we can’t find a trading partner for the defensemen we’re trying to move?

Ujn Hunter
24 days ago
Reply to  DaGama

I count 6 Dmen out of 9 that could be moved… it shouldn’t be too hard even if you eventually move one (or two) that you least wanted to move.

Bob
Bob
24 days ago

So any word on Rodrigues or is he coming back here possibly?

maybeTROLLn
maybeTROLLn
24 days ago
Reply to  Bob

he gone

Jay95
Jay95
24 days ago
Reply to  Bob

He’s still unsigned so anything can happen.

maybeTROLLn
maybeTROLLn
24 days ago
Reply to  Jay95

drake caggiula about to take over

Crazyhorse87
Crazyhorse87
24 days ago

The Canucks seemed to be in need of a defensemen, getting back a forward doesn’t seem much, Tanner Pearson seems to be a more affordable choice when it comes to Marino. Maybe throw in Zucker & Marino for Miller and take Ferland off the hook for them, retain 1,150,000 from Zucker to break even for both teams. I’m no GM, but it sounds good to me.

maybeTROLLn
maybeTROLLn
24 days ago
Reply to  Crazyhorse87

Oh, you know Jim Rutherford wants his boys back. He’s working to grab Petterson AND Marino out of nowhere.

Crazyhorse87
Crazyhorse87
24 days ago

Why didn’t the Pens try Sonny Milano, his defense sounds like it needs working, but didn’t Kessel. Maybe he might work well Rickard, his salary was 1.7 million, just a thought.

Dan Kingerski
Admin
24 days ago
Reply to  Crazyhorse87

He’s a bad team’s second-liner, but not really fit for a good team. If that makes sense.

Irish Hammer
Irish Hammer
23 days ago

Dave, you and Dan have by far the best Sports Journalists Site. Because your honest and actually know the foundation of a hockey team to be successful. Why aren’t the Pens signing a couple players to dress against the Ranger and big physical teams? Burkie preaches TRUCULENT yet Penguins are softest team in NHL. Going to get worse than Rangers this year. Instead of signing these AHL players, sign a couple of TRUCULENT individuals that you can dress once in awhile. Instead of having young hopefully Pens in future playing a shift or 2. Have a couple enforcers you could… Read more »

Donny
Donny
23 days ago

And this is exactly why I’ve been saying since they went out the first round against New York for the 4-5 straight season.. l “You Can’t build a win now team and try to make a cup run and build for the future too! It’s one or the other! Pens Defense has bee pedestrian at best past 5 seasons, they only made it as far as they did on “Team Defense”… You can’t bring in One new D man and run Out 2 D men from your top parings… If they wanted a rebuild then MAYBE Hextall was the guy… Read more »

Join PHN Extra!

Join PHN+ today for exclusive content from Dan, Dave and Shelly plus a completely Google ad-free experience.

PHN+

Or enter your email below to sign-up for our mailing list.

Thank you!

Something went wrong.

No thanks. I don't want.