The never-ending Pittsburgh Penguins offseason still has two months to burn before the percolating influx of players to Cranberry begins. The Penguins trade chatter surrounding Erik Karlsson is two weeks old, yet it feels like a lifetime ago the Penguins imploded against the worst teams in the league, missed the playoffs, cleaned house at the management level, and hired Kyle Dubas as the president of hockey operations.
I can share a tidbit about the Hockey Now network digging into the Karlsson trade rumors and why there has not been a credible report on the offers or asking price.
A good source responded to one of our network writers yesterday, “No fly zone.”
There was more to the text, but you get the idea. The principals in the matter have ordered an information lockdown.
1. Any Penguins trade for Karlsson must necessarily involve Jeff Petry
Dubas called Petry a “major part” of the Penguins next season, but there isn’t a plausible way Dubas could acquire another right-side defenseman and coach Mike Sullivan find enough ice time to justify Petry’s $6.25 million salary.
Further, with Karlsson and Kris Letang taking the top two pairings, Petry would be shoved into a limited but demanding role. He would be tasked with becoming a penalty-killing, shutdown defenseman who starts most shifts in the defensive zone.
That seems like casting w0rse than a Lifetime movie.
For salary cap reasons and to make room for Karlsson, it seems Petry must be part of the deal.
2. The Penguins remain the oldest
The gap between the oldest and second oldest has grown significantly since the end of last season. The Penguins remain the oldest team in the league, but the gap has grown from a small fraction to nearly a couple of years.
According to CapFriendly, the Penguins’ average age is 31.1. The Washington Capitals remain the second oldest team, but the difference is 1.5 years.
However, for everyone who insists the Penguins need to get younger, the reply is, “How?”
Free agents are older. The players must generally reach about 27 years old before becoming a UFA unless they are not tendered a qualifying offer by their team. The Penguins did well to get Ryan Graves as the new stay-home left-side defender with enough size to defend the net, but his age (27) was irrelevant to getting the best available.
Teams aren’t exactly lining up to give away young talent on the trade market, either.
This season doesn’t look good for a Penguins youth movement, but in two years, things should begin to turn around as first-round picks Owen Pickering and Brayden Yager enter the picture. Perhaps a few of those diamonds in the rough, such as Luke Devlin. will emerge, as well.
Based on current projected lineups, these teams have the oldest average ages.
Pittsburgh – 31.1
Washington – 29.6
NY Islanders – 29.0
Toronto – 28.6
Boston – 28.5
Edmonton – 28.5
NY Rangers – 28.4
Carolina – 28.4
Dallas – 28.4
Calgary – 28.2
— CapFriendly Depth Charts (@CF_DepthCharts) July 10, 2023
3. The fourth line might be lightning fast
Penguins forward Noel Acciairi gave an assist to Brandon Tanev for his decision to sign with the Penguins. Acciari’s game resembles Tanev’s, including the powerful speed and not being afraid of a half dozen collisions per game.
The depth signing of RW Vinnie Hinostroza could appreciably increase the speed of the fourth line, certainly if Accairi fills the fourth-line center role and Matt Nieto lands on the other wing.
Fans might grouse as Alex Nylander could be the odd man out as the Penguins try to find production from Mikael Granlund, but at least the fourth line will have the jam and speed necessary to be a successful and productive unit.
Unlike last season.
However, the third line remains a work in progress. Only Lars Eller has a confirmed reservation. Perhaps Dubas can clone Acciari as a third-line winger, too? The Granlund and Carter questions remain.
Of course, there are still two months to go in this never-ending offseason.