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If the Stanley Cup Final goes to seven games, it will be played on June 14. The Penguins win, the celebrations, partying, the parade in the days after, what a chaotic/great time it would be right before the June 21 expansion draft. The expansion draft protected list have to be in by June 18.
Jim Rutherford, though, embraces chaos in dealing with his pending free agents as a return to the Stanley Cup Final and the off-season pretty much being moved up because of the expansion draft won’t change his philosophy of not negotiating with players during the season.
Agents say it’s been crickets from the Penguins.
What’s going to happen with the pending unrestricted free agents is easy for the Penguins to deal with. There will be no urgency with Matt Cullen, Ron Hainsey, Chris Kunitz right after the season and Nick Bonino is a situation where the Penguins have a number they’d consider bringing him back on but the team anticipates him signing elsewhere and hitting the market.
The restricted free agents are more of the wild card in dictating the Penguins off-season on where the dollars will go and how much.
Not enough is getting talked about that barring a trade or back-room deal, (there’s only so many George McPhee can make) one of Brian Dumoulin, Olli Maatta or Justin Schultz would have to be exposed if the Penguins went the 7-3-1 route that most teams will.
The 4-4-1 option, though, is said to be a real consideration as the expansion draft is just over three weeks away. The Penguins internally have not committed to which option they will go.
The thinking around the league is Letang (has to be protected), Maatta and Dumoulin are locks to be protected by Pittsburgh and the uncertainty surrounding Letang has put Pittsburgh in a situation to either find a way to make a backroom deal or go the route of exposing a forward or two they don’t want (a position they’re much stronger at tho) and go the 4-4-1 route to protect Letang-Maatta-Dumoulin-Schultz.
You can’t lose one of those defensemen for nothing, that’s awful asset management.
There’s arguments for the Penguins to go with the 4-4-1 option to give them time and not be rushed.
If you go ahead and protect Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel (all have to be protected) and Bryan Rust as the four forwards, that would be exposing someone like Patric Hornqvist but with one year left on his deal and at age 30 for a player who plays a bruising style, would he really be that attractive to Vegas?
Not likely and the same with Ian Cole who has a year on his contract.
Vegas is high on Oskar Sundqvist, Scott Wilson and there is said to be a liking from the Golden Knight’s staff towards Derrick Pouliot but to what extent is unknown.
You lose a Sundqvist, big deal. He’s a replaceable prospect, overhyped by the local media, and you’re getting $17 million in return. The Penguins would be disappointed to lose Scott Wilson who they feel is still an ascending player but at the end of the day, he’s also replaceable for next years roster.
Things have emerged where it’s 50-50 on whether the Penguins go 7-3-1 or 4-4-1 route, per sources.
The Justin Schultz dilemma
One NHL executive told me this week Pittsburgh’s off-season (when it begins) starts with Justin Schultz not Marc Andre Fleury. (On Fleury, the Penguins intend to keep things very quiet and want no leaks which is understandable but outside of Pittsburgh, there are strong indications that the Penguins already have a plan in place on what’s going to happen)
Brian Dumoulin is a key restricted free agent but the Penguins kind of already know where his number is going to be on either a short or long-term deal.
Schultz is a different story because of how much leverage he’d have in an arbitration hearing, plus the long-term leverage he has coming off a career year and being a year away from unrestricted free agency.
Do the Penguins have the stomach to commit a 5 year – $25+ million contract at him, type of offer it would take to get his reps at Newport Sports just to the table?
If they don’t, then what?
There are multiple clubs monitoring his situation.
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