Parsing words, especially when a subject was not speaking directly to the issue, is a dangerous business. On Wednesday, former Pittsburgh Penguins assistant-GM and current Vancouver Canucks GM Patrik Allvin spoke to the J.T. Miller trade rumors, and the Canucks need to re-sign Miller.
However, in doing so, Allvin may have inadvertently tipped the Penguins’ plans–or lack thereof.
First, we know the Penguins have not held substantive talks with Kris Letang and Bryan Rust. As of earlier this month, Letang’s camp hoped to fire up those talks, but there’s no word if they began or not.
We know that no substantive talks have been held with Bryan Rust for a new deal despite the winger’s torrid production this season, when healthy. Rust, 29, is ninth in points per game (1.30), trailing Johnny Gaudreau (1.31) and leading Mikko Rantanen (1.27). In 30 games, Rust has 39 points, including 18 goals.
Last summer, Rust and the Penguins touched base and were not on the same page. The NHL free agent frenzy is calling.
Allvin spoke with Sportsnet on Wednesday. He was asked about the need to re-sign Miller or trade him, thus avoiding the game of chicken in which the team can get nothing in return. Allvin referenced the Penguins situation:
“I definitely agree with that, and especially in the position where we are right now,” Allvin said. “We’re not in the playoffs even. Coming from Pittsburgh, it’s different where you have Kris Letang, Evgeni Malkin, and Bryan Rust going through the last year of their contracts. But they’re still a top team in the league, and maybe you push through there because you have a chance to win.
“We’re in a different situation here. We’re not there right now, so I would not feel comfortable seeing players just walk away and you don’t get anything in return. But it’s easier said than done.”
So, because the Penguins are trying to win this season, they can afford to roll with unsigned players Rust, Letang, and Evgeni Malkin.
Malkin seemed to joke that he would stay in Pittsburgh and money wasn’t an issue.
“I’m like a pretty rich guy,” Malkin laughed when PHN asked in January.
Any wonder if the Pittsburgh Penguins would put any of the three on the NHL trade block (Rust appeared on some preliminary trade bait lists), is probably on the silly side. As Allvin would not be comfortable seeing players walk without anything to show for it, did he insinuate the Penguins are, in fact, ready to do that?
Sometimes agents and GMs can be sneaky. The Pittsburgh Penguins regime is undoubtedly one that closely guards information and values secrecy. But the next hint of substantive talks with any of three will be the first.
In late January, Kris Letang agent Phil Lecavalier went on record with PHN to express his desire to have those talks soon.
Hextall offered this cryptic insight on Jan. 27:
“We have a hard salary cap, so they’re going to have to work with us. And, you know, certain players, if they want the most money, they’re probably going to go elsewhere. But I think you can say that about every team. So we’re hoping that our guys are comfortable here, which I believe they are, and hopefully, we can find a deal that satisfies both sides.”
Is the answer quietly staring right at us?
We’ve wondered, opined, chased reports and sources. At the end of the year, perhaps Hextall will put a take-it-or-leave-it offer before Malkin and Letang (Rust appears to be a goner).
This season really could be the end of the line for an unprecedented run in the salary cap era. The Chicago Blackhawks, who also won three Stanley Cups, long ago faded. Even with former Penguins championship core goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, the playoffs have been a pipedream. Only the Penguins have maintained playoff participation and a core of star players.
Everything must end. Allvin simply clarified his situation, but it surely seems he shed some light on the Penguins’ (lack of) plans for the immediate future, too.