Acquiring Erik Karlsson in a three-team deal with San Jose and Montreal Sunday is the most impressive and bold move Kyle Dubas has made during his two-plus months as the Pittsburgh Penguins’ president of hockey operations and general manager.
Keeping Nick Pryor, the Penguins’ director of amateur scouting, might be the most surprising.
And, perhaps, revealing.
After all, Pryor hasn’t been in the organization very long and is the son of Chris Pryor, who lost his job as assistant GM when Ron Hextall and Brian Burke were fired in mid-April.
Given how unpopular Hextall and Burke had become with much of the fan base, there surely wouldn’t have been many yelps of protest if Dubas had told Chris Pryor that he should seek employment elsewhere, and passed his position along to someone with whom Dubas had worked — or simply respected — during his time in Toronto’s front office.
How much Dubas knew about Pryor before joining the Penguins isn’t clear, but he seems to have seen enough since taking control of hockey ops in early June to believe that keeping Pryor in that role is the best move for the organization.
Running Pryor off would have made a no-risk statement that Dubas is in charge, and that anyone linked to the previous regime should not be, say, soliciting bids to put an addition on their house here.
Instead, Dubas opted to retain him, and usually seems to find a way to mention Pryor whenever he speaks with the media.
That’s a pretty strong endorsement from his new boss. And at the very least, suggests that Dubas’ priority is having the best people possible around him, regardless of their family ties or previous affiliations.
Which can only bode well for the organization that has puts its future in his hands.
Assessing the Safety Net
It probably wasn’t necessary for Dubas to build in top-10 protection for the 2024 first-round draft choice he sent to San Jose in the Karlsson trade.
(That provision stipulates that if the Penguins are in position to make a pick in the first 10 next summer, the choice that’s going to the Sharks will be deferred until 2025.)
Then again, it probably isn’t necessary for most homeowners to take out an insurance policy on their dwelling, since only a tiny percentage of houses burn in a given year. Of course, if your house happens to be one of the unfortunate ones that catches fire, the protection afforded by that policy surely would be greatly appreciated.
Nonetheless, if that provision does come into play, it will mean that the Penguins have stumbled through an unthinkably disappointing, downright dreadful, season. Especially for a club that aspires to chase the franchise’s sixth championship next spring.
The Pittsburgh Penguins, incidentally, have not picked in the top 10 based on their regular season finish since they claimed Jordan Staal second overall in 2006.
Who Can Forget Jack Johnson?
Jack Johnson has played for three teams — one of them, twice — and won a Stanley Cup since the Penguins bought out the final three seasons of his five-year contract in October, 2020.
But while Johnson’s teammates and the large segment of the fan base that made no secret of its disdain for him probably don’t think about Johnson all that often anymore, the people who have to deal with the salary cap for the Penguins can’t.
And won’t for quite a while.
That’s because Johnson will remain on their books — and count against their cap total — for three more years. The Pittsburgh Penguins will absorb an annual cap hit of $916,666 because of the Johnson buyout through the 2025-26 season.
They also will be on the hook for $1,562,500 in retained salary for Jeff Petry, who returned to Montreal in the Karlsson trade, in 2023-24 and 2024-25.