It’s a little bit early to begin scouting the scouts but Pittsburgh Penguins GM Jim Rutherford let the genie out of the bottle Tuesday night when he proclaimed the goalie trade market to be heating up. The Penguins have just two preseason games remaining and less than one week before they must limbo beneath the NHL $81.5 million salary cap.
The Penguins are currently $331,625 over it. Cue the ominous organ music.
There is a pending lineup decision which could have far-reaching ramifications not only on the Penguins salary cap but their future cap, too.
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One scout from the Florida Panthers and New Jersey Devils are on the seating chart. And four, yes, four scouts from the Arizona Coyotes made the trip to Pittsburgh. The Penguins and Arizona have already had a wild summer with the Phil Kessel for Alex Galchenyuk and PO Joseph swap. One of the four scouts is Mike Guetnzel, who is Penguins winger Jake Guentzel’s father.
One of the scouts is an amateur scout, the other is the assistant to the GM, and most notably, Arizona’s assistant GM Lindsay Hofford is also listed.
Take from that what you will. As always, scout info is provided for entertainment purposes only.
**UPDATE: A reliable NHL source reached out to quell any rumors. The Arizona scouts are in attendance because they are in town to catch the USHL showcase this week. PHN amended our headline to remove the Arizona reference to more accurately reflect the updated story.
Penguins Battle to Watch
We won’t know the Penguins lineup until game time, which makes it much like a regular-season game. However, the lineup decision and defense pairings will be crucial. Will the Penguins keep Juuso Riikola with Erik Gudbranson as the third pairing? They did so again Wednesday morning, even as head coach Mike Sullivan tried to sidestep the question on Tuesday.
Watch Riikola’s play with Gudbranson. It certainly appears he has every chance to win the sixth defenseman’s spot. Watch Riikola’s puck movement and gaps. Watch his positional awareness with Gudbranson who can move well enough, but is a stay at home defender. However, Gudbranson sometimes wanders from his position to bruise opponents.
It’s not an inconsequential decision for the Penguins who could have Jack Johnson and his $3.25 million salary with four years remaining in the press box…or the AHL (though unlikely it would go that far). PHN analyzed the situation yesterday.
Riikola is a more offensive defenseman which would balance the third pairing more so than the heavy game from Jack Johnson.
We will update the file with the starting lineup and lines before puck drop.
Tonight's lines vs. Detroit:
Guentzel – Crosby – Tanev
Kahun – Malkin – Rust
McCann – Bjugstad – Hornqvist
Aston-Reese – Blueger – Simon
Dumoulin – Letang
Pettersson – Schultz
Riikola – Gudbranson
— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) September 25, 2019