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Should They? Crunching Numbers IF the Penguins Want Bozak, or Others

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Pittsburgh Penguins, Tyler Bozak

Since Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet floated the idea, it seems a good time to look at Tyler Bozak and what the formerly prized pivot could possibly plunder via an NHL payday. The Pittsburgh Penguins will be without a pair of notable centers to begin the season, which leaves a gigantic hole in the lineup.

But that hole should be re-filled in November as Penguins GM Ron Hextall seemed to indicate that an LTIR designation would not be applied to Sidney Crosby, who is out for at least six weeks from Monday, and probably not for Evgeni Malkin, who should return after that.

Hextall poo-pooed using LTIR money to bridge the gap.

“It’s not as easy as it looks. We get to sign a guy to a contract for a couple of months, and then player X comes back, or player Y comes back,” Hextall explained. “But that’s not the way the system works. So we have to be compliant when both players come back. We can’t add a big dollar player here because both (Crosby and Malkin) are going to be back.”

Also, to be eligible for LTIR designation, a player must miss at least 10 games or 24 days. It doesn’t seem that Crosby will miss 10 games, though the Penguins figure to update Malkin’s status in training camp.

Malkin had knee surgery in June. Extrapolating a six-month recovery would put Malkin’s return in December. A four-month recovery could put him back on Penguins ice in October.

So, do the Penguins need Tyler Bozak?

Well, Ummm, maybe?

As attractive as the name is, and the temptation of a shiny new toy, the Pittsburgh Penguins will have four solid centers when Evgeni Malkin returns though the team’s top three centers were born in the 1980s. Ronald Reagan, jellies, Wham!, pegged Bugle Boy jeans, as well as the births of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Jeff Carter.

Also in the 1980s, MTV played music. If you wanted to talk to someone, you had to use a device that hung on the wall with curly chords and a rotary dial-out design.

And the people you called had no idea who was calling, so they answered every call politely. Sometimes, even with formal greetings, like “Hello, the Smith residence.”

Yeah, I’m saying they’re old…at least by hockey standards.

However, neither Bozak nor Carter are tied to the middle. Over the past couple of seasons, Bozak spent time at RW in St. Louis so whippersnapper Robert Thomas could move to the middle. Bozak was red hot on the right side. 

Last season, Bozak popped 17 points (5-12-17) in 31 games. It was his best points-per-game average in three seasons with the St. Louis Blues and best since 2017-18 when he was with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Bozak just finished a three-year, $15 million deal, so the prospect of playing for the peanuts, which the Penguins fans may want to offer (PTO, $1 million), is probably a no-go. Actually, it may be a bit insulting.

Pittsburgh Penguins Salary Cap Structure

The Penguins officially have about $121k in cap space, including two goalies, seven defensemen, and 14 forwards. Assuming the Penguins could send two players to the WBS Penguins to remove their salary hits, That opens up about $1.5 million unless one of those is UFA signee, Danton Heinen.

Then the cap space would “balloon” to about $1.87 million.

Bozak, 35, probably wants all of that and more. The Penguins would have to make a corresponding trade to open enough space for Bozak, probably, but he would fit the roster well.

Eric Staal, Travis Zajac

We removed Carl Soderberg from the list. After watching the center in the playoffs against the Vegas Golden Knights and getting input from scouts (courtesy of San Jose Hockey Now, Sheng Peng), Soderberg is at the end of the road.

We also removed, for obvious reasons, Mark Jankowski, Alex Galchenyuk, and Ryan Donato.

That leaves Staal and Zajac.

The New York Islanders might still have a contract or two in the top drawer, and if Islanders GM Lou Lamoriello does, Zajac’s name is likely on one. But he’s still out there, and you can forgive his anemic production with the fish sticks as he was cast as a winger and buried in the lineup. It really didn’t work in New York.

Zajac, 36, is also at the end of his career, according to the scouts who helped our offseason critiques. 

The Pittsburgh Penguins could sign Zajac for the short term and use him as a center, winger, 13th forward type. He likely fits the salary cap structure and the couch-cushion change the Penguins can pay.

Staal, 36,  is probably a no-go. He just completed a two-year, $6.5 million deal signed with the Minnesota Wild but split last season between Buffalo and Montreal.

The reasons Staal is an unlikely get are two-fold. First, He had 47 points (19-28-47) in 66 games in 2019-20, so he will most likely command a contract that exceeds the Penguins’ pain tolerance. Two, he hasn’t played wing since a short-lived experiment in 2014?

If he has played wing, we couldn’t find any past stories besides the 2014 switch in Carolina.

Staal probably isn’t yet at the desperate stage where he’ll take an opportunity that could last only a month.

Maybe we should re-open the door for Jankowski, eh?

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Zane Gearhart
Zane Gearhart (@steelcityhockey)
2 months ago

If they do somehow sign bozak, it would make for a great forward group when healthy. Might even give us an opportunity to see Jeff Carter play wing with sid or geno at times. If not a 3rd line of McGinn, Carter, Bozak would be great. But it allows leave zero room to get a good 3rd pair RD
Guddy signed for 1.95 million for 1 year with the flames

Last edited 2 months ago by Zane Gearhart
Ken Colligan
Ken Colligan
2 months ago
Reply to  Zane Gearhart

Great ? In 2015 maybe

Ken Colligan
Ken Colligan
2 months ago

We might as well check if Pierre Laroche is still available.

Ken Colligan
Ken Colligan
2 months ago
Reply to  Ken Colligan

Meant Larouche. Although Laroche couldn’t hurt.

Alex
Alex
2 months ago

Gimme Bozak, he’d be a solid option on the third but I think he’d be elite with ZAR and Blueger, Sully would have a LHC and RHC on that line and his production on the wing could allow that line to get even more minutes in all situations. He could also end up with Carter and a more offensive winger like Zucker to make a solid line, even when a big change is needed Carter could be the RW in the top 6 and you’d have 2 guys in Bozak and Blueger that are capable of being good third line… Read more »

Crosby32746@yahoo.com
Crosby32746@yahoo.com (@crosby32746yahoo-com)
2 months ago
Reply to  Alex

He can also play wing when we eventually get healthy. But will Hextall pull the trigger or over analyze until next off season?

jackw
jackw (@jackw)
2 months ago

Only in Yinzerworld can it be considered reasonable to be ready to run Evgeni Malkin out of town because, you know, 35 years old – while at the same time contemplating how to make the finances work to sign 35 year old Tyler Bozak.

Rob
Rob
2 months ago
Reply to  jackw

Hahaha, i know. I keep saying that if you don’t like most of the players on a team, NEWSFLASH, you don’t like that team! Sure, the GM could change all of the players for you…OR you could just watch a team with players that you like! People, in general, have difficult logic for me to follow these days. Lol

Crosby32746@yahoo.com
Crosby32746@yahoo.com (@crosby32746yahoo-com)
2 months ago
Reply to  jackw

I live in Orlando so maybe I missed what you are talking about!!! They have lost their top two centers, and one until November at the earliest. So Hextall NEEDS to look for some offense to make up for it. It’ true, I don’t like this team without Crosby and Malkin! Losing one of the other for an extended period of time is not ideal, however I think they can tread water until they return. But with BOTH out they need to do something. Take a risk!!! Hopefully there is another Carter out there that can help us until this… Read more »

Ken Colligan
Ken Colligan
2 months ago

Risk is not in the Hextall vocabulary.

Crosby32746@yahoo.com
Crosby32746@yahoo.com (@crosby32746yahoo-com)
2 months ago

They will get the LTIR designation with Malkin. So Staal will be in play unless Hextall waits too long to make up his mind and Staal signs elsewhere.

Patience is a virtue, however patience did not help us in signing a goaltender this off season. This is where Burkie has to step up and push Hextall. We are never going to get a perfect fit. But you have to take a risk on the NEAREST BEST fit so you don’t get stuck with nothing in terms of choices and have to maintain the status quo!

Rob
Rob
2 months ago

Hextall said both players will not be eligible for LTIR

Jason Pope
Jason Pope
2 months ago

Why only send down 2 players? If getting maximum cap space is the aim why not send 4 players down(1 Dman 3 forwards) to create about $3 million in cap space and 1 open roster spot to be filled by the FA signing? Especially if that gets us into Eric Staal cap space. This team with McGinn Staal Carter for a 3rd line would really be a legit contender if Jarry can get hot for the stretch run/playoffs.

Jason Pope
Jason Pope
2 months ago
Reply to  Dan Kingerski

Only 12 forwards and 6 defenseman play in a game the 13th forward and 7th defenseman are insurance against injury. And not necessary to play a game. Send down 3 forwards gives us 11 add one that we sign is 12 which is the correct number

Joshua Witcher
Joshua Witcher
2 months ago

Gee…if only we had a young, productive two way center coming off of a career year on an inexpensive contract to fall back on. Of course if we did, our extremely competent GM’s, knowing full well that our top 2 centers had injuries, 1 of which they knew would need surgery and miss the start of the season with the possibility of the same thing happening to the other, they would never have traded him for scraps while botching the expansion draft & screwing the teams strong forward depth. Then again, our idiot of a coach would’ve given 11 other… Read more »

Commonsense
Commonsense
2 months ago

I’m not even going to be shy about, Hextall is a joke as a GM (slow playing what)??. ANY new GM has to understand this is truly the last shot going into this yr with these aging player’s and you need to make moves to free up cash for legit longterm FA’s next yr…Since he did none and now has his #1 & #2 “C’s” on IR with less then $2m in cap, and won’t move them to LTIR it’s a joke to even consider Bozak or Zajac signing less then $2m and even if you move LTIR you still… Read more »

Frank
Frank
2 months ago

I would like . . . like . .. to think Hextall feels the team is a playoff contender, with next to no chance to compete for a Cup and may have one playoff series win in them. Even for that to happen there is next to no room for error. I would like . . . like . . . to think the team as it stands will not be awful and more likely competitive on most nights and very good on some short stretches but excluding the possibility that a competing GM has lost his mind there is… Read more »

KEN
KEN
2 months ago

Hey Dan … what the hell does corded phones & videos actually being played on cable TV have to do with anything hockey? Not a damn thing. Oh, I get it, age discrimination … never mind abilities. Jagr is still playing!! Out of respect for his father which speaks volumes about his character on top of his work ethic. Maybe it’s because he didn’t grow up with a smart phone attached to his face? I tire of hearing the Pens can’t survive without Crosby, without Malkin … Where have you been? They have done it multiple times, the rest of… Read more »

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