There are a few moves everyone is discussing. There are a few conversations on the NHL trade front that we’ve hinted. And there are most certainly a few moves that Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Ron Hextall has contemplated or is working that have escaped everyone’s radar.
Who will Seattle select?
Will the Penguins trade Jake Guentzel? Or Marcus Pettersson?
Will the Penguins sign Cody Ceci?
We’ll handicap the likeliest moves, the NHL trade possibilities, and everything else.
Projecting the Pittsburgh Penguins Offseason Probabilities
1. Seattle will select Jason Zucker: 40%
It seems everyone assumes Jason Zucker is the player headed to Seattle. Why? Let me turn the tables–Zucker may be the best player the Penguins make available when lists are submitted on Saturday, but that’s not the deciding factor.
Will Jason Zucker be one of the three best LWs made available to Seattle? THAT is what you need to look at. There’s a chance Zucker is one of the best southpaw slingers, but there’s a better chance that he isn’t, especially when you factor his $5.5 million salary.
2.The Penguins trade Jake Guentzel: 10%
Trading a 40-goal scorer is not done lightly, and Hextall doesn’t move impulsively. If there is a “wow factor” deal out there, Guentzel surely would be part of it. He has good value on the NHL trade front, though I believe GMs would discount his 40-goal stature just a tad because Guentzel’s center (Sidney Crosby) is a pretty good player.
To get quality, you must give quality. Guentzel would be the best Penguins trade chip if they pursue a high-end talent, but it really would need to be a “wow” deal.
3. Malkin, Letang: 0%.
4. Signing Zach Aston-Reese: 75%.
We were pretty close on his valuations two years ago, and I think we’ve got a good handle now. He’s worth north of $2 million after scoring a career-high nine goals, in addition to his exemplary defensive work. Maybe he settles (again) for less.
I also wonder if the Penguins will wince at the cost and opt for a player such as Freddy Gaudreau or create space for Sam Poulin (notice I omitted Radim Zohorna. Another topic for another day) or a bargain free agent.
Believe it or not, the Penguins grind line was worse off without Aston-Reese. With Teddy Blueger, Brandon Tanev, and a winger not named Aston-Reese, the line was well below water in scoring chances, Corsi, and most measurable statistics, according to NaturalStatTrick.
With Aston-Reese, they were well above water. In fact, the line did not allow a goal at 5v5 (6-0). But here’s a kicker–Aston-Reese was above water without the other two, as well.
Money is tight. Blueger needs a new contract, too. And the Penguins need an RHD. That’s why the odds are not 100%.
5. Sign Teddy Blueger: 80%
We peg Blueger’s value in the $2.5 million range. He’s a no-brainer to sign unless Seattle agrees that he’s a value.
6. New contract (this offseason) for Evgeni Malkin: 25%
Do the Pittsburgh Penguins really want the nagging rumors and chatter? Does this writer want to keep writing about it? If the Penguins are going to keep Malkin past this coming season, then getting his signature on a contract would help.
The Penguins can start the chat after July 28. President of Hockey Operations Brian Burke is no dummy regarding public chattering and the heat it creates on the inside; he was the Toronto Maple Leafs GM when Phil Kessel and coach Ron Wilson were daily firestorms.
A new contract would put to bed all of the questions and wonders, externally…and internally.
7. Re-Sign Cody Ceci: 33%
Radio silence from our internal folks on this one. Ceci took a reclamation one-year deal and bet on himself. No reason not to see what his reward will be. He earned the chance to get some big money again, and based on the recent free-agent market, we project him in the $3.5, or even $4 million range.
The Penguins have John Marino, who can slot in the top-four, allowing the team to sign a much less expensive defenseman for the third pair.
But, every day after July 28 that Ceci doesn’t sign with a new team is a day closer to re-signing with the Penguins at a more favorable amount. He was a dynamic partner with Mike Matheson, and the Penguins should surely want to reunite them. For now, it is more likely Ceci goes to greener pastures.
8. Marc-Andre Fleury: 20%
It feels right. It looks right. Fleury would be both the ideal partner for Tristan Jarry and an experienced goalie with playoff chops. But there must be the nagging fear–you can’t go home again. Fleury’s life is in Vegas now. The Pittsburgh Penguins would also have to clear a chunk of salary to make it happen, leaving them vulnerable in other areas.
So, the major hurdles are Vegas Golden Knights owner Bill Foley, himself a Fleury guy, the Penguins clearing salary without weakening the team, and, of course, agreeing on trade value.