There were only three free-agent signings across the NHL on Saturday. Teams have picked clean the meaty buffet, and mostly green beans and burnt rolls remain before the bill comes. The Pittsburgh Penguins stayed within budget with a four-year deal to Brock McGinn to provide down-line physicality and speed, but a few lineup holes are visible as we layout the Penguins lines.
The Penguins also signed talented but soft winger Danton Heinen, formerly of the Boston Bruins and Anaheim Ducks. Heinen scored 14 points (7-7-14) last season in an Anaheim sweater, and his presence is probably tenuous at best. Heinen will need to show the competitiveness that dots head coach Mike Sullivan lineups.
It looks more and more like the Penguins, and GM Ron Hextall may rely on in-house solutions to fill spots in the Penguins lineup, and a few of the Penguins prospects will have short paths to NHL ice.
We’ll finish up our video reviews of Sam Poulin and Filip Hallander as the two most likely prospects to get into the lineup. Our scouting reports have been pretty spot-on, if I do say so myself. Of course, our network of scouts and professionals has helped tremendously.
It’s probably too aggressive to pencil Poulin or Hallander into the October lineup, but it isn’t out of the question to see Poulin by mid-season. Poulin is often a cautious starter. He eased himself into his first Penguins training camp and hasn’t yet elbowed his way past others, but it’s just about time for him to try.
We certainly know Nathan Legare will go all-out in camp, but he likely needs a bit of AHL seasoning. But we do like his attitude.
For the moment, we’ll do the lines without Malkin, with an assumption Malkin isn’t ready for the start of the season. However, we should note the Penguins have not put a timetable on Malkin’s return and only committed to him missing the start of training camp.
Also, you’ll notice Malkin’s absence creates a fourth-line center hole. Minnesota lured Frederick Gaudreau away with a two-year deal with a $1.2 million AAV. That looks like a bigger loss now than it did on July 28.
The only current roster or non-roster player who could fill the spot is Evan Rodrigues. Expect the Penguins to find a depth center, but as you can see, the Malkin-less Penguins’ fourth line is a mishmash of talent.
We think Dominik Simon will be the 13th forward, too.
Pittsburgh Penguins Lines (October):
Penguins Lines (with Malkin)
Tristan Jarry is the goalie. The offseason chatter became bigger than we expected, but chatter won’t change the situation. Penguins President of Hockey Operations was firm in support of Jarry, and all-but-guaranteed he will be the starting goalie next season.
Transcription from Andrew Filipponi of 93-7 the Fan:
“Tristan is the reason why we won the division. He’s going to be really good here in the future. He’s going to be just fine.”
PHN has not been able to verify contact with any of the RHD UFAs, including the popular Erik Gudbranson. The Penguins have Mark Friedman, who showed well in very limited time, but he’s unproven at best.
WIthout the traded Jared McCann and the expansion selected Brandon Tanev, the Penguins need scoring and physicality in their lineup. McGinn will help, but the Penguins need Heinen to reclaim his 40-point form.
That’s a big ask, but the Hextall didn’t risk much money ($1.1 million).
Perhaps the Pittsburgh Penguins can find some green beans and rolls to fortify their “win now” lineup. As of Aug. 1, much will fall on Jason Zucker to produce more offense than previously in his Penguins tenure.
“We would like to tweak some things, and we’re going to continue to monitor the free-agent market to see what’s out there and see if we find any fits that are upgrades for us,” Hextall said last week.
We await the tweaks.