Nothing. Our sources in and around the Pittsburgh Penguins and the league have heard…nothing. That’s the word we’ve been getting from league sources for weeks regarding the Pittsburgh Penguins offseason and their last remaining unsigned player, Marcus Pettersson.
Friday, the Penguins acquired organizational depth for their paper-thin blue line when the snagged unsigned Harvard defenseman John Marino from Edmonton for a conditional sixth-round pick in 2021. On July 22, the Penguins waited until the stroke of 9 a.m. when they were due for an arbitration hearing with Zach Aston-Reese to make him a two-year, $2 million offer.
Otherwise, it’s been quiet. Too quiet.
PHN has detailed the Penguins position in which they could sign Pettersson and enter the season with less than 23 players. An astute reader in our comments section asked the simple question–Why haven’t they done it, yet?
That is a good question.
If that is the Penguins plan, they could sign Pettersson now so the young defenseman doesn’t feel isolated or ignored and go about their business of chumming the water for the inevitable trade which will happen sometime between now and (most likely) the end of 2019.
All is well that ends well, so it is difficult to criticize Penguins GM Jim Rutherford until we know the final outcome. However, Rutherford’s patience stands in stark contrast to the wheeling and dealing of Toronto wunderkind GM Kyle Dubas who has been able to shed just about enough salary to sign star RFA Mitch Marner. Toronto has made three trades this month, including acquiring offensive defenseman Tyson Barrie with some cash from Colorado and LTIR resident David Clarkson.
Toronto has cleared $10.55 million and improved its blue line. It has been a masterful job by Dubas.
The Penguins newest faces will be Brandon Tanev, Alex Galchenyuk, and Dominik Kahun but the team will be just under the salary cap when the waiver period begins 12 days before the regular season.
Generally, once August arrives, the hockey world is decompressing at lake houses across Canada before another grueling 10-month season begins. The time for work and moves is July and September.
Rutherford’s work this summer has been slow and methodical. He has improved his team. The trade of Olli Maatta for Dominik Kahun was a good deal for the Penguins. Getting anything for Phil Kessel after the player essentially blocked every team but Arizona was a piece of good GM’ing. And while there is angst over the length of Brandon Tanev’s six-year contract, the player should fit very well into the Penguins blueprint.
But Rutherford’s work is also unfinished. There isn’t a doubt that Pettersson helped in the turnaround of Jack Johnson and it is unlikely to be a coincidence that Erik Gudbranson had a rebound with the Penguins as he played beside Pettersson, too.
Currently, there is nothing preventing Rutherford from signing Pettersson except the variables of the yet unknown. Washington Capitals defenseman Christian Djoos was awarded only $1.25 million in arbitration, which may bring Pettersson’s price down by a smidge, but Pettersson was more durable and productive.
From every angle and scenario, the Penguins have no reason to wait it out unless this is a negotiation tactic to wear down the other side and squeeze another couple hundred thousand.
One interesting side note, if the Penguins wait until after the start of the season to sign Pettersson, his AAV could go up because the money isn’t pro-rated, as Toronto forward William Nylander’s did last season.
It appears it is time for Rutherford to close this chapter, sign Pettersson and begin working on the next phase. Give the player a little bit of comfort or security. The silent treatment doesn’t seem to be the way to go.
Signing Marcus Pettersson wouldn’t impede the Penguins ability to make a trade or follow through with other moves.
Indeed, the waiting is the hardest part.