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Penguins Trade Scenario: How Kraken Could Affect Moves, Salary Cap

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Jason Zucker Pittsburgh Penguins Trade

“My approach is that we’re going to probably lose a pretty good player and rather than give up a couple of assets to try to try to keep (players),” — Pittsburgh Penguins GM Ron Hextall on the Seattle Kraken expansion draft.

Hextall made the comments in his final press conference following the 2020-21 season on June 2. He rejected the idea that he’ll make a side deal to keep a player but instead expected to take his medicine straight and lose a player he ordinarily would not give up.

Playing on PuckPedia.com’s Expansion Draft Protection Tool, the Penguins have a pair of tough decisions. We will assume Cody Ceci will not sign before the July 21 draft, which means Mike Matheson, Brian Dumoulin, and Kris Letang are the three protected D-men. Marcus Pettersson would be the unprotected blue liner.

The Penguins can protect seven at forward, but it gets tricky because of Jeff Carter, who was a goal-scoring machine after the Penguins acquired him from the LA Kings at the NHL trade deadline. Carter is 36-years-old and will be in the final year of his contract.

He looked almost done in LA. He looked like he was 26-years old in Pittsburgh. Do the Penguins need to burn a protection spot on him, thus exposing another forward? Would Seattle take a player like Carter for leadership?

In our projections, we’re going to leave Carter unprotected, which allows the Penguins to choose to protect one of Jared McCann, Jason Zucker, and Teddy Blueger.

McCann is our bet to be protected. The official protection lists are due by July 17.

By how could the Seattle Kraken affect a Pittsburgh Penguins trade? On Thursday, the Nashville Predators decided that Seattle would certainly select Viktor Arvidsson, so Nashville traded Arvidsson to LA for a second (2021) and third-round (2022) draft picks.

Arvidsson, 28, has a pair of 30-goal seasons in his seven-year career and a cap hit of $4.25 million.

Ordinarily, it seems a player like Arvidsson would go for a bit more than a two and a three?

But what if Hextall could call his shot.

Penguins Trade Scenario

Jason Zucker arguably has better statistics than Viktor Arvidsson. Until this season which was shortened by COVID and affected by injury, Zucker had four straight 20-goal seasons and four straight 40-point seasons. Arvidsson had only three straight seasons which matched that criteria, but he hasn’t broken the 30-point barrier in the last two seasons.

Zucker is also the faster and more physical of the two LWs. He makes slightly more money ($5.5 million vs. $4.25 million), but this opens up possibilities.

There is no guarantee Seattle would select Zucker if he is available. Actually, his salary impedes a team that will have a plethora of similarly priced veterans to choose from.

So, how could Seattle affect the Penguins trade plans?

Perhaps the opening market will change Hextall’s position. If Zucker can fetch second and third-round picks, the Penguins have the possibility to control their destiny and put a little something in their pocket.

Let’s assume the Penguins would protect Jared McCann, thus leaving Zucker, Teddy Blueger, Jeff Carter, and Marcus Pettersson exposed.

If Hextall were to get similar value for Zucker, he now has two more trade pieces or draft picks–one of which could be spent to protect Blueger and suggest Pettersson. If it takes both picks to achieve that result, so be it.

In the process, the Penguins would clear over $9.5 million in salary, money that could be used to add truculence in the Penguins lineup via free agency.

Zucker could also go for much more. The Penguins traded away a No. 1 pick and top defenseman prospect Calen Addison for him.

Of course, this “plan” requires agreement from multiple other teams. And therein always lies a problem. Perhaps Seattle is dead set on Blueger, the Penguins third-line center in-waiting, or Pettersson and won’t take the extortion payment.

The NHL trade market seems to be opening as teams realize they can recoup assets for exposed players instead of losing that asset for nothing.

Hextall and the Penguins could sit tight. They can hope that Zucker’s 20-goal seasons are enough to entice Seattle, or they can find a quick replacement for Bleuger if Seattle GM Ron Francis goes for young speed.

We’ll know the Penguins’ choice in 15 days. We’ll know Francis’ choice and the Penguins’ loss in 19 days.

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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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William Maloni
William Maloni
29 days ago

DC area–including suburbs–have Saturday night FW and then the Mall’s major show on Sunday night.

Bachinga
Bachinga
29 days ago

Carter is going to be protected…it’s not even a debatable point…it comes down to Zucker or McCann…

Bill L
Bill L
29 days ago
Reply to  Bachinga

Agreed. When I heard about the Carter deal, I was like “here we go again.” Then #77 hit the ice and 🤯. I’d hate to see Zucker or McCann go but Carter has to be protected.

If we’d only gotten him ten years ago… Oh the possibilities.

Bachinga
Bachinga
28 days ago
Reply to  Dan Kingerski

Why would they leave two centers exposed…one developing who would still need to be signed, versus one established as both a player and a leader along with his cap certainty?

What kind of “strategy” is that?

They need Carter, unless you feel that they can waste 60% of yet another season looking for a third line center…as they have for 4 of the last 4 seasons…

You leave Zucker and McCann exposed and you’re not hurt – as a team or as a business – in any way if either is taken…

Well…I guess we are debating the point… (;^D

Last edited 28 days ago by Bachinga
Bachinga
Bachinga
27 days ago
Reply to  Dan Kingerski

Why wouldn’t the Kraken want a steady veteran with a Cup and salary cap certainty in their young locker room?

But you didn’t address part two of my points…repeated.,…unless you feel that they can waste 60% of yet another season looking for a third line center…as they have for 4 of the last 4 seasons…

Last edited 27 days ago by Bachinga
Jason p
Jason p
29 days ago

I’d like to see both Pettersson and Zucker go this off-season. Not cuz they aren’t decent player but simply for some cap relief. That may be Hextalls plan anyway. Need to trim the huge cap hit the average D is taking up to resign TB and AR. I’d definitely be ok with trading Zucker for picks or even a young player who doesn’t need to be protected and hoping Pettersson is their pick based on not wanting to go to arbitration with TB right after selecting him.

Greg C
Greg C
26 days ago
Reply to  Jason p

It’s all about the cap and will remain about the cap. Teams can no longer load up with talent and dominate. They have to balance high level talent with run of the mill talent. Not easy to do

William Maloni
William Maloni
29 days ago

Excellent analysis! Appreciate it.

Lars Erik Nelson
Lars Erik Nelson
28 days ago

What I don’t think is discussed enough is that Blueger is only a 4th line guy. Yes, he is good and yes I want him on the team. But, the way the cap situation is around the league Seattle has an opportunity to offer more money than a lot of teams can for their 3rd and 4th line guys. If Seattle made the mistake of taking Blueger over Zucker, Carter, or Pettersson, they would not get the best player they could get and they would be wasting a pick on a player that they could possibly end up with if… Read more »

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