Penguins Notebook: Jarry, Rutta, & What Happens with Kapanen?
CRANBERRY — The news was passed to coach Mike Sullivan shortly before practice. Pittsburgh Penguins GM Ron Hextall perhaps ended one offseason mistake when he placed Kasperi Kapanen on waivers.
He will clear at the same time on Saturday unless another team wants to absorb the entire contract.
There seems a greater chance of harmony breaking out on Capital Hill than a team claiming Kapanen.
Coach Mike Sullivan absorbed some of the blame for being unable to extract the most out of a talented player whose NHL career has officially hit the skids.
“Kappy is a really talented player, and to a certain extent, it’s on all of us because we didn’t find a way to maximize his potential,” said Sullivan. “He brings a ton of speed. He can shoot the puck. He has good offensive instincts and brings a lot of size. There are so many attributes to Kappy’s game that are really attractive. For whatever reason, we couldn’t find a way to get his potential out of him. And that falls on all of us.”
However, it was noteworthy that Hextall only informed Sullivan shortly before practice that he would not have one of his top nine wingers. If there is a plan for Kapanen, Hextall kept that to himself as Sullivan admitted he didn’t know what comes next.
“I’m not sure what the next steps are. That’s probably a better question for Hexy than it is for me,” said Sullivan. “Without putting words into Hexy’s mouth, I think part of this is roster management giving Hexy flexibility moving forward. I don’t want to speak for (Hextall). I’m not sure what the next steps are.”
One sustained criticism of Hextall, going back to Philadelphia, has been his lack of communication even within the organization. It seemed odd and in keeping with that criticism that Sullivan didn’t know the plan for Kapanen. There are several options beyond sending Kapanen to the WBS Penguins, including keeping him in Pittsburgh.
Kapanen has struggled mightily this season after his career began to go sideways last season. Despite scoring just 32 points, including only 11 goals in 79 games last season, Hextall lavished a two-year contract worth $3.2 million per season on the RFA.
“As far as (Kapanen), so as part of the thought process, we had to make a hard decision, get (Rutta) back in, and that was the one we made,” said Hextall. “It wasn’t easy. I mean, he is still a good player … it just hasn’t worked here. So we’ll see. We’ll see where it goes.”
Kapanen has not returned to previous form. He has 20 points (7-13-20) in 43 games but has been intermittently relegated to press box and fourth-line duty.
By placing Kapanen on waivers, the Penguins will save $1.125 million (prorated). They will also be more easily able to trade him because he will cost less against a team’s cap, and the acquiring team will be able to keep him in the AHL.
The Pittsburgh Penguins’ goalie needs to be more mentally present in games. That’s not a criticism. That’s from the goalie himself.
Over the past two games since returning to the lineup after missing 16 of 18, the Penguins goalie has seen more red lights in his rearview than a long-haul trucker who’s days behind schedule.
“(I feel) good. Just trying to get back. It’s a rhythm thing. It’s tough to get game simulations in practice when you don’t practice very often. So that’s something I’ve got to get better at — just being able to be more present in games and just be able to, I guess, stop the puck.”
The New York Islanders got three on Jarry before the Edmonton Oilers hung six in two periods. Casey DeSmith finished the game.
The Penguins goalie is not yet 100% into game shape, mentally or physically.
“I think the biggest adjustment is just getting game time and adjusting to the speed of the game,” said Jarry. “You could only do so much in practice, but ultimately I think most of it comes from games.”
Rutta is finally healthy after being out since Jan. 14. The big defenseman might be able to help the Penguins PK, which allowed a pair of power-play goals in 23 and 16 seconds, respectively, to the Edmonton Oilers.
Rutta might also be able to add some fresh air into a locker room that is suffocating upon the stale winds of losing and pressure.
“Yeah, attitude, intensity. I think when a team loses a couple of games, (I can be) like a breath of fresh air. And just a positive thing could help too. So yeah, definitely those two (things I can bring),” Rutta said.
Penguins Playoff Standing:
The Buffalo Sabres keep winning. They beat the Florida Panthers 3-1 Friday night and vaulted into the second wild card. Buffalo, the Detroit Red Wings, and the Penguins have played 57 games, 3-5 fewer than everyone else. Buffalo and Detroit are one point ahead of the Penguins.
The LA Kings helped the Penguins by beating the New York Islanders, who are four points ahead of the Penguins and in the top wild card. The Penguins have five games in hand on the Islanders.
All is not lost for the Penguins. As Dave Molinari notes for PHN+ members, here’s why the Penguins will make the playoffs.