There’s a lot of company in the NHL trade trough this summer. More than any previous July or August, NHL teams exceeded the pay-cap limit, feasting on the remainder of the Stanley Cup chasing teams hoping to become competitive, hoping for a soft landing. The Pittsburgh Penguins and GM Ron Hextall don’t carry the hat the way the others did, but they are above the roof, just the same.
And now comes the second half of the NHL off-season: a dozen teams trying to get under the hat, mostly through trade.
It’s like a game of full-contact musical chairs with only a few chairs and a dozen kids waiting to scratch that record.
Sure, the Penguins could just trade one more defender. ship Marcus Peterson and his $4.025 million salary to Detroit. Complete!
Except it’s not that easy. There are only eight to 12 teams with pay-range structures that allow them to pick up salaries with ease. Plus, there’s a lot of competition for those free dollars. And Patterson is a reliable NHL defender, even as head coach Mike Sullivan put Mark Friedman In his place at the end of last season.
Or, you could flip the script and say that because Sullivan messed with putting Friedman ahead of Patterson, what’s the business value there?
Regardless of the angle of attack, the Penguins are over the pay limit, and a simple trade of the player may or may not live without a team is not that simple.
Scenario 1: Exemption.
The first scenario is a bare-bones, temporary solution.
The Penguins are about $780,000 more than the salary limit, which includes 13 forwards, excluding Drew O’Connor, and eight defensemen. For use, PuckPedia.com deprecated Mark Friedman. Ty Smith could have gone to WBS Penguins without approving the waiver. Chad Ruhwedel And PO Joseph will be other candidates but they have to undergo relaxation.
Deprecating Ruhwedel would place the Penguins a lower wage cap than the annual US minimum-wage wage. It wouldn’t have been much better to expose Joseph to a waiver.
GM Ron Hextall can afford to discount one of his forwards, such as Josh Archibald, and squeak under the hat. However, without sufficient funding for a call-up, some minor injuries, illnesses, or life events will leave penguins shorthand. For example, a forward gets a COVID, a day-to-day, and the Penguins are caught with 11 forwards for some games.
Or five guards.
So, while the maneuver will work and the Penguins will be cap-compliant with 12 forward or seven defensemen, the lack of additional cap space does not make it a long-term solution.
Scenario 2: Penguin Business, Handcuffs.
On Monday, colleague Dave Molinari investigated whether Ty Smith WBS is guaranteed.
The Penguins have nine NHL defenders, including Smith, who is exempt but has two years of NHL experience. The 22-year-old is one step ahead of Penguins’ potential defenseman PO Joseph in his maturity, although Joseph will be entering his fourth year as a professional.
A defenseman with great potential in his early 20s who hasn’t fully established his game yet – looks like Penguin can keep one of them and drop the other. Few teams will likely accept that low-risk, high-reward offer.
It’s not impossible to suggest that Hextal could add either Joseph or Smith to the pay the Penguins want to move, rather than get away with a first-round pick.
Penguins are built for the next three years. That’s it. After that, the car’s warranty will expire, and there can be no more talk about the origins of the Penguins, as they will all be in their late 30s. Jeff Carter will be 40 and probably no longer in the picture. After 2025-26, Jeff Petrie and Brian Dumoulin are also likely to be aging or close to it.
Smith and Joseph have talent, but neither is a franchise cornerstone defender. It’s hardly a knock, but makes it a bit expendable.
If the NHL trade market is riddled with drop in pay, and Peterson is the preferred move, then Peterson with either Joseph or Smith is a far more attractive business proposition than Peterson alone.
Javier Ouellet and Taylor Fedun are in WBS as the eighth defenseman.
And hey Nathan Beaulieu Still a free agent.
Scenario 3: McGinn, Blueger…
Before Jeff Petrie was acquired from Montreal by the Pittsburgh Penguins, Teddy was involved in the Bluger deal. Chatter was everything but the Penguins could sacrifice a player like Bluger, who makes north of $2 million, and insert Ryan Poehling as the center of the fourth line.
Perhaps Sullivan is comfortable with Drew O’Connor as the fourth-liner center?
Or use the savings to make a bargain-basement fourth-row center sign. Brian Boyle, maybe?
Brock McGuin is another serviceable, highly paid player who could be the scapegoat at the pay-hat altar. Poehling or O’Connor could step into their role and commit almost the same amount of offense. Last season, McGuin scored 22 points (12-10-22) in 64 games.
Out-of-the-box solutions may arise, and Hextall could get a multi-player deal, but those scenarios are impossible to predict, even for those involved.
Penguins have about six weeks before training camp. The clock is ticking.