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NHL Free Agency

Penguins Free Agency Primer: Cap Space and Needs, Large & Small



Pittsburgh Penguins, NHL free agency, Kyle Dubas

The free agent frenzy is upon us, and the Pittsburgh Penguins have more needs than they did 48 hours ago.

Unsurprisingly, the Penguins declined to buy out forward Mikael Granlund by the Friday deadline. President of hockey operations Kyle Dubas said last week that buyouts weren’t his method of choice to create cap space unless as a last resort. However, it was somewhat surprising that the Penguins declined to qualify restricted free agent forward Ryan Poehling, thus making him an unrestricted free agent if he doesn’t sign a deal by noon Saturday and setting up a need for additional bottom-six help and speed.

Poehling was arbitration eligible. While there is no official word from the organization, a likely reason for Poehling’s non-tender was a disagreement on salary and the Penguins’ fear of a larger-than-acceptable arbitration award.

The Penguins are down to 10 forwards under control for 2023-24, including restricted free agent Drew O’Connor who received a qualifying offer, thus retaining his rights.

**Pittsburgh Hockey Now will have a live blog beginning at 10:30 a.m. or when the news starts breaking.

Penguins Free Agents:

With 10 forwards, six defensemen, and one goalie under contract, meaning the Penguins have just over $15 million with 16 players under contract, including defensemen Chad Ruhwedel, but not including Mark Friedman. The Penguins have five or six roster spots remaining to add three forwards, one or two defensemen, and a starting goalie.

The list of signed players grows to 18 if 2019 first-round pick Sam Poulin is added.

None of the Penguins UFAs have yet signed a new contract, so top-six winger Jason Zucker, defenseman Brian Dumoulin, and goalie Tristan Jarry appear to be headed for free agency unless a last-minute deal is reached.

Josh Archibald, Nick Bonino, Dmitry Kulikov, and Danton Heinen are also free agents at noon.

The Penguins traded for a potential Zucker replacement Wednesday when they acquired Reilly Smith from the Vegas Golden Knights for a 2024 third-round pick. Dubas said the trade did not close the door on re-signing Zucker.

Expect the Penguins to nibble in free agency but not take big bites when the clock strikes noon.

“I don’t think they’re going to be the big splashy type of UFAs. If that’s where we go into, they’ll probably be more subtle bets, and we’ll need to hit on them to have success,” Dubas said last week.

Potential Penguins UFA Target?

Miles Wood had a $3.2 million cap hit last season and scored 27 points in 76 games. It seems unlikely the gritty winger will get a raise and, in fact, could fall into the Penguins’ budget. Some sources around the league expected the Penguins to at least make the call after 12 p.m.

Penguins’ Key Needs:

*Third line center. Penguins coach Mike Sullivan prefers O’Connor on the wing, and Poehling is set for free agency.

Notable available players: J.T. Compher, Alexander Kerfoot, Max Domi, Jonathan Toews.

*Left-side defenseman. Dubas said he and coach Mike Sullivan would discuss if P.O Joseph was ready for greater responsibility and could fill Dumoulin’s spot beside Kris Letang and if Ty Smith, who spent most of last season with the WBS Penguins, was ready to rejoin the NHL on a regular basis.

Notable available players: Ryan Graves, Carson Soucy, Kulikov, Jordie Benn, Robert Hagg, Oliver Ekman Larsson, Erik Gustafsson,

*Fourth line center? Will the Penguins roll with Carter in the middle for one more year?

*Starting goalie. The Penguins currently have Casey DeSmith under contract for next season. DeSmith, 30, has never been a starting goalie, and the Penguins figure to need at least a platoon partner, if not a regular starter. The UFA market is not great for goaltenders.

Available: Joonas Korpisalo, Martin Jones, Frederick Andersen, Antti Raanta, Laurent Brossoit, Alex Stalock, David Rittich.

*Depth Forwards.

Current Estimated Penguins Lines:



O’Connor- X-Granlund