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Molinari: Will Hextall Be Willing to Make Bold Roster Moves?

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Pittsburgh Penguins, Ron Hextall, NHL free agency

Pittsburgh Penguins GM Ron Hextall has earned a reputation during his time in front offices around the NHL.

People familiar with his work regard him as studious. Dedicated. Patient.

Very patient.

Perhaps even too patient at times, according to one longtime acquaintance.

“He’s got the patience,” said the acquaintance, speaking on condition of anonymity. “It’s hard to be a GM sometimes because you have to balance patience with when to swing the bat.

“Is he willing to swing the bat? Sometimes, he likes to have the bat on his shoulder. The Joe Sakics, (Julien) BriseBoises, Jimmy Rutherfords, they’re not afraid to swing the bat. (Hextall) has a reputation for being a little too patient.”

It is the antithesis of how Hextall was viewed during his playing days, when he came across as one of the most impulsive, volatile competitors in the game. (Fans of a certain vintage might recall him literally chasing Rob Brown after Brown scored a goal on him during the 1989 playoffs.)

Being ultra-deliberate won’t be an option for Hextall this summer, though. Not when the Pittsburgh Penguins face the possibility — probability, even — of major roster turnover.

If not outright upheaval.

The Penguins’ list of unrestricted free agents is topped by their No. 1 defenseman (Kris Letang) and two second-line forwards (Evgeni Malkin and Rickard Rakell).

Hextall has expressed interest in retaining all three, but even if he manages to — which seems like very much of a long shot — their contracts will consume most of the roughly $23.2 million in salary-cap space with which he has to work.

Which means that holding onto some other players, such as UFA Evan Rodrigues and two others who are restricted but have arbitration rights, Danton Heinen and Kasperi Kapanen, might not be practical.

And if Letang, Malkin and/or Rakell opt to sign elsewhere, his/their departure obviously would leave a significant hole in the lineup that Hextall would have to fill via free agency or a trade.

Which will cost the Penguins cap space, at the very least, and possibly some assets, if Hextall decides a trade is the best way to address a particular opening.

There are, at least for now, too many moving parts in the Pittsburgh Penguins’ personnel picture to predict what approach Hextall will take to constructing his roster.

If, for example, he’s able to work out an agreement with Letang, which appears to be his top priority, it might hurt the chances of keeping Malkin or Rakell, simply because of how it would shrink the Penguins’ pool of available cap space.

Conversely, if Hextall and his staff determine that a few prospects in Wilkes-Barre — guys like P.O Joseph, Sam Poulin, Filip Hallander and Kasper Bjorkqvist — are ready for steady work in the NHL, it might lessen the financial strain a bit. (Although it’s worth noting that Bjorkqvist and Joseph are restricted free agents this summer.)

But regardless of how the personnel pieces begin to come together, it’s clear that Hextall is going to be compelled to be bold, and probably creative, in building his team for 2022-23. Which might include trading some veterans on the major-league roster, primarily to open cap space.

He might have to take some risks, with no guarantee they will work out the way he hopes, even if that goes against his most basic managerial instincts. Perhaps that will mean allowing a high-profile contributor to walk, or plugging an unproven young player into a prominent role.

Hextall’s position is not enviable — he’s mandated to transform a team that hasn’t won a playoff round since 2018 into a Stanley Cup-caliber club, and do it while operating under severe salary-cap constraints — and it’s far from certain that he’ll be able to reach his lofty objectives.

The only sure thing is that Hextall’s preferred approach to team-building, which is cautious and methodical, is not practical for the task at hand, and the onus is on him to prove that he’s willing to adopt a more aggressive one.

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Dean
Dean
3 months ago

Q1. Are Letang and Malkin on the same page with the Pens of winning another cup with the core? If they are, get the deals done and leave some cash to start addressing the 2 biggest problems. Goaltending and top-six wingers. Letang at $7.5M for 4 and Malkin $6M for 3. Q2. How bad does Fluery want to play for the Pens? 1 year at $2.5M solves one of the 2 biggest problems on the team with a 1B back-up goalie. Q3. Do they understand they have to move on from Zucker? He is not healthy enough and can’t score… Read more »

Wasnt
3 months ago
Reply to  Dean

Dam right Dean. We’ll put, couldn’t agree more

Bob
Bob
3 months ago
Reply to  Dean

We’ll see what’s more important to them. Money or keeping the family together. Need knew players who haven’t tasted a cup yet and are hungry.

Bachinga
Bachinga
3 months ago
Reply to  Bob

The level of hunger doesn’t diminish…go and watch Cooper’s presser after Game 4 if you don’t believe me…

Bob
Bob
3 months ago
Reply to  Bachinga

Good Hockey players who have won a cup or more don’t get upset losing in the playoffs or the final like ones who didn’t ever win won and it becomes about the $$ more than another cup.

Vittorio
Vittorio
3 months ago
Reply to  Dean

I’ll answer your questions Dean. Yes both want to win but Tanger wants not just money but term as well so while 4 years sounds good to you and to a majority of fans to Letang it’s to short. Get off the Fleury talk cause your asking for trouble if you sign him. Sign CDS or someone else if that caliber and be done with it. Zucker ain’t gettin bought out nor is he going to be dealt cause nobody will take him. Kap can be moved but MP won’t. Nobody wants Peterson for 3 years but if it was… Read more »

Dean
Dean
3 months ago
Reply to  Vittorio

Vittorio, then I think the answer is easy with Letang. No thank you and the Pens move to plan B. That is the very point. This contract is the opposite of his last contract. He is worth more at the beginning and his value goes down each year. If he wants to win another cup with the core then take what is in essence a discount in term in his mind or let’s move on. Keeping the core together and have no real chance of winning makes no sense. I have no idea what you are talking about with Fluery.… Read more »

Vittorio
Vittorio
3 months ago
Reply to  Dean

Then you haven’t paid that close attention to contracts that guys like Barclay Goodrow are signing. So what is Plan B Dean? The guys in FA have way worse flaws than Letang and will drive Pens Fans beyond nuts. In the trade market you have essentially 2 options: A.Tyson Barrie or B.Jeff Perry. Pettersson won’t be traded cause as I stated before nobody will trade for him but knowing you won’t believe me ask Molinari, ask Yohie or ask any Hockey Insider with a good amount of knowledge and I promise you they will say the same thing.

Dean
Dean
3 months ago
Reply to  Vittorio

How did Montreal just trade Shea Weber? There are teams that have different needs. Some need to spend to the cap. Some may actually need a young second pair LD. You may have to throw in a mid round draft pick. I doubt anyone you listed really thins that Pettersson is untradeable.

Yes you might have to use a Petry, DeAngelo… you can use the extra money to upgrade the 3rd pair RD and Invest more in the top six wingers. Maybe a right side of Petry, Marino, and Bear.

Bob
Bob
3 months ago
Reply to  Dean

I’d like to see the Pens go after Manson in Colorado. Hextall covets him so we’ll see what happens here if anything.

Bachinga
Bachinga
3 months ago
Reply to  Bob

Not going to get Manson…

Vittorio
Vittorio
3 months ago
Reply to  Dean

The Weber deal was a salary dump for the Canadiens and nothing more. I keep telling you that nobody wants Pettersson but you seemingly don’t listen so I will advise you to read a couple of articles out there on the web that tell you what I’m telling you for 3rd time. Now with Marino he is more coveted than MP and I know that Montreal may be interested in him. Getting a new 2nd Line Centre will cost you 7-8 mill per year so then you have to spend to get bottom six Forwards which further drains the 24… Read more »

Dean
Dean
3 months ago
Reply to  Vittorio

Once again. You seem to avoid the obvious. Any one can be traded. These dogmatic statements have no basis in discussion. Just because you read a couple of articles from frustrated sports writers doesn’t make it remotely true. Provide some facts. That is what debate is about. Not opinion.

Vittorio
Vittorio
3 months ago
Reply to  Dean

If that was true then Pettersson would have been dealt by now but he hasn’t cause nobody will trade for him. There are at least 2 articles on the web that clearly state no one wants MP for 3 years. The same applies to Matheson. The length of the contract is what teams don’t want to deal with how are you not getting this Dean?

Kurt Hartz
Kurt Hartz
3 months ago
Reply to  Vittorio

Letang is dreaming with his I want 5 year’s? Really? He costed his defensive partner and is most likely responsible for Dumo going down because there were many play’s that I remember Letang trying to emulate Crosby like moves for what not 1 second and usually and by that I mean 9 out of 10 time’s as Letang coughs up the puck and abandons his defensive partner leaving poor Dumo twisting and contorting his upper body and not in a good way or nothing to learn on those play’s and you can tell Dumo wasn’t looking very confident in Letangs… Read more »

Bachinga
Bachinga
3 months ago
Reply to  Kurt Hartz

Letang will get 5 years if he signs elsewhere…he’s not dreaming at all…

Bachinga
Bachinga
3 months ago
Reply to  Vittorio

You’re right about Tanger…

You’re wrong about Fleury because Jarry needs a Big Brother…

Zucker will not be a Penguin come Fall neither will Kapenen…

You’re correct about the Bottom 6 and the demise of every Pens’ season to season momentum can be tied to screwing that up…trading ZAR was a fatal error because we found out what Carolina knew…McGinn is worthless defensively why else would they let him walk for a matchable sum…going back trading Reaves…giving up on Sheehan…not signing Nicky B…waving good by to Sundqvist and Tanev…stability in the Bottom 6 is PARAMOUNT to success…

Last edited 3 months ago by Bachinga
Vittorio
Vittorio
3 months ago
Reply to  Bachinga

ZAR provided nothing. He wasn’t anything more than another body. Sheehan never became the Center he should have been cause he sucked. Sundqvist really never did anything that warranted him staying besides Blueger is way better.

Again this team does not need Fleury cause it will end badly and for the life of me what legit reason other than nostalgia is there to bring back Fleury? There not trading or buying out Zucker so get over it.

David
David
3 months ago
Reply to  Dean

Letang would probably sign your suggested deal. Malkin would likely NOT — although he had better realize that he’s not going to get much more elsewhere. Fleury — a lot depends on how much longer he intends to play.

Paul
Paul
3 months ago
Reply to  Dean

Letang wants to cash in big on what almost certainly will be his final contract. No way he takes $30 million over four. Bet it’s closer to $37.5 over five at the least, which could price his way his way out of town. Fenway Sports rarely has paid big money to old guys with their other teams.

Last edited 3 months ago by Paul
Kurt Hartz
Kurt Hartz
3 months ago
Reply to  Paul

If they give Letang anything more than 3 year’s Hexy would get fired! Don’t get me wrong yeah he eats up the mins. on a nightly basis but he also coughs up the puck more than any other player’s pretty much and is the reason Dumo wasn’t healthy all season because of having to trying to do too much due to Letang trying to look like Sid trying fancy puck movement however what he doesn’t realize is these younger player’s know his game and know for a fact when he likes to start trying the no look passes or fake… Read more »

Bob
Bob
3 months ago
Reply to  Paul

I agree. Letang made a statement that he’s got to think of his family’s future which I don’t understand already being a multi millionaire. How much money do these players need when the average working person doesn’t even make a million or 2 in their lifetime? So them and their family’s can live in their castles the rest of their lives and the average Joe who scrimps and scrapes to live and to buy a hockey ticket to see a game and to pay their salaries? Maybe they should think of their fans mire than their greedy wallets!

Vince Gori
Vince Gori
3 months ago

Well Hextall would be great on the Buccos, he keeps the bat on his shoulder looking for a free pass. Though many won’t agree, I miss Rutherford, at least he swung the bat and wasn’t afraid of missing. GM’s need to work with the coaching staff to bring in the right players. They don’t need to coddle all the armchair GM’s who try to dictate policy on sites as this one. Just wondering, did you vote for the NHL awards this year? Take care my friend

Vince Gori
Vince Gori
3 months ago
Reply to  Dave Molinari

Good answer

BocaMarine
BocaMarine
3 months ago
Reply to  Vince Gori

Yes, and you see where the GMJR approach has left us…

Rob
Rob
3 months ago
Reply to  BocaMarine

When you swing for the fences, sometimes you miss. Cannot hit a home run every time. Just have the bravery to swing and the ability. So far, Hextall has shown neither. Rutherford at least swung and got the pens 2 cups.

Vince Gori
Vince Gori
3 months ago
Reply to  Rob

My thoughts in better words

Rich Filardi
Rich Filardi
3 months ago

I am not a fan of Hextall because of that very reason. History has shown, GMs are creatures of habit. Need to look no further than Rutherford at Carolina and here in Pittsburgh-there are similarities.
His stay in Philly wasnt sparkling in trading and the Fa market. He hasnt done bad here but I feel if the goal is go for it. You have to sign those two, move a contract or 2 out regardless of costs. You cant replace either amd you will likely paying similar cash for longer term-to me that isnt good business.

Doug Ukish
Doug Ukish
3 months ago

Answer to article headline…
No, he won”t
Pusswa

Rich Filardi
Rich Filardi
3 months ago
Reply to  Doug Ukish

I agree Doug hahaha

Lars Nelson
Lars Nelson
3 months ago

Zucker is in a contract year. That means two things. One, he will be perfectly healthy this year. Two, he will have a career year in goals and points. Some team will then sign him to a ridiculous contract and he will be injured all the time again. I do like him when he is healthy, but I have seen this with so many players like Samsonov, Lapointe, Semin, Skinner, Benn, and Subban.

Paul
Paul
3 months ago

“Hextall” and “bold” in the same headline?! #Yikes

Bachinga
Bachinga
3 months ago

Bold? No.

Panicked? Yes.

Deb
Deb
3 months ago

Sadly, I don’t think he’s the man for the job.

ric jefferies
ric jefferies
3 months ago

1 definition of insanity: keep repeating the same action and beliefs expecting different results. Time to break-up the “family”, no more warm and fuzzy.