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Molinari: Why is NHL’s Unemployment Rate Still So High?

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Pittsburgh Penguins Evan Rodrigues

Evan Rodrigues earned a nice raise for his performance with the Pittsburgh Penguins last season.

Entering the third day of free agency, he still hadn’t received it.

Rodrigues’ next contract isn’t likely to come from the Penguins — they don’t have the salary-cap space to take on another player, and still have to reach an agreement with Kasperi Kapanen — but there surely are teams that would benefit from grafting his versatile game onto their roster.

Rodrigues, after all, put up 19 goals and 24 assists, can play all three forward positions and is able to move up and down the lineup, filling in capably wherever he’s needed.

He can bring a lot of value, even though no team put a dollar figure on it during the first two days of free agency.

Rodrigues, who made $1 million in 2021-22, hardly is the biggest name still on the market; that group includes some who have been highly productive, like Phil Kessel and P.K. Subban, but appear to be in the twilight of their careers.

A few others, such as Nazem Kadri and John Klingberg, are carefully contemplating their options, trying to determine precisely where they’d prefer to spend the next phase of their careers.

But there are many more like Rodrigues — forwards who could fill important supporting roles on a good team — who still were available at the start of business Friday.

That list includes, but hardly is limited to, Danton Heinen, Tyler Motte, Johan Larsson, Zach Aston-Reese, Michael Raffl and Ryan Dzingel.

According to CapFriendly.com, six teams, including the Penguins, already are above the 2022-23 salary-cap ceiling of $82.5 million and a half-dozen others are within less than $2.5 million of it.

That’s at least part of the reason Rodrigues and the others remain available. They all should be signed eventually — maybe even today — but it might be for less money and fewer years than they were expecting just a few days ago.

Or perhaps some club will make it worth the wait, after all.

*** During the Pittsburgh Penguins’ just-concluded development camp, Owen Pickering showed many of the qualities that prompted them to invest their first-round draft choice in him.

He’s big (that wasn’t exactly a secret before the draft), skates well, moves the puck effectively and has good instincts and hockey sense.

Oh, and one other thing that wasn’t necessarily evident on the ice during practices and the scrimmage: An exceptional ability to grasp and retain details.

That was apparent during an interview on the second day of camp, when a reporter approached Pickering and introduced himself. After the usual nice-to-meet-you pleasantries, the reporter mentioned that they actually had crossed paths when he met with the media shortly after being selected at the Bell Centre in Montreal last Thursday.

Pickering responded that he recalled seeing the reporter there. The reporter, whose appearance was obscured by the medical mask media members were required to wear in the locker room at camp, was skeptical … until Pickering described precisely where the reporter had been standing during that group interview in Montreal.

It’s hard to imagine a less significant scrap of information on one of the most exciting and important nights of his life — a night when he was being swamped with dozens of new faces and names — but Pickering recalled it instantly and accurately.

That speaks well of the chances that he’ll be able to absorb and retain the most minute details of game plans and opponents’ tendencies, which can only work to his advantage when he finally reaches the NHL.

*** Drake Caggiula signing with the Pittsburgh Penguins as Day 1 of free agency was winding down didn’t get much attention, which was understandable.

He got a two-way deal — it’s worth $750,000 in the NHL, $400,000 in the minors — which means he is far from certain to play a part in the team’s plans for the coming season.

What’s more, Evgeni Malkin’s stunning signing the night before, along with the addition of Jan Rutta hours earlier, was dominating the spotlight locally.

Besides, Caggiula never has been a difference-maker. In six seasons with Edmonton, Chicago, Arizona and Buffalo, he’s scored more than nine goals just twice.

But Caggiula, who was undrafted, has managed at least one eye-catching feat during his career: He has appeared in 278 NHL games and, despite filling a supporting role since turning pro, never has played a single game in the minors.

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Tom V
Tom V
29 days ago

Dave, I am confused as to why Hextall wasn’t able to get Delauriers. Unless something happens before season starts our forwards are set up to be smacked around with no retaliation yet again. One wonders if the Trouba elbow to Sid would never have happened and the series outcome much different. That’s history but let’s not repeat it this year- PLEASE!

Tom V
Tom V
29 days ago
Reply to  Dave Molinari

I hear ya but He did step into more of an enforcer roll in Minny for their playoff run. He brought some hitting and scoring for them. Not much of a liability that Sullivan was concerned about with Reaves. Nonetheless, we are still skating around with targets on our backs at this point and no one to keep anyone honest

Accountant
Accountant
28 days ago
Reply to  Tom V

All enforcers do is make the fans feel better after the retribution. Trouba would certainly trade taking out 87 and winning the series for a whooping in a controlled fight (the refs would jump in if anyone got hurt). Same with taking out Guentzel or any other difference maker. When we had one punch England people still went after 87.

Cal
Cal
29 days ago
Reply to  Dave Molinari

They signed the two beasts Archibald and Caggilia???? for combined 1.65. Seems like they could have made it work if they really wanted Deslauriers who can play hockey not just beat people up.

Ujn Hunter
28 days ago
Reply to  Cal

You realize that the Flyers are the laughing stock of FA, right?

Cal
Cal
28 days ago
Reply to  Ujn Hunter

I’m not a Flyer fan so I dont care. I think Deslauriers would be a great fit with the Pens.

djr5899
djr5899
29 days ago

Dave, has anyone heard anything more on Johan Larsson? I get that it was national media that tied him to Pittsburgh (Elliott Friedman), but, are they actually looking at him, or did they attempt a deal that fell through?

Dan Kingerski
Admin
29 days ago
Reply to  djr5899

It seems they chose Archibald. Hextall said he would not confirm Larsson, but would confirm they signed Archibald. Sometimes those reports break because one side thinks its done.

Ujn Hunter
28 days ago

It’s the BIG SQUEEZE! Top Talent taking all the $$$ while everyone else gets bottom dollar… no room for the mid tier players I’m afraid.

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