Penguin hat problems are actually a boon in the commercial market

Before the NHL Free Agency started on July 13, the Pittsburgh Penguins were in an extremely precarious position. Longtime icons Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang hadn’t signed, and CEO Ron Hextall faced further decisions on what to do with midseason acquisitions like Rickard Rakell. All of these concerns were quickly allayed when Letang signed a six-year $ 36.6 million contract on July 7 and Malkin signed a four-year $ 24.4 million contract. five days later. Shortly thereafter, he extended a six-year $ 30 million contract until the 2021-22 Rakell retirement deadline.

Ron Hextall, GM of the Pittsburgh Penguins (Photo by Evan Schall / NHLI via Getty Images)

The Penguins’ off-season moves solidified the attacking group and kept a veteran on defense, but they also created a dangerous salary cap scenario, as they currently sit above the cap and have already explored trades to lose salary. However, the purchases the team made mean that they sit on a large amount of trade tokens and could use this comparative power not only to drop more salary but also to accumulate future assets.

The surprises of last season are now expendable

In what appears to be a trend that follows the Penguins every season, they have once again received outstanding performances from previously overlooked players. This season, the spotlight has been more on the forwards Evan Rodrigues and Danton Heinen, as the two exploded onto the scene in 2021-22.

Rodrigues nearly doubled his career high in scoring, scoring 19 goals and adding 24 assists for 43 points, nearly 20 more than his previous career record. His contract expired at the end of last season and he was without a contract until September 12, when Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche got him a one-year contract worth $ 2 million. Given that he waited nearly two months to receive a call from any team, it was clear that Hextall did not consider him a priority, but apparently agreed to lose Rodrigues’ services in favor of the stability of the cap.

Danton Heinen Pittsburgh Penguins
Danton Heinen, Pittsburgh Penguins (Photo by Jeanine Leech / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Heinen also experienced one of the best seasons of his career in 2021-22. He came just behind Rodrigues on the team scoresheet, scoring 18 goals and 15 assists for 33 points, all personal bests. He came forward when some of the big names in the Penguins got injured, taking the opportunity to replace Malkin in the second row and eventually partner with him when he returned. His improvement was so great that he finished with 15 equally strong goals, good for third place on the team behind Jake Guentzel and Sidney Crosby. As a result, his effort was rewarded with a one-year $ 1 million contract.

Related: 3 Pittsburgh Penguins Not Predicted In 2023-24

Despite Heinen’s personal success this off-season, he has no plans to re-enter the Penguins’ plans for next season. According to Rob Rossi of Atleticothe depth chart notably omitted Heinen in favor of players with higher potential, as his projection sees Heinen replaced by the recent commercial acquisition Ryan Poehling and striker Radim Zahorna (from “Penguins” 2022-23 Depth Chart Projection 1.0 : New Players and Bottom – Six Mix, ‘ Atletico, 21/07/2022). If Heinen does not actually take Hextall’s great design into account, his performance last season could attract considerable attention in the commercial market if the price is right.

Penguins depth players may be moved

Given the huge amount of money being distributed to so few players, it is sometimes easy to forget some of the other players who came in black and gold this off-season. Hextall has sought out and lured some of the league’s most gritty players; Josh Archibald arrived after spending the last three seasons with the Edmonton Oilers, and the aforementioned Poehling arrived from the Montreal Canadiens as part of a package that included defender Jeff Petry in exchange for Mike Matheson.

Josh Archibald Edmonton Oilers
Former Edmonton Oiler and current Pittsburgh Penguin Josh Archibald. (Photo by Codie McLachlan / Getty Images)

Archibald has yet to find regular playing time after being sidelined due to COVID-19-related myocarditis, which limited him to just eight games last season. He racked up an assist in those eight games, but over the course of his 243-game career between the Oilers, Penguins and Arizona Coyotes, he has proven he can be an asset to any team looking for a tough, grind-it-out player who prepare shots like there’s no tomorrow. Given his lack of regular play recently, he may be having a hard time getting the roster off the pitch and looking ready for a season in the American Hockey League, or being shipped elsewhere. The San Jose Sharks seem a good fit for him, as they are not a very deep group of strikers, despite having a decent top six. He currently only has a one-year $ 900,000 deal, something the Sharks may be interested in as they tackle their cap issues.

While the Penguins’ off-season can be accurately described as a dangerous success, their sticky relationship with the salary cap means they’ll have to do a little more maneuvering to find the monetary sweet spot. Locking in their long-term established stars was a great first move, and players who have been sacrificed to the proverbial altar could bring them some good trading gains as well.



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