The Pittsburgh Penguins recently made a huge splash, locking up forward Jake Guentzel to a five-year, $30-million extension.
It seems like the Penguins believe the 24-year-old is part of the team’s future. In little over two seasons, Guentzel has established himself as a consistent scorer and a legitimate top-six forward for his team.
Going into 2019/20, the Penguins will have about $75 million allocated to eight forwards, six defensemen and one goalie. This will not give them much financial flexibility to fill up the rest of the roster - even if the cap is expected to increase to about $83 million.
As a result, a few current players may be sacrificed as cap-casualties before the start of next season. Here is a look at some names that might be moved to free up some cap space for next season and beyond.
Derick Brassard becomes an unrestricted free agent after this season. He currently comes at a $3,000,000 cap-hit but with $2,000,000 retained by the Vegas Golden Knights.
Even though Brassard has been struggling a bit this season, he is a proven second-line center on most NHL teams. At 31 years old, he will likely look to cash in on a long-term deal (possibly five-to-seven years), perhaps in the $5,000,000 - $6,000,000 range.
So the question remains whether the Penguins are willing to commit that type of money to Brassard or will they try to fill out the third-line center position with more affordable options this summer….
Tanner Pearson was acquired in a mid-season trade that sent Carl Hagelin to the Los Angeles Kings. The 26-year-old has struggled with the Kings early this season and has been slowly trying to find his scoring touch with his new team.
Production-wise, Pearson hasn’t been outstanding; scoring only four goals in 22 games. He currently comes at $3,750,000 cap-hit for two more seasons.
Going forward this contract can go both ways for the Penguins. If Pearson is able to become the 24-goal scorer again, this deal might look like a bargain for the team. But if he continues to struggle should the Penguins try to find a way to move him out?
It seems like Phil Kessel’s name has been in the rumor mill often over the past few years. There have been rumors that teams like the Arizona Coyotes might be interested in acquiring the star-winger.
Production wise, the 31-year-old hasn’t fallen off yet. In fact, he is coming off a career year, scoring 34 goals and 92 points last season.
But many people can’t seem to look past his $6,800,000 cap-hit for three more seasons. With names like Malkin, Crosby, and Letang cumulatively taking up around $25 million in cap-space, Kessel might be sacrificed as a cap-casualty, for the right price.
His trade value is high, and cap-hit isn’t overly expensive which might help the Penguins net several good pieces for the future. The real question is whether moving Kessel now is the right time, or should they wait one more year to see where things go with the talented scorer…...
With key players like Crosby, Malkin, and Letang all in their 30's, the Penguins' window of opportunity to capture another Stanley Cup will gradually dwindle down in the next few years.
No doubt, Penguins' general manager Jim Rutherford will have some big decisions to make this summer. Better yet, they might be one of the more active teams at the trade deadline this year.
Who will stay and who will go? Let us know in the comment section below.