The Las Vegas Golden Knights signed center Nolan Patrick to a two-year deal worth $2.4 million. The contract is almost exactly on par with PHN’s prediction of a $1.3 million AAV. Still, it represented the last opportunity, albeit crazy and unlikely, for the Pittsburgh Penguins to add center depth and youth. The quiet offseason has not yielded more NHL talent on the Penguins roster, but it has produced an even older roster with holes to fill.
Technically, the Penguins offseason ends on Thursday as training camp begins, but there are precious few options remaining for GM Ron Hextall to improve his Pittsburgh Penguins club.
He certainly has stayed the course. After the sometimes frenetic pace of change that previous GMs unleashed on the Penguins, the 2021 offseason was a culture shock.
On July 28, Hextall admitted the lack of fiscal sanity and free-agent prices were a shocker.
“We would like to tweak some things, and we’re going to continue to monitor the free-agent market to see what’s out there and see if we find any fits that are upgrades for us,” Hextall said on July 28. “I was a little surprised that the day today, I mean, with the flat cap and the poor financial year last year, the way things went, we were joking with a couple of other GMs that we smartened up a year ago and we got back to our regular selves today. So I was surprised with some of the prices.”
The Penguins added Brock McGinn as a replacement for the Seattle Kraken-selected Brandon Tanev.
Dominik Simon is back on a two-way contract. Danton Heinen got an NHL deal. Brian Boyle will be in camp on a PTO. Sidney Crosby will miss a few minutes of the season, and Evgeni Malkin will miss weeks or months.
The Penguins mined the QMJHL for a few diamonds in the rough, such as Chris Merisier-Ortiz. Hextall made significant changes to the scouting staff, fired Mike Buckley, and promoted Andy Chiodo to the NHL goalie coach.
Now you’re caught up.
Pittsburgh Penguins One-Timers
- It was a disappointment the Penguins didn’t participate in a rookie tournament, but after a bit of reflection and a few days at the prospect camp, I see why the organization didn’t seek out a tournament. The Penguins have only two soon-to-be-ready NHL prospects in camp: Sam Poulin and Nathan Legare. They have only one goalie who may have professional chops: Filip Lindberg.
And no centers.
Filip Hallander and Sam Poulin have recently played center in Sweden and Val d’Or, respectively, but the Penguins lack any center prospects. Zip. Zero. Nada.
Given the lack of real prospects, lack of goalie depth, and the beatdown the Penguins prospects took in Buffalo back in 2019 during the prospect tournament, it does make sense to skip the hassle and control the process.
- You’re really going to like Nathan Legare. While every Swedish prospect gets compared to Patric Hornqvist, Legare may indeed inherit that throne, and Legare has an NHL-ready wrist shot. He was having fun and hitting everything that moved in the battle drills on Sunday.
Legare also lost 15 pounds to get quicker. He scored 14 goals in 15 playoff games but is stopping at 15, so he can keep his heavy game, too.
“I think I was just in the zone before the playoffs. I lost weight too, so I was just mentally prepared for the playoffs,” Legare said. “And one of my goals was to win. At the end of the day, we were in the final. It was a tough loss, but it pushed me to be harder for the future.”
- Devil’s advocate: If Brian Boyle sticks in the Pittsburgh Penguins lineup, should the Penguins consider the unthinkable and put Evgeni Malkin on the left wing when he returns? Claude Giroux had great success with the move in Philadelphia, and that wasn’t long after Sidney Crosby passed the torch to Giroux as the best in the game (sarcasm). Mario Lemieux did it several times in his career, including the last few years.
Malkin was in beast mode before he collided with Jared Tinordi last March. He and Kasperi Kapanen had something special developing, but can he stay healthy in the middle and add offense where it doesn’t currently exist?
Those are questions to ponder, not suggestions.
- Filip Hallander has not yet stood out in prospects camp. He’s confident, but he hasn’t been as good as Legare or Poulin.
2020 fourth-round pick Lukas Svejkovsky could open some eyes and get a real chance with the WBS Penguins.
- Hello Sami Vatanen? He’s the last available right-side defenseman with NHL credibility. Could Chris Tanev be a name to watch coming out of Calgary?
Erik Gudbranson got a healthy $1.9 million deal in Calgary, forcing me to withdraw my advocacy that he become a Pittsburgh Penguins defender again. However, Calgary has an extra righty with NHL experience.
It won’t surprise me if Mark Friedman is the Penguins’ third-pair RHD on opening night. Or Chad Ruhwedel. It won’t surprise me if either is capable. But it also wouldn’t surprise me if either regresses, and by Christmas, the Penguins are hot on the NHL trade market.
An 82-game marathon sure is different than a three-month sprint.