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NHL Inflation Makes a Granlund Buyout Good Deal for Penguins, Here’s Why



Pittsburgh Penguins, Mikael Granlund

The first NHL buyout window occurs 48 hours after the Stanley Cup is awarded, and Pittsburgh Penguins winger Mikael Granlund may be one of the likeliest candidates across the league to receive a paycheck and bad news.

A coming financial windfall for NHL teams makes such an expensive move far more feasible, and current operating conditions give the new president of hockey operations, Kyle Dubas, even more incentive to act.

The NHL salary cap will increase by just $1 million for the 2023-24 NHL season as the players continue to reimburse owners for the salaries paid during the COVID stoppage, which were based on projected revenue the owners never received. Of course, the value of NHL teams is skyrocketing, and the folks at the top of the food chain are seeing record returns on their franchise investments, but that will not matter in the day-to-day finances relating to paying player salaries.

The NHL revenues continue to climb upwards of $6 billion and counting, which means when the NHLPA makes good on its debt, presumably next year, the 2024-25 salary cap will launch faster than a SpaceX Starship.

Conservative estimates place the future salary cap uptick at $3 million. More realistic estimates open the possibility of a $4-5 million hike, putting the salary cap around $89 million, a $6 million increase from current levels.

On the cons list, Granlund had a respectable 41 points last season. Those are not exactly the numbers of a pariah. However, he had just five points, including one goal, in 21 games with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Granlund’s teammate Corsi — what players did with and without him — is a mishmash of bad news. Jeff Carter’s shot attempt rate increased slightly in his 45 minutes of ice time with Granlund. Danton Heinen’s numbers were unchanged, as was Drew O’Connor’s rate.

Ryan Poehling’s shot attempt rate went up by five points with Granlund, but that could also be a coincidence for getting healthy and being reinserted into the lineup in a more advantageous spot with a little more offensive zone time.

Top Defensemen generally saw small possession fluctuations with Granlund.

However, almost all players saw substantial declines in expected goals-for.

That’s bad news. It means even the maligned Carter had a greater chance of scoring without Granlund than with him, and it means Granlund failed to make the type of positive, meaningful impact expected of a $5 million player.

The numbers show the Penguins’ bottom six was less likely to score with Granlund than with him. For those who followed the team all season, that’s almost an implausible sentence.

Granlund Buyout:

As the Pittsburgh Hockey Now surveyed the hockey landscape during the Fenway Sports Group’s hunt for a Penguins GM or president of hockey operations, the Granlund issue was a discussion topic in hockey circles.

Some hockey executives said they would strongly consider it if they were in the Penguins’ situation. Actually, the language was a little more colorful and sure. If some current hockey execs were in the Penguins’ chair, the buyout would be in process already.

It’s hard to ignore talk like that.

Granlund’s deal runs two more seasons with a $5 million AAV.

According to, a buyout looks like this:

2023-24 Cap Hit: $833,333
2024-25 Cap Hit: $1,833,333
2025-26 Cap Hit: $1,833,333
2026-27 Cap Hit: $1,833,333

So, the Penguins would save more than $4 million this season and $3 million next season before getting hit with a $1.8 million penalty for two seasons.

Presuming there are no takers on the NHL trade market, a buyout makes more sense than affixing a prospect or high pick to move Granlund.

Another little-discussed point is that teams are still pressed tight to the salary cap this summer. The paltry $1 million bump offers little relief, which could keep short-term free agent prices lower.

Next summer? Look out. GMs could be spending like sugared-up kids at Disneyworld, committing their parents’ money without a care.

Inflation is coming. I’m sure you’ll try to relate.

It would seem a dollar used in 2023 could buy more than a dollar in 2024. So, this summer could present greater value on the UFA market, making every dollar more impactful.

What could an extra $4 million buy for the Penguins on July 1? Could it lead to re-signing Jason Zucker?

Also, with Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Kris Letang reaching their later 30s soon, NOW is more important than two years from now.

Just as FSG and Dubas have executed a near-clean sweep of Hextall people, perhaps that attitude will extend to the ice. Now is the time. A Mikael Granlund buyout makes sense.