The slumbering Pittsburgh Penguins offseason is running out of sleepy adjectives. From methodical, conservative, to patient and cap-strapped inactivity, the Penguins haven’t added a player since July 28, though they re-signed Zach Aston-Reese to a one-year deal. The lineup still has an opening on the right-side defense unless depth defensemen Chad Ruhwedel and Mark Friedman are lineup regulars for the first time in their careers.
The Penguins looked or are looking for an experienced goalie, too. However, the NHL goalie market took a sharp left turn from last offseason when talented goalies took flea market-level deals. This summer, GMs snatched up goalies up faster than free beers at a tailgate party.
Any chance the Penguins had of landing an experienced netminder with NHL bonafides quickly evaporated as larger than usual contracts were even splashed in the kiddie pool.
“We’ll look to upgrade at any position. If we can upgrade on defense, we’ll certainly look at it. We don’t have much wiggle room in terms of cap space, so we’d have to get creative,” Hextall said. “But I think (Mark Friedman) and Chad (Ruhwedel) are both guys that we feel can certainly playing in the league along with a guy like Juuso (Riikola) and P.O. (Joseph).”
But that didn’t address the goalie situation. Or scoring. But it did offer us a hint on the right-side defense and GM Ron Hextall’s thinking. The Penguins can get creative–which probably means surprising trade– or the Penguins have to hit on a player who otherwise is not in demand on a two-way deal or a deal small enough to be hidden in the minors should things not work out.
We’ve previewed the RHDs who could fit on a budget, but that process could be a while, too. According to Puckpedia.com, the Penguins will have at least $1.6 million in salary cap spacer if they send two players to the minors
5 Bargain Deals Who Could Help the Pittsburgh Penguins
Marcus Sorenson, LW
The San Jose Sharks LW will not be back in the Bay but has acceptable offensive talent and good numbers in the rearview mirror. Last season he puttered along with only five points and one goal in 29 games on a $1.5 million contract.
In 2018-19, with some offensive sunlight beside Sharks center Joe Thornton and Kevin Labanc, Sorenson sprung for 17 goals and 30 points. The 29-year-old Swede can kill penalties and play a responsible game, so he would fit into the bottom. After just five points in 29 games, his NHL spot is in question, which is perfect pickings for the Penguins who could find a useable player…on the cheap.
Louis Domingue, G
Domingue had a couple of opportunities to be a starting goalie in the NHL, mostly in Arizona several seasons ago. He’s bounced around, back and forth between the AHL and NHL in stops in Tampa Bay, New Jersey, Vancouver, and Calgary since 2018. The 29-year-old goalie will not wow anyone, but the Penguins have some youngsters at the AHL level who could use an experienced hand while the NHL team gets third goalie insurance.
The Penguins AHL tandem is set up to be Alex D’Orio and recently signed college free agent from national champion UMass, Filip Lindberg. Pending Lindberg’s readiness for AHL action or the long-term prognosis on D’Orio, who has spent more time in the ECHL than AHL, the Penguins will need an AHL goalie.
Domingue played only four games last season, one in the NHL and three for Calgary in the AHL. Perfect buy-low, sell high possibility here–just like when the organization acquired Mike Condon off waivers then traded him for a fifth-round pick one month later. Or, pretty good insurance, too.
Devan Dubnyk, G
The big goalie’s career was once on life support only be rescued with a big run with the Minnesota Wild is again on life support. Dubnyk, 6-foot-6, 224 pounds, covers a lot of net but lately hasn’t stopped enough rubber. Last season, he split between the very talented Colorado Avalanche and the not-so-talented San Jose Sharks. In 22 games combined, he posted an unsavory .895 save percentage. It was even worse in his five games with Stanley Cup contender Colorado, where he stopped just .886.
He did finish fifth in Vezina voting back in 2017.
Dubnyk, 35, is unlikely to take a two-way deal. As a veteran, someone will give him a cheap deal, and he may wisely choose a team with paper-thin goaltending so his NHL ice time is maximized.
But as of Aug. 11, he’s about the last NHL goalie on the market. The music has stopped. Everyone else has a chair.
Veteran–check. Playoff experience–check. Affordable–check. Available–? Anything left–?
Riley Sheahan, LW/C
Stop, don’t shoot the messenger.
The Pittsburgh Penguins need some short-term center depth and possibly some fourth-line help. Sheahan isn’t the worst option in the market, though fans will have to forgive him for not being the third-line center former GM Jim Rutherford waited and waited for in the summer of 2017.
Sheahan is a competent NHL player, although he is remarkably unspectacular. His nasty wrist shot is seen only in glimpses.
If Evgeni Malkin misses months, the Penguins need a fourth-line center. This could be a league-minimum signing. He kills penalties well, his faceoff percentage is usually over 50%, and there should be a comfortability factor with head coach Mike Sullivan.
Blandisi was a colorful cat with the Penguins organization. He had a confidence that sometimes exceeded his station, but he was also the Pittsburgh Penguins most used, or overused, substitute. He shuttled back and forth between the AHL and NHL so often in 2019-20 that he played five games per week on occasions, including four games in four days, once.
That’s giving your all for the organization.
The WBS Penguins could use a little colorfulness, and the Penguins could use a speedy, devil-may-care winger. Definite two-way deal who can slot into the NHL lineup for a few weeks and knows how to find I-80 from the backroads to break up the most monotonous drive on the planet.