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A Hard Look at the Coming Penguins Salary Cap Issues

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Pittsburgh Penguins, Brian Boyle, Penguins Salary Cap

The Pittsburgh Penguins do not have a salary cap dilemma, but they don’t have any money, either. As long as everyone stays healthy, the Penguins won’t have any cap complications, but if players begin dealing with nagging injuries or non-COVID illnesses, it could cost them a player they don’t want to lose. When Evgeni Malkin returned to the lineup Tuesday in Anaheim, it set the timer on a salary cap squeeze.

Jason Zucker is skated with the team at the optional morning skate on Tuesday but separately on Wednesday. His return will be the moment Penguins GM Ron Hextall will no longer have the freedom or ability to add a player.

According to PuckPedia.com, the Penguins will need to clear just over $2.8 million in annual salary to activate Zucker.

Editor’s Note #1: the data has changed slightly since the post was published. While PHN strives for accuracy, the post was correct at time of publish. The amounts differ little, but may not be exact.

 

Casey DeSmith, Bryan Rust, Brock McGinn, Zach Aston-Reese, and Danton Heinen are in COVID protocol. For the purposes of the salary cap game, we’re going to assume Kasper Bjorkqvist, Anthony Angello, and Radim Zohorna go back to WBS, leaving 14 forwards. Sending those three to the AHL will save $2.25 million.

Drew O’Connor goes down, too. That increases the total $3.3 million cleared and increases the Penguins’ available salary-cap space to about $354,893.

Perhaps Hextall is currently burning the phone lines. Hextall already pulled one minor salary dump when he dealt Sam Lafferty to Chicago for discarded prospect Alex Nylander. That move wiped Lafferty’s $750,000 salary off the books, though they could have stashed him in the AHL, too.

Using the PuckPedia GM feature, if the Penguins can activate everyone, they’ll have 14 forwards, and the team’s total salary cap hit will be about $81.145 million. The NHL salary cap is $81.5 million.

In NHL terms, that’s not enough for a free lunch, but at least they can activate everyone without anyone passing through waivers. Assuming the Penguins get healthy within one to three weeks when Jason Zucker returns, there will be enough space for everyone, but only if the defensemen stay healthy.

If not…

NamePositionStatus2021-22 AAV (millions)
Evgeni MalkinCNHL9.50
Sidney CrosbyCNHL8.70
Jake GuentzelLWNHL6.00
Jason ZuckerLWNHL5.50
Bryan RustRWNHL3.50
Kasperi KapanenRWNHL3.20
Brock McGinnRWNHL2.75
Jeff CarterCNHL2.636364
Teddy BluegerCNHL2.20
Zach Aston-ReeseLW/RWNHL1.725
Danton HeinenRWNHL1.10
Evan RodriguesLW/C/RWNHL1.00
Dominik SimonLW/RWTwo-Way Contract.750
TOTAL48.561364

You’ll notice the 13 forwards. Brian Boyle is not present. The Penguins can keep 14 forwards, but barring more COVID protocol stays could not recall any players from the WBS Penguins. If short-term injuries not worthy of IR or non-COVID illness hit the blue line (or if the NHL allows the COVID exemptions to expire after the All-Star break), and the Penguins need to make a recall, Hextall will have a hard choice between Boyle and Dominik Simon.

The Penguins could well lose either player to waivers, and both players have been good fits–very good fits–this season.

The Penguins’ defense is relatively stable. With seven d-men and a currently healthy cast led by Kris Letang, the blue line costs $26,125,175 million. It will be a constant unless Hextall moves salary in a swap of defensemen.

And the goalies’ salary-cap figure, $4.75 million, will be a constant, for now. Tristan Jarry is firmly ensconced as a starter and likely All-Star, though adding an experienced backup might be on the Penguins trade shopping list after recent clunkers by Casey DeSmith.

One way to save additional money is to swap places between DeSmith and Louis Domingue.

Editor’s Note #2: The initial paragraph stated the Penguins could save $500,000. However, that did not factor in the maximum $1.05 million that can be stashed in the AHL or the prorated amounts.

The worst-case scenario is usually what happens with the Pittsburgh Penguins’ health, so don’t discount circumstances forcing Hextall into that decision between his depth forwards. In that scenario, our bet is on Simon to stick because of the team’s center depth with Evan Rodrigues on the roster and Drew O’Connor at the ready in WBS.

Simon has six points in 29 games (1-5-6). Boyle has four goals (4-0-4) in 23 games.

Expect another Pittsburgh Penguins trade in the coming weeks, pending Jason Zucker’s time frame, or will Hextall live on the edge?

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Pittsburgh Hockey Now Editor-in-Chief, formerly 93.7 The Fan, Sportsnet Hockey Tonight, NHL Home Ice. Catch Dan tweeting @theDanKingerski and the official @pghhockeynow account.

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Dean
Dean
10 days ago

Dan, I may be simplifying this based on all the rules. We knew all season that when Geno came back we will be at the cap.

7 defense $26.3M (includes .15 for Riikola in AHL or Taxi squad)
14 forwards $49.245M (O’Conner in AHL and not Taxi, based on rules)
2 goalies $4.75M
JJ $1.11667M

We can have the taxi squad for covid absences.

Total $81.51667M

Isn’t this just rearranging the puzzle?

Robert Shoemaker
Robert Shoemaker(@rob71)
10 days ago

I was just thinking about this right before you published this story. It will really suck if they have to let someone go who has really helped this team play as well as they have this season. I hope that Hextall can find a way to make this work. At the very least, his hand will be forced to finally do something. If they have to choose between keeping Boyle and Simon, i hope that it is Boyle. Nothing against Simon, I like what Boyle adds that no other player on the roster can add. Simon is a decent depth… Read more »

Last edited 10 days ago by Robert Shoemaker
walligo1@yahoo.com
walligo1@yahoo.com(@walligo1yahoo-com)
10 days ago

I THOUGHT HOWEVER ZUCKER PLAYED VERY WELL IN THE PLAYOFFS LAST YEAR…..COMPETED BETTER THAN OTHER WINGERS

Mike Donnelly
Mike Donnelly(@donny)
10 days ago

Agree with all these sentiments. Simon likely a better long-term investment, but Boyle on the PK, and his size on the 4th line would be a huge keep. As long as the players keep this window open, lets put the best team on the ice

Tim Curtis
Tim Curtis
10 days ago

I’d much rather keep Rust than Malkin!
It’s time to part ways with Geno. Even when he wasn’t injured, Malkin is NOT worth $9 million/yr! He isn’t the scoring threat he was 3-4 years ago and he occasionally takes a shift off! His defense is barely average.. Rust is a far more complete player, and he’s younger. Forget about loyalty!
I like him, but Geno has to go!

Jer5051
Jer5051(@jer5051)
10 days ago
Reply to  Tim Curtis

Have you seen Geno play this year?

Bruno Beirne
Bruno Beirne
9 days ago
Reply to  Tim Curtis

Why would they get rid of either Geno or Rusty? Losing either makes your team far worse. Bury Simon, he’s no better than any of the other taxi squadders/wbs call ups.

Rich Filardi
Rich Filardi
10 days ago

Allot of teams are in the same circumstances. I would think most players are ok clearing waivers. Trading too is probably limited as well for the same reasons.

Frank
Frank
10 days ago

If the team continues its current level of play I can’t see how Hextall is going to have any interest in moving anyone . . . that is a serious factor . . . to address cap issues. He has one card to play (not particularly a good one) which is to try and move Zucker. But I just cannot see another franchise wanting to drop $5.5 million on a third line wing, that at least lately, seems to be in some sort of reoccurring injury status. For Hextall to move him he will probably need someone to suddenly have… Read more »

Robert Shoemaker
Robert Shoemaker(@rob71)
9 days ago
Reply to  Frank

More than half of the team is ufa or rfa. Could be massive roster turnover

Mike P
Mike P
9 days ago

I am not entirely familiar with the waiver process but isn’t Simon on a two way deal and would that not make him waiver exempt?

trackback

[…] Hockey Now’s Dan Kingerski got lost in a world of numbers Thursday. Kingerski breaks down the Penguins’ upcoming salary cap issues in a deep-dive look at the […]

Brandon o
Brandon o
9 days ago

I cant see simon or Boyle getting claimed on waivers. No rebuilding teams are looking to displace a 37 yo center who only got a pto during training camp. Most of the contenders have no cap room either. Simon also didnt last away from the pens and is likely not on anyones radar. They can squeeze under and likely clear both players. The taxi squad should also remain as the wave of covid outbreaks continues steadily. If it stays, do they still have to clear waivers to go from active roster to taxi squad?

Brandon o
Brandon o
9 days ago
Reply to  Brandon o

Also, given the level of play, cap issues, and assets available, is there even a move we can make? I feel like trading Zucker at his lowest value would be a mistake, and probably have to take on a worse player/contract. Our 1st should only be in play if it’s a substantial upgrade… A top 4 ld, combined with dropping Matheson, seems too far fetched. A a top 6 wing while dropping Zucker also seems unlikely. If we could move desmith for a backup goalie upgrade using a 2nd or 3rd pick to have retained salary, that might be the… Read more »

Bruno Beirne
Bruno Beirne
9 days ago
Reply to  Brandon o

Shop e-rod while his perceived value is highest.

Robert Shoemaker
Robert Shoemaker(@rob71)
9 days ago
Reply to  Bruno Beirne

With the season he is having they won’t be able to afford him. Especially if the free agent market is nuts like it was last off season.

Robert Shoemaker
Robert Shoemaker(@rob71)
9 days ago
Reply to  Brandon o

At this point, trading zucker for a draft pick or 2 would be prudent. Salary dump is needed! In my opinion, he is the most expendable.

Rick
Rick
9 days ago

In a season when Calgary finished 20th in the league, they waived Simon and and he cleared waivers. He will clear waivers again. History shows the choice isn’t all that difficult. Simon is not that integral. The team has a ton of Simon’s but precious few Boyles. Keep Boyle, waive Simon.

Kris
Kris
9 days ago

This article is totally confusing to me. What are we trying to point out? The Penguins, if ever healthy, (Highly Unlikely) would have 14 forward, 7 defensemen and 2 goalies. those numbers plus the JJ cap hit put us very close to the upper limit but NOT over the $81.5 million limit. So what is the issue we are trying to explain on this story? If someone gets hurt, we won’t have the dollar amount to add a player unless we put someone on LTIR. LTIR minimum is 10 games. So if we lose a guy on defense we have… Read more »

Randy Butternubs
Randy Butternubs
9 days ago

Hiya Dan. You’re calculating the cap wrong multiple times. Cap hits don’t just disappear because a player is in WBS. For example, Domingue instead of DeSmith only saves ~$200k and not the $500k that you state. First, DeSmith’s cap hit for these first 90ish days still applies to the Pens overall cap hit. And then DeSmith would be considered “buried” and would still have a cap hit while in the minors. The season is 200 days long, and for simplicity sake let’s say DeSmith is in the AHL for 100 days. DeSmith in the NHL full time is $1.25M. DeSmith… Read more »

Randy Butternubs
Randy Butternubs
9 days ago
Reply to  Dan Kingerski

I’m not sure what changed with Note #1, but I’m assuming all was fine since those tweets and images are time coded. However, Note #2 is still incorrect. I can’t come up with the same $255k you’ve got but perhaps it’s right. But the maximum allowed to be buried still incorrect. The max that can be buried is whatever the league minimum is (this year it’s $750k) with $375k added. No clue why it’s those numbers, but that’s what is written in the CBA. It’s not a fun read, but you should take a peak. Also with Note #2, Pens… Read more »

Last edited 9 days ago by Randy Butternubs

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