The Daily Faceoff Show: Mike DeFabo talks Pittsburgh Penguins offseason plans

The Pittsburgh Penguins find themselves in a potentially franchise-altering offseason unlike anything they’ve faced in some time. Sure, big names Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang aren’t re-signed yet, but that also blocks the way for so many other moves. Do you offload your salary to make room for them? Do you say goodbye to other free agents to make room? Do you also have the opportunity to improve other areas?

Although we won’t know for sure until the start of the offseason, Tyler Yaremchuk and Mike McKenna hosted the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Mike DeFabo on the Daily Faceoff Show to get a glimpse of what’s to come for the Penguins this offseason.

Tyler Yaremchuk: “It’s going to be an interesting offseason here for the Penguins. They went ahead and brought up Bryan Rust about a month ago, but Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang still sit as unrestricted free agents. I want you to give me a percentage chance that each of these guys will be back with Pittsburgh next season.

Mike DeFabo: « Well, I think the probability is that Kris Letang is more likely, so let’s say maybe 80% with him. And there are many reasons for that. His contract year was also a career year for him in some ways. , he had 68 points, which was career best for a guy known for his offensive advantage.Beyond what he does for the Penguins on the ice is the fact that they haven’t no natural replacement for him I mean, few teams will have a guy who can play more than 25 minutes, quarterback your best power play.

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But the Penguins in particular, that’s an area, the right side of their blue line, where they’re actually pretty thin right now, so if you lose it you’ll probably have to go out and acquire someone who could cost you expensive more than you want, and won’t be as good as Kris Letang. So for all of those reasons, I think the Penguins are finding a way to get Kris Letang a deal.

I’m a little less optimistic about Evgeni Malkin. He obviously has his place in the history of the Penguins, three-time Stanley Cup champion, he always provided that 1-2 punch with Sidney Crosby, but that said, his production since he was injured last offseason when he underwent major knee surgery that included an ACL overhaul, his production plummeted, especially at 5-on-5. He was still the wizard when he had stagnant situations like on the power play, but he didn’t It wasn’t as good in transition, and I think the front offices are aware of that.

In two days, Evgeni Malkin is going to be 36, you’re not going to pay him based on what he’s done winning those three Stanley Cups, you’re going to pay him based on what he can do at home. coming. I would say maybe around 60% chance, maybe less for Evgeni Malkin. So this could be a new chapter here in Pittsburgh after having had so much continuity for so long.

Tyler Yaremchuk: « So those are the two big question marks heading into the offseason. Once those two situations are sorted out, what else will be part of the Penguins’ offseason strategy? What goals are Hextall and Burke setting for themselves? be for the next two weeks this year?”

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Mike DeFabo: « Well, I think one area they’ll want to address is the goalkeeping situation. For the second year in a row, we’re sitting here thinking, ‘What if Casey DeSmith had stayed in good shape? health ?’ Because last year Tristan Jarry faltered, Casey DeSmith suffered a groin injury and he was unavailable.This year, once again it was Tristan Jarry who broke his foot, he wasn’t available, it was supposed to be Casey DeSmith’s net in the first round of the playoffs, another groin injury. So now he was ineffective at the start of the year, injured at the end of the year, he will become an unrestricted free agent.

The Penguins have learned from consecutive seasons the hard lessons of what happens when you don’t have a good goaltender. I know every team in the league would love to have a solid goalie, but I think strengthening that goalie position has got to be one thing for the Penguins. Not necessarily to find a replacement for Tristan Jarry, but if you can find someone who is a tandem guy, someone who can take some of that load off, I think that could go a long way.

They also have a lot of questions even in their top six. Rickard Rakell, who they acquired at the trade deadline, he’s an unrestricted free agent I know the Penguins in him, and then restricted free agent Kasperi Kapanen is a fascinating case. Jim Rutherford believed in him enough to draft him, then give up a first-round pick to buy him out. It did not live up to expectations at all.

It’s going to be a very interesting decision for the Penguins to make on whether you make him a qualifying offer, because the qualifying offer is only around $800,000, because the deal was anticipated. But no question that Kasperi Kapanen plays for that. This could pave the way for a difficult arbitration case. He’s a guy who’s underperforming. So really, it’s going to be a tough decision when it comes to him.

Mike McKenna: “Yeah, and there’s an awful lot to consider with this Penguins team, just because of the cap implications like the one you described. I think of Kris Letang as the mandatory retention for this club. Like, you’re just not going to get that type of player, that type of puck-moving defenseman without keeping them inside, so I would definitely put my preference on keeping him.

But let’s look at this team, and if you have to do the subtraction, that there’s someone on this backend who might not match. I mean we’ve sometimes heard Marino’s name linked to trade rumors, even Pettersson. I don’t think Mike Matheson is going anywhere, he has made strides this year. But if the worst happens for the Penguins, and they need that cap room, do you see anyone being taken off that roster?

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Mike DeFabo: “Yeah, the two obvious candidates are Jason Zucker and then you mentioned Marcus Pettersson. We’ll start with Pettersson. The left side of the blue line is actually a zone of strength for the Penguins. They’ve got Brian Dumoulin, they’ve got Mike Matheson, Marcus Pettersson, all these guys are southpaws making over $4 million. They also have a lot of depth in the organization, [Pierre-Olivier] Joseph is a guy you keep hearing knocking on the door as a prospect, he’s probably their NHL-ready prospect.

But his path to the NHL is blocked right now by these other guys, so you can realize two things if you move a guy like Marcus Pettersson. You free up space on the salary cap, while opening the door for one of your top prospects, and finally see what he can do at the NHL level. So, I think that would be a very obvious area the Penguins could subtract from the left side of the blue line.

Jason Zucker is another extremely difficult case. He was another guy that Jim Rutherford acquired, giving up a first-round pick and a good prospect to get, and he’s making $5.3 million, he’s in the final year of his contract. He admits he hasn’t lived up to expectations as the top-six winger he was supposed to be when he arrived.

So, are the Penguins trying to shopper him? Most likely. Are they considering a buyout? Maybe they even go that route if they really desperately need a salary cap. But I think he’s definitely a candidate worth talking about right now in terms of guys who can somehow be subtracted to create salary cap space.

You can watch the full episode here…

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