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Should Penguins Make Room for P.O Joseph? Roster & Trade Scenarios

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Pittsburgh Penguins trade chips, P-O Joseph

In the debates and discussions about keeping Kris Letang on the Pittsburgh Penguins blue line, another critical decision is pending with top Penguins prospect P.O Joseph that could cost the team a prospect without compensation.

Joseph, who will turn 23 on July 1, is no longer waiver exempt. According to CapFriendly.com, even though he has not yet played 150 games, the 6-foot-2 and 185-pound defenseman cannot pass through waivers because it has been five years since his draft.

That means he either makes the Pittsburgh Penguins in training camp, or… they likely lose him for nothing. Can you see him passing through waivers back to the WBS Penguins? I cannot.

As Penguins GM Ron Hextall assembles his team, partially through his decisions and partly through the decisions of others, Joseph’s future teeters in the balance.

Should Hextall make room for Joseph?

Unfortunately, the answer is not as clear-cut and straightforward as many say. And therein lies the problem. Joseph possesses the skills to be an NHL defenseman. His skating and vision are NHL level. His offensive ability is there, but perhaps his offensive instincts are not. And that’s where the puzzle gets complicated.

His first NHL games were electric, including a couple of games in which he played more than 25 minutes. But like his performance in the minors, talent hasn’t translated to points in the NHL, either. He has five points (1-4-5) in 20 NHL games over two seasons.

As one source PHN spoke with about P.O Joseph said, he can be “timid” on the offensive side.

“He ends plays and then distributes the puck up ice. I’ve seen him neutralize 3-on-1s without the other team even sniffing a chance,” said a professional source who has watched Joseph. “He’s shown flashes of offensive upside but for whatever reason seems very timid about asserting himself.”

And that assessment fit with PHN’s grades of the defenseman, too.

When Joseph is on his game–and you saw it during the first games of his NHL career–he can be electric. His speed and mobility allow him to cover a lot of ice and play big minutes.

Unfortunately, he is also prone to some head-scratching mistakes. He can shut down the opposing rush but doesn’t necessarily create enough rushes on his own.

But he could.

After a few professional seasons, Joseph has been trying to transform his game from the somewhat chaotic juniors game. I’m reminded that one Penguins coach told us that Joseph received some conflicting coaching in juniors. He was a polarizing prospect; some scouts raved about him, and others said to avoid him.

It seems like Joseph has been trying to fit his perception of an NHL defenseman. Or, rather, he’s trying to fit others’ perceptions of himself, and in the process of self-discovery, there is a disparity between his skills and his game.

And, don’t forget Mark Friedman is lurking, too. He could be third, fourth, or fifth LHD, just like Joseph.

All of that is necessary to lay out before answering the primary question–should Hextall clear space for Joseph?

Since Joseph has not forced the Penguins’ decision in either direction, the answer is a definite maybe.

Pittsburgh Penguins Scenarios

Letang-Dumoulin Question:

Kris Letang and his Pittsburgh Penguins’ future is the most significant variable. Brian Dumoulin and his health are the second variables.

If Letang sticks around, his best partner is Dumoulin–a healthy Dumoulin.

Neither Marcus Pettersson nor Joseph have shown an ability to play with Letang, which creates a problem for Joseph because he won’t supplant Pettersson, at least not yet.

In that scenario, Joseph is the fifth LHD, and he doesn’t make the team.

Letang-less Penguins

Dumoulin is no longer vital without Kris Letang. A solid defenseman–again, when healthy–Dumoulin would be a fine anchor to the new top-pair RHD. However, perhaps Pettersson has better chemistry with the mystery d-man.

Without Letang, perhaps Joseph leapfrogs into the top six, or at least is worth carrying as a seventh. He has more offensive pop than Pettersson and Dumoulin, and he becomes an attractive option in several configurations without Letang.

A Joseph-Chad Ruhwedel third pairing suddenly seems attractive.

Unhealthy Dumoulin

This is the best-case scenario for Joseph. When Dumoulin returned from injury in January, he was a shell of himself. Head coach Mike Sullivan praised Dumoulin’s fight and perseverance, but it was apparent Dumoulin was not the same defenseman we’re accustomed to seeing.

Dumoulin has some hard miles, and he was not the fastest skater before injuries. Age may be a factor soon, too.

This is the scenario in which Joseph is a great insurance policy and allows the Penguins to keep him through the summer and use training camp to judge the situation.

Penguins Trade

Can they get value for Pettersson? Maybe value for Dumoulin? And can that value improve the team enough to give P.O Joseph his big chance? Could re-signing Letang crimp the Penguins’ salary cap so that Pettersson or another defenseman is moved in a return-less salary dump, thus necessitating another cheap option to join Friedman and Ruhwedel?

A Penguins trade is as likely to create a spot for Joseph as it would be to involve him.

If Hextall judges that there isn’t going to be a spot, Joseph could be the right piece to move in exchange for…a backup goalie? A penalty-killing forward?

–OR–

Or could Joseph be the piece attached to a salary the Penguins want to move to complete a trade?

Joseph could be a solid NHL defenseman. The toolbox is full, but the craftsman hasn’t yet learned to use them all consistently. A team with space and patience could get a steal.

Dan’s Take:

(Added shortly after publish: Joseph is an RFA, but does not have arbitration rights. I don’t believe that affects the situation).

Count me in favor of finding space. Dumoulin-Matheson-Pettersson isn’t much better than Dumoulin-Matheson-Joseph. In fact, on the third pair, Joseph could be the offensive kick the team needs. “Could be” are the keywords. He has to gain the confidence to assert himself.

Make no mistake, the kid has heard a ton of criticism despite not earning much of it. He became polarizing and told he needed to play more defense. He’s done that, but much like Zach Aston-Reese, perhaps he’s sacrificed other parts of his game so that he can be what he believes others want from him.

A year with Todd Rierden could do wonders? Being given his NHL shot and told to play some offense?

If the Penguins aren’t going to put him in the top-six next season, then deal him now. Get something helpful while it’s still possible. Otherwise, a team is going to snag him for free.

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Pittsburgh Hockey Now Editor-in-Chief, formerly 93.7 The Fan, Sportsnet Hockey Tonight, NHL Home Ice. Catch Dan tweeting @theDanKingerski and the official @pghhockeynow account.

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Joe
Joe
27 days ago

I may be wrong, but my thinking is that when Gonchar was let go from assistant coach, the defense went backwards. Would bringing him back help better mold Marino and POJ to their potential and tune-up the rest of the D-corps?
Even Tocchet had a greater influence on the team when he was assistant coach.
I’m referring to intangibles that can be a difference-maker.
Just my POV…

Dean
Dean
27 days ago
Reply to  Joe

Letang had one of his best years and Matheson has made a dramatic improvement this year. POJ is 23 and will take more development. There is another side to every coin.

Bob
Bob
27 days ago
Reply to  Joe

Yeah that was great losing Tocchet and getting Recchi! 🙄

Vince Gori
Vince Gori
27 days ago

Move on from him. I’d give Beaulieu a look

Jeff Young
Jeff Young
27 days ago

If we can work around the M-NTC, package POJ with Zucker and free some space. Adding POJ wouldn’t just make it a salary dump so something decent would have to come back. After next season, Dumoulin is a UFA. Pettersson and Marino are still young.

Bill Maloni
Bill Maloni
27 days ago

Forgot to add, PO needs 15-20 pounds of muscle to be a successful NHL blue-liner.

Mike
Mike
27 days ago

Dan

The last thing the Penguins need is another 170lb Defenseman. Do I like Joseph “yes” but not for this team and the way it’s currently constructed. I look at the Pen’s core
of Defenseman and the only player I wouldn’t trade is Matheson – he still young and
continues to show upside. Letang wants a huge contract (that’s a no for me) Dumo’s
play has regressed / he’s a step slow, Marino appears to of hit his ceiling and Joseph
and Pettersson are both a buck seventy. The Defense needs a complete overhaul.

Irish Hammer
Irish Hammer
27 days ago
Reply to  Mike

I wish Tags or Troy would go on a radio show for fans. Or a Biz or Tocchet. Ask them what they think? Men that played and not on anyone’s payroll. Pens Dman are soft. These yinzers are a joke. Pens are old. Remember these experts and their sources? Hextall and Burke in trouble? Yeah let’s keep signing people we can’t win a playoff series with? Brilliant

Paul
Paul
27 days ago

Soft, anorexic, and mistake-prone. Yeah, he checks every box, all right. #GreatFit

Last edited 27 days ago by Paul
Irish Hammer
Irish Hammer
27 days ago
Reply to  Paul

Paul, let’s keep these figure skaters that the Rangers brutalized? How many got hurt and going to get worse unless changes are made. Let’s get older and softer? Now Friedman is special. He’s a AHL Dman?

Paul
Paul
26 days ago
Reply to  Irish Hammer

Gimme some Nikita Zadorov on the third pairing, please.

Jack McCrory
Jack McCrory
27 days ago

Bring back Jack Johnson. Especially since we’re have to pay him anyways. He surviving well in Colorado

trackback

[…] Should the Pittsburgh Penguins bring back P.O. Joseph or let him walk for […]

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[…] Should the Pittsburgh Penguins make room for PO Joseph? And what are the team’s trade possibilities? Hockey Now’s Dan […]

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[…] In the debates and discussions about keeping Kris Letang on the Pittsburgh Penguins blue line, another critical decision is pending with top Penguins prospect P.O Joseph that could cost the team a prospect without compensation. (Pittsburgh Hockey Now) […]

John
John
26 days ago

A handful of signings & trades that need made but Hextall doesn’t have the marbles. PO Joseph is part of it. FA Signings 35yr D Letang $7.5m 4yr, 27yr LW/RW Marchment $4m 3-4yrs. Penguins need to be aggressive & build in the now at the NHL level crazy I know crazy. Draft picks take long to develop so why not upgrade what you have developing. That includes packaging LW/RW Poulin & #1 ’23, for Buf Jack Quinn RW/LW, Zucker & w/ D Josep for Col Bowen Byram D. 5th rnd 2023 for 25yr Sharks G Kaapo Kahkonen RFA $725K (Sharks)… Read more »

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[…] Should the Pittsburgh Penguins be making room for defenseman P.O. […]

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[…] Pittsburgh Hockey Now: The Pittsburgh Penguins face a decision of if they should make room for a key piece of the trade that sent Phil Kessel to […]

Joe Kennedy
Joe Kennedy
24 days ago

It will be a very bad move if the penguins get rid of there best players the penguins need goaltenders penguins don’t need to look for other superstars Pittsburgh penguins already has that penguins can win the Stanley Cup every year but if the penguins can get a goaltender who can stops pucks going into the net 7 minutes before the game ends I know everyone doesn’t blame just one person it’s everyone’s fault but let’s get real here we know what the problem is and if the new owners don’t see it I’ll tell you what it is the… Read more »

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[…] Dan Kingerski of Pittsburgh Hockey Now: Should the Pittsburgh Penguins GM Ron Hextall make room for P.O. Joseph? If he doesn’t make the Penguins out of camp, he’ll need to be put on waivers and he’ll likely be claimed. […]

trackback

[…] Dan Kingerski of Pittsburgh Hockey Now: Should the Pittsburgh Penguins GM Ron Hextall make room for P.O. Joseph? If he doesn’t make the Penguins out of camp, he’ll need to be put on waivers and he’ll likely be claimed. […]

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