It does not appear the Pittsburgh Penguins will be big players or even dabblers on the NHL trade scene leading up to Saturday at 5 p.m. as the roster lockdowns begin when the expansion draft protection lists are submitted. Instead, the Pittsburgh Penguins could make a few moves towards free agency as a few new names on the list shook up the scene.
That unexpected name on everyone’s list is soon-to-be-former Minnesota Wild defenseman, Ryan Suter. It seems the fanbases across the league are clamoring for him, and a few teams are already lining up, too. Our Adrian Dater had the first scoop that the Washington Capitals and LA Kings first pulled a number and stepped in line.
Side note–the number of NHL trade rumor scoops from the Off the Record columns and the Hockey Now fam have been very underrated. I’m not sure everyone realizes how plugged in this “little” network is becoming.
There are more than a couple of surprise pending free agents, from Suter to Colorado Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog. Penguins defenseman Cody Ceci is floating out there, too. However, all sides have been mum on any talks, progress, or interest.
For now, we’re focusing on right-side defensemen, left-wingers, and goalies. The Penguins are stable at RW and C.
NHL Free Agents and the Pittsburgh Penguins Chances
1. Ryan Suter, LHD
The Penguins might need a left-handed defenseman. Suter is a lefty. He’s steady with some offensive chops, though not physical. After scoring between 47 and 51 points for the last three seasons, Suter dipped to just 19 points (3-16-19) last season and hung up on Minnesota Wild GM Bill Guerin when Guerin called to inform Suter he would be bought out.
Suter had four years remaining on his massive 13-year deal.
Can he help the Penguins? You bet.
Can the Penguins afford him? Hell no.
Suter’s immediate demand, combined with scoring 256 points over the last six seasons (#sixseasonsandamovie), will net him another payday. He won’t make $7.5 million like he was, but he will have his pick of suitors, and he should command north of $5 million. He’ll get even more money per year on a shorter deal.
Suter, 36, will get paid and have his choice of some interesting locations. The Penguins are over the salary cap by $1 million after the Teddy Blueger contract on Wednesday. The Penguins will need to shed significant salary to be a contender–two players, maybe three.
I don’t see it.
Penguins Chance: 1%.
UPDATE: We incorrectly identified Suter as a RHD, and corrected the story.
2. Gabriel Landeskog, LW
Landeskog, 28, wants a payday. The Colorado Avalanche need a team-friendly deal. This isn’t shaping up to be an ’80s buddy cop movie.
Landeskog is/was the Colorado captain but disappeared in the Round Two loss to the Vegas Golden Knights. Landeskog is a point-per-game LW with some size (6-foot-1, 215 pounds) and can play stiff on the wall but is not necessarily a banger.
He would be a significant addition for the Penguins. His age, style, and talents are what the Penguins are looking for if they move to a more physical style.
The Penguins and a dozen other teams, too.
If Jeff Skinner was worth $9 million, what is Landeskog worth? Sorry, Buffalo readers. Landeskog will probably get more than $50 million on a six-year contract. There are a few teams in need of established leaders who can score. Hello Detroit, Ottawa, and New Jersey. Even the Boston Bruins, who have been big-game hunting for a year, have the cash to spend–and may lose Taylor Hall, which creates an immediate LW need.
Last season, Landeskog scored 52 points, including 20 goals. He’s legit. The Penguins would have to clear space on the left wing for him, but they surely must consider it. However, easier said than done. The Penguins would need to unload at least two of three: Jason Zucker, Marcus Pettersson, or Jake Guentzel.
Penguins chances: 5%.
3. Brian Elliott
What?! Follow me here. This is also a palate cleanser. Elliott has slumped behind the porous Philadelphia Flyers defense. He has playoff experience and has been a 1A guy for a few years.
His save percentage sank to .889 last season. Philadelphia GM Chuck Fletcher, among many admonishments, included his goaltending.
“I think there’s been a lot of focus on the blue line. To me, the number one priority is our goals-against. It was just ridiculous how many goals we gave up last year. That goes back to everything,” Fletcher said on Tuesday. “(It) goes back to the coaches having a great training camp and using the practice time early in the season to reinforce our systems and our structures. It’s our goaltenders playing better; it’s our defensemen playing better; it’s our forwards managing the puck better.”
No, the Pittsburgh Penguins should not go after Elliott to be a 1A or even a backup goalie. At 36-years-old, Elliott’s prospects are probably slim. What a perfect No. 3 to stash with the WBS Penguins. If DeSmith has a nagging lower-body injury or starting goalie Tristan Jarry suffers an injury, then Elliott is NHL capable.
The Penguins would be hard-pressed to find a better option for a third goalie. Remember Maxime Lagace watching from the bench as Jarry struggled in the playoffs?
Perhaps a goaltending starved team will ink him to an NHL-only deal. Technically, the Penguins could do that, too. The CBA allows a team to recoup just over $1 million by burying a player in the AHL (See also: Casey DeSmith in 2019-20), but the player would have to pass through waivers.
We project Elliott on a one-year, $750,000 to $1 million deal, which would fit in the minors, too.
It makes sense for the Penguins to explore this. Pittsburgh Penguins GM Ron Hextall was the boss who signed Elliott to the Flyers.
Penguins Chances: 25%.
4. Brandon Montour
He is a tough right-side defenseman who can move reasonably well and has a recent checkered past on the ice to keep his cost down.
Montour was one of the many players to get swallowed whole by the stink-itude of the Buffalo Sabres. The misery dragged everyone down until Don Granato became the head coach and flung open the barn doors with a speed game. But it was too late to salvage the season. Or reverse the whammy on the org.
The 27-year-old defenseman played solidly in the second half of the season with Buffalo and the Florida Panthers. He was rough on the Penguins forwards, which should add to his value, too.
Montour will appear on a few of our coming lists, not because we’re fans, but because he fills a few needs. A little birdy also told us the Florida Panthers were duly impressed, so there will be some competition for his services. He’ll make less than $4 million, but not too much less.
The Penguins will need some cash. Let’s see who Seattle likes.
Penguins Chances: 33%.
5. Keith Yandle
News broke Thursday morning that Florida would buy out Keith Yandle.
He doesn’t fit any of the Penguins criteria. Knock us over with a feather if this ever came to pass.
Several more potential RHDs will hit the market. But these are the recent developments. Also, Adam Larsson still hasn’t signed in Edmonton. That’s something to keep an eye on, even as all reports, local and national, indicated he was close to a contract last month.
Some Seattle shenanigans, or is the player holding firm?