CRANBERRY — The Pittsburgh Penguins tried to acquire Norris Trophy-winning defenseman Erik Karlsson from San Jose Saturday.
It obviously didn’t work out, and Kyle Dubas, the Penguins’ president of hockey operations, declined to say whether such a trade remains viable. (Even without taking on all or part of Karlsson’s $11.5 million salary-cap hit, the Penguins are above the 2023-24 cap limit of $83.5 million.)
But Dubas made it clear that he won’t be shy about exploring the possibility of bringing in any player of Karlsson’s caliber who goes on the market.
“When there’s a player like that who comes available, I think that, especially with the core group and how special that core group of people is in the room — both the coaching staff and the players, and the group that surrounds the team — I think it’s incumbent on me to reach out and see if there’s a fit there for us,” Dubas said.
“That was the way I viewed that entire situation. I don’t want to get too much into it, because I think some of it is private and doesn’t involve a player who is ours, so I don’t want to cross any league (tampering) lines and upset anybody.
“But at the same time … anytime there’s a player of that caliber who comes available throughout my time here, especially in this next stretch, it’s probably realistic to think that we’ll be involved, or (will) see if there’s a way we can be involved to add them to our group.”
Regardless of how their pursuit of Karlsson turned out, Dubas and his staff had a busy and productive first day of free agency. They’re not done shopping for players just yet, however.
Dubas said he remains in the market for depth players. Specifically, for a fourth goaltender, centers for the Pittsburgh Penguins’ farm team in Wilkes-Barre, American Hockey League wingers and someone to run the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton power play.
On other matters, Dubas:
*** Said the Penguins aren’t concerned about being roughly $1.5 million over the cap ceiling with a roster that includes 12 forwards, seven defensemen and three goalies and does not include unsigned free agents Drew O’Connor and Ty Smith. “We don’t see ourselves as over the cap right now with what we have planned, internally,” he said. “We have a number of ways that (we can get) compliant to start of the year.”
*** Called second-pairing defenseman Jeff Petry “a huge part of the plan” and said that forward Mikael Granlund, a virtual non-factor after being acquired from Nashville at the trade deadline, didn’t have things go “the way that he wanted” after joining the Penguins, and that “it’s incumbent on us and on him to work together to get it back to the level that he can expect.”
*** Declined to predict whether the Pittsburgh Penguins’ current roster is the one they will take into the coming season. “I’d love to make that prediction now, of what the team will look like on Sept. 20 or whatever day we officially open, but we’re open to anything that can continue to improve the team,” he said, adding that, “anyone we add from this point on, especially in a trade, I’d like it to be someone who’s here for the long run.”
*** Met with goaltender Tristan Jarry and his wife in Edmonton recently before working out the five-year, $26.875 million contract that Jarry accepted Saturday and came away from that session “very comfortable that he was going to be able to hold up his end of the bargain and continue to get better.”
*** Suggested that concern about how a salary-arbitration hearing with Ryan Poehling would turn out was pivotal in the decision to not make him a qualifying offer, allowing Poehling to sign a one-year, $1.4 million contract with Philadelphia. “That spot on the roster, have it be between ($775,000) and $1 million, and he was going to get more than that (in arbitration),” Dubas said.