“Nothing much to report at this point. (There were) preliminary discussions but nothing is imminent,” a source familiar with the Penguins negotiations with restricted free agent Bryan Rust told Pittsburgh Hockey Now.
On the heels of the PHN scoop last weekend that the Penguins offered Rust as part of the package to land winger Max Domi, Rust’s future with the Penguins seemed a little less certain. On Wednesday, we reported the Penguins are in discussions with RFA center Riley Sheahan and have plans to meet with Jamie Oleksiak‘s representatives this weekend at the NHL Draft in Dallas.
But Rust’s negotiations seem to be lagging the others.
The Penguins have no need to quickly lockup their RFAs, thus giving away salary cap flexibility to make trades or moves on the free agent market. Rust is arbitration eligible, but those cases are not heard until at least late July.
The 2018-19 salary cap will be either $79.5 million or $80 million, pending NHLPA decisions on escrow, which leaves the Penguins just under $10 million to retain their RFAs (Sheahan, Oleksiak, Rust, Tom Kuhnhackl, Dominik Simon). Monday is the deadline to make qualifying offers.
Rust, the Penguins’ 2010 third-round draft choice, played more than 60 NHL games this season for the first time in his career. His offensive abilities also responded to the challenge with career highs in points and points per game. Rust scored 38 points (13g, 25a) this season on the heels of 28 points (15g, 13a) in 2016-17.
Rust, 26, was the Penguins’ Swiss Army knife last season. He played on all four lines and in all roles. Read his PHN Extra Report Card here. Evgeni Malkin‘s possession numbers were significantly better with Rust compared to Phil Kessel. While Rust is not a large player, he is sturdy at 5-foot-11 and 192 pounds. His speed makes him one of the Penguins’ best forecheckers and he kills penalties.
The argument against making Rust a long-term offer is one of limitation. He has probably hit his ceiling, eight years after being drafted. Rust is a scrappy treat with a salary cap hit under $1 million. With a cap hit closer to $3 million, offensive contributions are required.
Any team which signs Rust to an offer sheet would owe the Penguins an early- or mid-round pick as compensation. A tender over $2.029 million would bring the Penguins a second-round pick. Under that amount would be a third-round choice.
Check back for further updates as PHN will be in Dallas over the weekend for the NHL Draft!