Molinari: Hextall’s Biggest Mistake? That’s Easy (+)
Ron Hextall has made some high-profile mistakes during his two-plus years as general manager of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Some have been utterly perplexing, from the moment they were announced. To wit, re-signing Kasperi Kapanen for two years after he was an unmitigated flop last season, especially when the salary-cap stresses the Penguins were under are factored in.
Others were gambles that simply didn’t work out. For example, giving Jeff Carter a two-year contract shortly after he turned 37 years old, in the belief (hope?) that Carter could continue to be as productive and effective as he had been during his first 50 games after being acquired from Los Angeles at the 2021 trade deadline. Which, a recent resurgence aside, he has not.
Hextall has had some successes, too — remember, he’s the guy who negotiated the trade that brought first-line winger Rickard Rakell from Anaheim without relinquishing a first-round draft choice or major contributor from his NHL roster — but his missteps have gotten all of the attention lately.
That’s not surprising, considering that while other Eastern Conference teams were adding the high-impact likes of Patrick Kane (New York Rangers), Timo Meier (New Jersey), Ryan O’Reilly (Toronto), Tyler Bertuzzi (Boston), Jacob Chychrun (Ottawa) and Bo Horvat (New York Islanders) as the NHL trade deadline approached, Hextall managed only to essentially (in separate deals) swap Teddy Blueger for Mikael Granlund, bring back bottom-six center Nick Bonino and exchange Brock McGinn for Dmitry Kulikov.
Those trades improved the Pittsburgh Penguins, but moving pieces around the bottom of the depth chart wasn’t going to placate much of a fan base that was watching other teams in the Metropolitan and Atlantic divisions stockpile difference-makers.
Could Hextall, who was operating with limited salary-cap space and had few attractive assets to offer prospective trading partners, have done more?