Penguins sticking with the core, have to find ways to improve winger group
The Penguins front office is not deterred that the current core has four straight first round exits. They put a lot of value on regular season performance, compared to former GM Jim Rutherford who put more stock in short windows such as postseason performance. Many others don’t see it this way, but Hextall and Co believed the 2021-2022 club was a three round level team if the injuries in goal didn’t happen. And they still feel running it back with the core and few tweaks can give them a chance for the next couple seasons.
From a PR Standpoint, Ron Hextall is winning the off-season in going three for three in resigning Bryan Rust, Kris Letang and now franchise icon Evgeni Malkin. Last season the three cost $20.25 million against the cap. In 2022-2023 they will count $17.3 million against the cap.
But, will these moves be as popular a year from now?
— What to expect from the Penguins today.
They’d like to add another top-9 level forward today and probably need to find ways to add two more capable wingers. Among the top-9 level wingers on the current roster, it’s just not a good enough group beyond Jake Guentzel, Bryan Rust and Rickard Rakell.
And improving the winger group has to become a focus when your second and third line centers are 36 and 37 years old.
Jason Zucker who the Penguins truly like a lot in what he brings to the table with his all around game, can never stay healthy and is not consistent enough offensively at this stage of his career. Kasperi Kapanen if he sticks around is so hit or miss. He can’t be counted on. While Danton Heinen and Evan Rodrigues are replaceable level you can always find elsewhere, that’s still some 70 + combined points among the two you have to find ways to replace.
NHL FREE AGENCY BUZZ
Anywhere by Philly or New Jersey for Gaudreau would be a Stunner
Johnny Gaudreau broke the hearts of the Calgary Flames Tuesday night after the Flames made attempt after attempt to try to get the start winger to sign on the dotted line, offering close to $90 million over eight years. It wasn’t about money as Gaudreau has wanted to move back East.
Gaudreau is headed to the Metropolitan Division but where?
The first choice has always been Philadelphia. The Flyers cap situation is awful, but you don’t need to be cap compliant today. Still, there is a lot of chatter that Tom Fitzgerald and the New Jersey Devils are primed to win the Gaudreau sweepstakes when the clocks strikes noon. Jack Hughes and Gaudreau would be quite a tantalizing combo.
Anywhere but Philadelphia or New Jersey will be a stunner……
— Seattle or the Rangers for Trocheck?
Had Evgeni Malkin tested free agency, there was going to be considerable risk for the Malkin camp as Vince Trocheck was going to be a Pittsburgh Penguin and probably by 12:15 pm. They knew this…….
Now What for Trocheck?
Seattle plans a run at Trocheck whose first priority has been to stay on the East coast, so we’ll see on that one.
Elliotte Friedman continues to link the Rangers to Trocheck. The Rangers are in a lot of things and have also emerged as a dark horse team for Nazem Kadri.
— Hearing Carolina is in on former Penguin David Perron who has a big market developing.
— Pending UFA Evan Rodrigues fired agent To read this insider news, subscribe to get “Inside Access”!