“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.