Welcome to the first of several debates here on Pittsburgh Hockey Now as our Editor-in-Chief Dan Kingerski will spar with sports journalists and talk show hosts (and probably everyone else, too). We’ll debate the pressing issues surrounding the Pittsburgh Penguins, including expansion draft, free agency, the NHL trade market, and all other topics that leap to the fore.
In the first debate, Dan squared off with 93-7 the Fan morning host Chris Mack. You can hear Mack with Colin Dunlap each weekday morning from 5:40 to 10. You can hear the show and segments in podcast form on the new Audacy app.
Dan Kingerski: Our initial projections protected Jeff Carter. And why not? He scored 13 goals in 21 games, including the postseason, and was one of the Penguins best forwards in the playoffs.
The Penguins will protect five of their top-six forwards, excluding Jason Zucker (Crosby, Malkin, Guentzel, Rust, Kapanen are locks). Unfortunately, it gets far more tricky from there, and that dual mission of winning now and protecting the future collide. The Penguins can’t protect Jeff Carter and not lose Jared McCann or Brandon Tanev, who are more important to the future and pretty valuable now, too.
Carter, 36, looked like a player at the end of his run before the trade Penguins trade. There was talk of retirement. LA Kings head coach Todd McClellan, who is no fool, moved Carter out of the middle to RW. And that’s why Seattle Kraken GM Ron Francis would pause, and the Penguins have to gamble by exposing Carter on Saturday.
Chris Mack: Ron Hextall, Brian Burke, and the Pittsburgh Penguins should have five of the seven forwards they’re protecting from the Seattle Kraken written in blood, never mind ink. Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Jake Guentzel, Bryan Rust, and Kasperi Kapanen are givens. From there, I’d add Brandon Tanev to the protected list. Finally, I’m ensuring I don’t lose any more versatility or experience than I have to, and I’m protecting Jeff Carter.
Kingerski: Recency bias. McCann is a 25-year-old, 20-goal scorer who is finally harnessing that nasty wrister. Tanev has become the beating heart of the Penguins in the Patric Hornqvist mold. And the most physical player in the lineup. The Penguins can’t lose one of those two players for a player who is almost certainly unable to continue that incredible pace. Teddy Blueger with Tanev and Zach Aston-Reese formed a formidable third line, though a little light on the scoresheet. It’s hard to imagine the meticulous Ron Francis taking a player who only has a couple of years left.
And—leaving McCann or Tanev exposed would guarantee the Seattle Kraken do not select Jason Zucker, thus not removing $5.5 million from the Penguins cap.
Mack: We agree that Tanev should be the sixth of seven protected forwards–which brings us back around to the Carter-McCann debate. It’s a great point that a 25-year old up-and-comer would be preferred over a 36-year old been-there/done-that veteran. But is McCann still up-and-coming? Or have we seen that when he’s at his best, it’s as a middle-six wing who will top out at 20 goals in his best season and that when he’s asked to play more of a two-way game as a third-line center he provides an entirely different element?
McCann’s finishing ability vanishes as he becomes hyper-focused on a 200-foot game. Jeff Carter has already proven he can do the same thing when both of the Pittsburgh Penguins two superstar centers are healthy. He can play a legitimate, 15-goal season and a 200-foot game as a third-line center. He can also jump up on a scoring wing in a pinch.
What it comes down to is Carter has proven his capabilities while there are still question marks about McCann. A team that believes it is still in a championship window should focus on proven commodities and not finger-crossing.
That means Carter over McCann.
Sound off, PHN readers. Protect two of McCann, Tanev, and Carter. And comment below.
Should the Pittsburgh Penguins Protect Jeff Carter or Jared McCann?
- McCann (47%, 304 Votes)
- Carter (36%, 235 Votes)
- Both--Expose Brandon Tanev Instead (17%, 107 Votes)
Total Voters: 646