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Expansion Draft: Can Penguins Gamble w/ Carter? Projected Protected List

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NHL trade, Pittsburgh Penguins Jeff Carter

You can say one thing. Believe that thing. But when it gets tested, realize a different course of action is preferable. Pittsburgh Penguins GM Ron Hextall may soon find himself in that situation when he has to submit his protected list to the NHL ahead of the 2021 Seattle Kraken Expansion Draft on July 21.

We won’t know what type of team the Seattle Kraken will be until we see the type of players GM Ron Francis puts together or the type of coach he hires. We can guess from his Carolina Hurricanes roster construction and from the players the Pittsburgh Penguins will make available, who will be in the great northwest next season.

Or the Penguins can gamble to change the equation.

The Penguins can take a chance and expose 36-year-old Jeff Carter, hoping Seattle does not need an aged veteran with one more year on his contract.

The more I sat with that idea, the less appealing and dangerous it became, but it may also be the only choice. Put a pin in that, and we’ll circle back.

Teams can protect either eight skaters or seven forwards and three defensemen. First and second-year players are exempt, so the Penguins will not have to protect John Marino. Everyone else is fair game.

The Penguins should re-sign defenseman Cody Ceci, but not until about one second after the expansion draft.

Teams got wise to former Vegas GM George McPhee’s scam to fleece teams for additional picks to select players. In some cases, it worked well (Alex Tuch), and in other cases, it worked extremely well (Marc-Andre Fleury). When Francis spoke to PHN last summer, even he admitted that he wouldn’t be able to recreate that con-game.

More GMs will take Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Ron Hextall’s approach and not give up the extra tribute.

“My approach is that we’re going to probably lose a pretty good player and rather than give up a couple of assets to try to try to keep (players),” Ron Hextall said on Wednesday. “I think we’ll probably lose a pretty good player. I’m speculating there, obviously, who knows what will come along, but right at this point, I’d say we’ll just lose a player.”

PHN’s Projected Penguins Protected List

Protected Forwards: Sidney Crosby, Jake Guentzel, Bryan Rust, Evgeni Malkin, Kasperi Kapanen, Jared McCann, and Brandon Tanev.

Exposed: Jeff Carter, Jason Zucker, Zach Aston-Reese, Teddy Blueger.

Protected Defensemen: Kris Letang, Brian Dumoulin, Mike Matheson.

Exposed: Marcus Pettersson.

Who Goes & Why

The Penguins big choice is between Jared McCann and Jeff Carter. Neither can be easily replaced. The more the idea of gambling on Carter sat, the greater the thought that a veteran who can still play, who brings leadership into the room, and personality, is the very type of player that Francis should want.

Remember how important Deryk Engelland was to the original Vegas Golden Knights?

Carter is almost a necessity for the Penguins. Their hunt for a third-line center was in its fourth season. Teddy Blueger’s crew did a bang-up job when they were cast as third liners. All three put up career numbers (Blueger and Tanev in points per game, Aston-Reese in total goals).

The Penguins lineup was dynamic with Carter, but they can’t lose a 26-year McCann who is on his way to establishing himself as a 20-goal scorer. During his trade campaign, McCann had a 19-goal season when the Penguins acquired him from Florida in 2018-19. Since, he’s put up consecutive 14-goal seasons, though he popped 14 in 43 games this season.

The Penguins would have a much easier time replacing Pettersson or Zucker than either Carter or McCann.

Perhaps Hextall will reverse course and find a way to entice Francis to make Pettersson or Zucker part of the inaugural Seattle Kraken. Francis should like Zucker, whose speed and gritty game would fit well with the type of team Francis built in Carolina. However, Zucker’s $5.5 million salary combined with a salary cap that will be flat for years to come makes Zucker’s middling offensive production more expensive than it’s worth.

For a small asset, the Penguins could eat some of Zucker’s salary for the next two seasons. If Seattle sent the Penguins a late-round pick, the Penguins could keep $1 million.

And have $4.5 million left to replace him if Seattle was amendable, of course.

McCann is clearly on the rise. His offensive game has grown and been increasingly consistent, too. Presumably, he’ll take the final steps as the Penguins complete his transformation from fourth-line center to sniper.

Unfortunately, McCann hasn’t hit the water from the boat in the playoffs. In 11 games, he has three assists and was mostly invisible again during the Penguins’ six-game loss to New York.

Despite that knock, Seattle would jump at McCann.

And they very well could take Carter.

If the Penguins are in “win-now” mode, as Hextall confirmed, Hextall should reverse his course and spend an asset to keep one of those players.

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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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Brian Green
Brian Green
3 months ago

Dan, many are saying that it’s hard to find speed and size. However, one that comes to mind is Chris Kreider, at 6’3″ 226lbs, Kreider can flat out fly. Probably one of the fastest guys in the league.

I think the Pens could go either direction in a trade for Kreider:
Guentzel for Kreider +
or
Poulin, Legare, Petterson for Kreider

Ed Andrews
Ed Andrews
3 months ago
Reply to  Brian Green

He wont leave NY

Brian Green
Brian Green
3 months ago

Dan, what are your thoughts regarding:
Guentzel, Petterson for Eichel

I, believe, Sabres say yes, but ask us to add, slightly, for optics. Jake did have a better season than Jack.

I think this might be a gamble, but we have someone that could replace Crosby, Malkin, Carter in a few years.

Salary wise, this trade works.

William Maloni
William Maloni
3 months ago
Reply to  Brian Green

I don’t think we ever get the “old Geno” back, ergo, let him go to Florida. I also am assuming Malkin will need some sort of knee surgery.

Mark Fisher
Mark Fisher
3 months ago
Reply to  William Maloni

We won’t ever get “old Sid” back, the most dominant player in the league for years. Let’s let him go, too.

Stephen Powanda
Stephen Powanda
3 months ago

I think you have to protect Carter. McCann is a good player but I would rather he go than Carter.

Hatrick Pornqvist
Hatrick Pornqvist
3 months ago

I agree. The window, if open at all, is open just a crack. Next year should be the only consideration, and next year Jeff Carter is far more valuable than Jared McCann. The 3C position on this team is huge, and if Geno goes down again, with no JC to replace him as 2C when it (inevitably?) happens, that’s devastating. Not to mention the fact that Carter was our best player pretty much since he put the jersey on. McCann is a winger who can be replaced. Pettersson needs shipped out one way or another with that cap hit for… Read more »

Cal
Cal
3 months ago

Either way the team loses a quality player. Protect McCant over Blueger? I would not do that. Think of the team without McCaan vs the team without Blueger. Its not even close as the games I’ve watched , Teddy makes the team better . Besides, Blueger is a center and the 3 ahead of him are well into their 30’s. The team has better depth on the wings to absorb a loss.

talisker66
talisker66
3 months ago
Reply to  Cal

Agree, protect Blueger over McCann. Would think Seattle would take McCann or Blueger over Carter — but maybe offer a later round pick to make sure they don’t pick Carter

Michael Welch
Michael Welch
3 months ago
Reply to  talisker66

He tall already said Pens will not do anything extra to keep aplayer.

Derek Sindelar
Derek Sindelar
3 months ago

Gotta disagree here. Protect Carter and Blueger, not Tanev or McCann. LOVE Turbo – Losing the player would suck; losing the contract would lighten the blow. McCann would be the easiest of the four to replace/live-without.

Last edited 3 months ago by Derek Sindelar
penguins1stroundexits
penguins1stroundexits
3 months ago
Reply to  Derek Sindelar

tanev isn’t really a goal scorer and yes does provide grit but that grit is way overpriced. Tanev’s contract is among GMJR worst moves

Mark Fisher
Mark Fisher
3 months ago
Reply to  Derek Sindelar

They aren’t expising Tanev. That is pure foolishness. They need more guys like him, not less.

Don
Don
3 months ago

Protect Carter not Tanev. I love his energy and game,but i hate his contract for a fourth liner.

Dean
Dean
3 months ago
Reply to  Dan Kingerski

I don’t see Seattle taking Tanev because of contract length. Don’t mind the $3.5M. The term is the problem. I agree with others, you have to protect Carter and Blueger, unless the old boy system is in place and Francis would respect Carter’s wishes, the protect Blueger and McCann.

Mark Fisher
Mark Fisher
3 months ago
Reply to  Dan Kingerski

And his energy gets the crowd into the game.

Cal
Cal
3 months ago
Reply to  Dan Kingerski

Bang on. Tanev is a must keep. Often his energy and style drives this team. Players like him are very difficult to come by.

Jason C
3 months ago

I find it funny who stays who goes and who gets traded nobody really knows except Hextall and Burke. Burke was on the radio they want to get nastier and bigger and Burke did not seem like he was to high on the idea of bringing a veteran goalie in. But who knows nobody knows what this team will look like come fall other than bigger and more physical guys to the line up 2 bigger physical forwards and 1 bigger physical Dman to create balance for the team.

Last edited 3 months ago by JcNorthStar
Ken Colligan
3 months ago

Leave Tanev unprotected ? Pens only consistently physical player ? Seattle would take him immediately. Amount of contract means little to them. Carter will be unprotected because Seattle knows he would retire if picked. No way he is going to move his family cross country again. Pens have known for quite some time Seattle will pick Blueger.

Frank
Frank
3 months ago

So a year ago Carter said he would not waive his no trade and if traded would retire. But he makes an exception this year to play with a team he thought might have a Cup run. Now the suggestion is made if selected by Seattle he would play for a first year expansion team! Leave him unprotected. I doubt he will be selected. And if he is I do not see it as that big of a deal. He was incredible for the two months he has been here. He is also 36 and almost a lock not to… Read more »

Ken Colligan
3 months ago
Reply to  Frank

Frank deals in reality.

Kris Francis Peterinelli
Kris Francis Peterinelli
3 months ago

Why don’t we ask Geno to waive his no move clause? You think Seattle is going to take a broken 9.5 million dollar veteran who won’t be avaliable at the start of the season

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