The Pittsburgh Penguins have to submit their salary-cap compliant roster to the NHL office by 5 p.m. Monday.
Six hours or so before that deadline, Kyle Dubas did not rule out using much of that time to consider making a few tweaks to the 22-man roster that he expects to have on hand for the regular-season opener against Chicago shortly after 8 p.m. Tuesday at PPG Paints Arena.
He did not speak directly to the chances of making a trade, but noted that the cutoff for claiming players who were put on waivers Sunday was just a few hours away.
“We’re still in the final process of making some final decisions, as happens at this time of year,” he said. “We have until today at 5 p.m. to do so. We’re going to take all of our time, see what happens on the waiver (wire) at 2 o’clock, and then submit our final roster by 5.”
If there are no moves to be made by late afternoon, Dubas seems content to start the season with the group currently on hand.
“I’m very happy with the depth we have, especially up front,” he said. “We got a little bit fortunate there on the waiver wire, with some of our depth guys getting through. That gives us a lot of options as the year goes on.”
One of those he praised multiple times is forward Sam Poulin, who made a serious bid over the past few weeks for full-time employment in the NHL before being sent to the Pittsburgh Penguins’ farm team in Wilkes-Barre last week. And who Dubas predicted will earn a spot here before the end of this season.
“I was really proud of Sam, and the camp that he had,” Dubas said. “And I think he should be very proud of himself. … I just feel like he’s going to be better served by playing huge minutes for Wilkes-Barre and being a hugely reliable player for Wilkes-Barre, especially considering the time he missed last season, than he would be being the 12th or 13th forward here. If Sam just keeps on stacking up the days and weeks as he has … he’s going to push himself to earn his way back. Can I see him spending significant time in the NHL this year? Absolutely, based on everything we’ve seen so far.”
In other matters, Dubas:
*** Made it clear that his team has a lofty objective for the season ahead. “The standard that’s set here when you walk in every day is that the group expects that they’re going to win each day and that they’re going to stack all those days, one on top of the other, and it’s going to lead to contending and winning the Stanley Cup,” he said. “That’s the only thing that’s talked about here.”
*** Endorsed the idea that the Penguins are a team that relies primarily on speed and skill to win games, and should be put together that way. “(Mike Sullivan) says the DNA of the team is offense,” Dubas said. “So if we try to flip that at this stage, it’s not really something that I believe in and it’s not really something that the group in the locker room believes in, and the group has been successful by playing that way. And winning that way. … We’re going to continue to build that way, supplement it, add around it with anything that we need. If it doesn’t work at the end of the year, that’s on me and I take responsibility for that.”
*** Suggested that he is willing to discuss a new contract for Jake Guentzel with agent Ben Hankinson whenever Hankinson wishes because “I’ve got a great relationship with Ben,” but that his focus to this point has been on Guentzel’s recovery from offseason ankle surgery. Guentzel is entering the final season of a deal that carries a $6 million cap hit.
*** Acknowledged that “I never liked to see (Sidney Crosby) fighting,” but added that he loved Crosby going after Buffalo’s Peyton Krebs for a hit on Kris Letang during the preseason finale Friday, because of the leadership it displayed. He added that he was not pleased when the Pittsburgh Penguins didn’t respond after Detroit targeted Jansen Harkins two nights earlier because he had grown accustomed to seeing the Penguins display “team toughness” in such situations. “Whenever there’s something that happens in a game, they attack it as a group,” he said. “There’s not a true enforcer, per se, but you know you’re not going to get away with anything against them. Even if the team’s a little bigger and a little bit more physical, they’re going to stand up for themselves. I think Sid embodies that most.”
*** Described himself as “happy” with the way the bottom-six has been upgraded since last season, but noted that the efforts to upgrade personnel does not end with the start of the season. He named Radim Zohorna, Alex Nylander, Vinnie Hinostroza, Andreas Johnsson, Valtteri Puustinen — all either in Wilkes-Barre or on waivers — as having turned in strong training-camp performances and being viable candidates for recall over the course of the season. “Knowing that we have those options is a real positive for us,” Dubas said.
*** Volunteered that Nylander’s play “dipped a little bit” as camp progressed. “He has the talent (to play in the NHL),” Dubas said. “It’s just continuing to execute on it every single day, in practice and in games. I would be shocked if, by the end of the year, he hasn’t established himself as a full-time NHL guy. That’s my expectation of him.”
*** Likened Jeff Carter’s situation and status to that of Pittsburgh Penguins assistant GM Jason Spezza when he was late in his playing career and moved into a lower-profile role. “He’s lining up there now, but is he capable of doing more, if needed, during the year?” Dubas said. “We tried to build out the team deep enough so that we didn’t have to rely on every single person to be firing on all cylinders at all times, because it’s just not going to happen during the course of the year. … The doubt that may be there will probably fuel him to show that he’s still capable of being a strong and contributing member of a contending team. That’s what we expect from him.”