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Should Hextall, Penguins Pay the Price? Flames Set the Market to Move Salary

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pittsburgh penguins, nhl trade, jason zucker, marcus pettersson

According to CapFriendly, there are 14 teams currently above the $82.5 million salary cap, including the Pittsburgh Penguins. General manager Lou Lamoriello and the New York Islanders would not pay the price. The Calgary Flames and GM Brad Treliving did, as they attached a first-round pick with Sean Monahan to facilitate the Montreal Canadiens trade.

Consequently, Nazem Kadri will skate in Calgary this season, not at the UBS Arena, and the NHL trade market is set.

Will Penguins general manager Ron Hextall pay the price?

Should they?

The Penguins have three players with salaries above $4 million who don’t meet the untouchable classification: Brian Dumoulin, Marcus Pettersson, and Jason Zucker. Speculation has far outpaced reported trade talks, but if the Penguins are to make a trade involving salary, one of those three is the likely candidate.

The Setup: Market Prices, Fewer Teams Available

Until this week, perhaps hope existed that the Penguins could move one of the salaries and not attach a coveted first-rounder. However, Calgary broke the seal, and by attaching a first-rounder to Monahan, they signaled to the other GMs that a team forced to move salary will indeed pay the piper.

There is a caveat with Monahan. His production has fallen off a cliff. He had 82 points in 2018-19 but fell to just 23 points (8-15-23) last season as another hip injury slowed him. He had left hip surgery one year ago. He had right hip surgery in April. His $6.3 million cap hit for this season far outpaces his production.

Monahan could rebound well this season if he can finally skate unencumbered again. However, rival GMs are unlikely to split hairs. Montreal got a first-round pick for eating Monahan’s salary for just one season. That’s the price. Take it or leave it.

And there is one less team able to take on salary, too.

In full disclosure, several teams over the salary cap have significant LTIR exemptions coming. The Washington Capitals are more than $5 million over the cap but will put Nick Backstrom’s $9.2 million salary on LTIR, just as the Carolina Hurricanes will put Max Pacioretty on LTIR to get under the cap limit.

After LTIR, approximately 8-10 teams are projected to be over the cap. And there are only a handful of teams with the salary cap space to take on a $4-6 million contract, which is why the NHL trade market is clogged.

And there are only a few teams with cap space to burn and an interest in improving. Let’s face it, not all teams with cap space want to get better this summer. The Chicago Blackhawks are in the tank. The Arizona Coyotes don’t have the scratch to spare.

The other teams, such as the Detroit Red Wings, have young players who will need big contracts next summer. In Detroit, Dylan Larkin and Tyler Bertuzzi will assuredly want to be well paid. Bertuzzi made our list of the top five star players who could be on the NHL trade block this season because he wants term and dollars.

They won’t be keen to take on several years of a defenseman like Pettersson.

Pittsburgh Penguins (No) Choice

Should Hextall and the Penguins pay the price to move a salary? The choice comes down to a simple factor. Will the immediate benefits outweigh moving a first-round pick?

Would potentially losing P.O Joseph for nothing, or next to nothing, be a greater loss than the pick?

Would giving up a first-round pick to shed Jason Zucker benefit the Penguins? If he’s healthy, Zucker could have a bounce-back season and be a top-six Penguins winger.

At this point in the offseason, what could Hextall do with a few million? Sure, Evan Rodrigues would be a nice insurance policy against several Penguins positions, but essentially trading a first-rounder for “E-Rod” might be a bridge too far.

Not even Rodrigues and Boyle.

The Islanders wouldn’t pay it, not even for Kadri.

And so the new cost to dump salary far exceeds the benefits to the Penguins, which can limbo under the salary cap bar with a couple of demotions. That isn’t the ideal situation, but it surely beats sacrificing a first-round pick.

Unless Hextall can swing a Penguins trade — a hockey trade, player-for-player — in which they save a few bucks, the Penguins camp battles may have added significance this season. A few bubble players could be fighting not for lineup spots but for NHL spots.

That’s the only recourse because punting another first-round pick seems unthinkable. No, the PIttsburgh Penguins and Hextall should not pay the price.

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Dean
Dean
1 month ago

Dan, good article! I have a few questions.

  1. Would McGinn be cheaper to move? maybe a third-round or even a fourth-round pick.
  2. Would the Pens ever consider sending players like Pettersson and/or McGinn to WBS in hopes someone claims them? Waiving them would save $1M against the cap.
  3. Wouldn’t the Pens risk losing Friedman or Rudwedle over Joseph? Their upset is much lower than Joseph’s.

I would also send Archibald to WBS before risking either Zahorna or Nylander. I would think he would clear waivers easily.

djr5899
djr5899
1 month ago

Trading Zucker and paying someone to take him wouldn’t be prudent, because you still have to replace Zucker’s production. When healthy (the big question), nobody out there is going to replace his production.

McGinn is the one they should be looking to move. DOC, Zohorna, Archibald could easily take his spot for 1/3 to 1/4 the cost, and McGinn shouldn’t need a 1st rounder to move him. Likely a 2nd or a 3rd. I can also see them waiving Friedman, as the team brought in the more expensive Rutta to play a very similar role.

JAsonC
JAsonC
1 month ago

Hi Dan I would not give a first round pick to dump salary unless it opens up them trading for a JT Miller caliber player which would be high unlikely. The move I would make would be to give POJ next to nothing to dump salary and maybe open up a move for a bottom six guy and anything else they might need they can address at the trade deadline with maybe trading Zucker, Petterson or Dumo if they keep healthy and play better it will fetch a better return to fill a void.

Jeff Young
Jeff Young
1 month ago

Great article.

1. Either trade a $4M contract, or Zucker if possible, and POJ for a low round pick. Keep any first rounder. (If POJ is as good as some folks around here say.)

2. Otherwise, you buy out Zucker before moving a first round pick. Personally, I’d stand pat with Zucker and not buy him out. Therefore, option 1.

I don’t see Hextall losing Friedman for nothing (waivers) and it doesn’t appear that Smith deserves to be sent down.

Unfortunately, there’s still lots of time till the season starts.

Brandon O
Brandon O
1 month ago

A 1st to dump a useful player like zucker or pettersson? Not worth it at all. Selling Dumoulin was the best move that wasn’t made. We could’ve cleared space, and acquired a pick/prospect. Everything points to POJ becoming a steady top 4 guy. Smith is too talented to play in the AHL. Instead, one of them will be blocked or sent down while also potentially losing Friedman or Ruhwedel to waivers. Assuming there are other gms that value Dumo enough, that would’ve solved all the current depth and cap problems. Even if that move backfired and created a hole, it… Read more »

Kris
Kris
1 month ago
Reply to  Brandon O

yeah hard pass. Dumoulin on his worst day is still 100 times better than “where’s my helmet” boy. That dude needs to go. If Sid, Geno and Tanger are staying for at least 4-6 more years, is next years first round draft pick really that necessary? You are still probably a playoff team so the pick is 17 at best. Not a position that is going to come directly into the league.

Brandon O
Brandon O
1 month ago
Reply to  Kris

Dumoulin was fading bad last year and by the end of the season was our worst LD. Pettersson isn’t great but I’d take his average play over what I saw from dumoulin for the 2nd half of the season. I don’t think he’s going to rebound all that much, he’s past his prime and is going to only get slower. I’m no pettersson fan but moving his contract with a 1st is bad asset management. Not because that #17 pick is going to help, but because that 1st can be used for a better trade. It’s a projected deep draft… Read more »

Chase Cranson
Chase Cranson
1 month ago
Reply to  Brandon O

Agreement

Kris
Kris
1 month ago

PETTERSSON must go. have to believe someone will take him with a 2nd round pick. 4 million per year for how many more years? Too many guys and his contract stinks.

Ryan
Ryan
1 month ago

You have to dump one or two of these anchors…even with no return. You need the salary cap to add mid season at a minimum.
It’s pettersson you want to move…multiple years. Not pending UFAs. First round pick has to go?…just throw it on Rutherford’s tab.

GardenSalid
GardenSalid
1 month ago

I absolutely can’t stop thinking about Better Call Saul. What an achievement. Show was perfect.

Rich Filardi
Rich Filardi
1 month ago

I dont think its prudent to move a 1st with any of those guys. The only bonus is 2 of them come off the books after this season. Petterson in a couple of years. Will take some planning for the right things to fall into place, or timing & luck.

John
John
1 month ago

I wouldnt trade a 1LD unless we are getting something valuable back. Zucker has 1 year left, no way you give up a 1st for that. Petersson i would like to see go just to help the salary situation and logjam at defense, but i still dont think giving up a 1st is worth it.

Eric
Eric
1 month ago

No way Hextall should give a 1st to facilitate a trade…

-Put Zucker on LTIR (where he would end up at some point anyway)
-Send Pettersson and Archinald to WBS. Both would clear waivers so Pit would save 1.1M for Pettersson and 0.9M for Archibald on the salary cap.

That way, they will have over 6M in cap space, more than enough to bring back Erod and Boyle.

Eric
Eric
1 month ago
Reply to  Dan Kingerski

So far there is no indication that Zucker will be ready to begin the season so there’s a chance that he could go on LTIR.

joe CURSI
joe CURSI
1 month ago

In this scenario, one of the 9 d-man would be the only sacrifice that would make sense. However in my opinion they are now so weak on the left side and can’t give away dumo, or Petterssen. So this will not happen!

Knobman
Knobman
1 month ago
Reply to  joe CURSI

I agree. The left side could be a real problem. I still think Rutta should be the LD paired with Petry. Move “The Dragon”, if possible and have Ruh and POJ as the third pair. Smith goes to the AHL. Give POJ 25-30 games to see if he can handle the NHL, if not, move him or send him to the AHL and bring up Smith.