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PHN Penguins Mailbag: Goaltending, Poulin/Legare, Big Trades & More



Pittsburgh Penguins, NHL trade, Vegas Golden Knights Marc-Andre Fleury

Pittsburgh Penguins fans have questions, as an off-season of questions and gridlock will come to a head next week. GMs will turn in their protected list on July 17, and four days later the Penguins will lose a player to the Seattle Kraken.

And that’s just the start of the two-week slip-n-slide, culminating with free agency on July 28 and calm sometime in mid-August, just in time for rookie camp preparations in September.

Vacation? I’m a hockey guy. We play through the pain. Though in fairness, I misjudged the weather radar for my motorcycle ride on Sunday, and I wrote this from a meth lab, er, motel south of Morgantown because on my way home, the black clouds said, “You shall not pass.”

Without further adieu, the PHN Penguins mailbag:

Teams don’t usually “plan” for rookies who have yet to skate in a professional game to make the NHL roster.

Nor did the Penguins play long enough to get Nathan Legare or Sam Poulin as Black Aces. The point is, both are green.

PHN will soon finish our video scouting review. In the past, I have been disappointed with Poulin’s assertiveness and really enjoyed Legare’s chippy, “give it hell” attitude.

Poulin has a complete game and is probably a third-line winger. Legare visibly worked on his skating and could be the steal of the 2019 draft. His wrist shot is ridiculous, but he will need time in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton to learn how to find space in the pro game.

Poulin has an outside chance to make the NHL club. Legare’s development is going to be fun to watch.

Yes, you did hear about Frederick Andersen. That was a Pittsburgh Hockey Now scoop. However, our more recent reporting indicated Andersen wants starting goalie money, which will put him beyond the Penguins reach.

Would the Penguins like an experienced goalie in the fold? I believe the answer is yes. However, Casey DeSmith is a solid NHL backup, and GM Ron Hextall is unlikely to reach or overpay to make it happen.

As for expansion, I continue to believe Seattle Kraken GM Ron Francis will go young and cheap from the Penguins list. I would place the odds of Seattle selecting Jason Zucker much lower than nearly all Penguins fans. Jeff Carter, Marcus Pettersson, and Teddy Blueger are each real possibilities, with Blueger leading the second tier.

See above. If Seattle selects Blueger or Carter, the Penguins will need a fourth-line center, and Freddy Gaudreau would be an excellent choice. Gaudreau is not Blueger’s equal, but he had a resurgent year and showed a knack for big performances in big games. He would be an ideal 13th forward if the Penguins don’t lose a center in the expansion.

Seattle GM Ron Francis threw everyone a curveball with Dave Hakstol. I would have bet heavily on Tocchet, who interviewed for the job multiple times. The next rumor was Tocchet would take the Calgary Flames assistant gig on the condition he be made the head coach-in-waiting behind Daryl Sutter.

Now the rumor is Toronto assistant. I would advise Tock to sit tight. He’s a good coach, and he’ll get the call soon.

I don’t know about Gary Bettman. He is showing his age, but he’s a brilliant legal mind. Absolutely brilliant. He’s also undefeated since the 1994-95 lockout. He walloped the players union when needed. He brought the league together for the COVID bubbles. And he got a beauty of a TV deal with ESPN after exceeding expectations on NBC.

I’d like to see Bill Daly as commissioner someday. I think he’s a progressive mind with an old-school understanding, but his ascension is not assured.

Robin Lehner is pretty close to a no-go. That would require shoving aside Tristan Jarry or abandoning him altogether. I don’t see Ron Hextall spending assets on a starting goalie unless the stars align for an elite goalie.

Now, Marc-Andre Fleury is a 36-year-old goalie at the top of his powers. Unfortunately, his $7 million salary is an albatross for any team which already has a starting goalie *ahem.

Age and cost put Fleury’s price tag in the mid-level prospect and higher pick range. But that Vezina trophy sure helps his price tag, too.

The decider is Vegas Golden Knights owner Bill Foley. Fleury is his guy. The respect Vegas gives to Fleury goes a long way, too.

I’d pull the trigger on a Fleury deal that was a mid-range prospect and something equal to a third-rounder (which they don’t have). A second-rounder probably doesn’t get it done for either side if Foley allows GM Kelly McCrimmon to make him available.

Are you new around here??

Start here (Are the Penguins In on Anybody?), and we’ll chat in the next mailbag.