Penguins’ Decisions and Outcomes: What If…?

Two heavy decisions and a cascade of actions, reactions and consequences await. As Kasperi Kapanen recently laughed at, the Pittsburgh Penguins have more important decisions (him) to make, with new contracts for Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang topping GM Ron Hextall’s to-do list.

Computer programmers have used the “if, then, else” operation for coding, which is also a sound logical sequence.

Oftentimes, we are asked questions like, “Why don’t penguins…” or “Should they…”

My response often comes in the form of a follow-up. If the Penguins haven’t signed Chris Letang, their options aren’t too great to replace him. Suppose the penguins do (x) and then (y). Context and outcome are everything.

Pittsburgh penguin, if, then, another:

So: the penguins sign Evgeny Malkin and Chris Letang?

Next: Hextall likely spent about $16 million or more of the Penguins’ $23 million salary space, leaving $7 million and some pennies to sign Rickard Raquel, Evan Rodriguez, Kasperi Cabanen or alternate, Danton Heinen or a fourth alternate—the line To the side saddle Teddy Plogger, and backup goalkeeper.

Another: With just $7 million, the Penguins can’t snow a legitimate team without a trade. Saying goodbye to a salaried potential client is a potential penguin trade-off because Hextall will not give up his first-round pick and neither have a second or third. Another potential trading piece is Marcus Peterson.

Every dollar in excess of $16 million for the pair makes assembling the rest of the team more difficult. Every dollar less helps…

So: The penguins do not re-sign, Evgeni Malikin?

Then: It’s hard to imagine the penguin trade in this spot. They have no expectations, picks, or chops to spare for such a deal.

Therefore, we are looking to the UFA market for potential scoring streak positions. There are some to watch, but the competition will be fierce. There are three good record line centers and maybe as many as seven, including two owners, who have access to the market.

Unfortunately, Malkin far and away had the best offensive stats per match (.5). But Nazim Qadri got 87 points (28-59-87). There’s a sharp drop for Vincent Trochek, who has 51 points in 81 games. Ryan Strom has had 54 points in 74 games, but it’s hard to see the New York Rangers let him walk. The same goes for Patrice Bergeron and the Boston Bruins.

If one player could pick up the phone and make Bergeron leave Boston, might it be his former Canada teammate Sidney Crosby? Two summers ago, Zdeno Chara had never left the Bruins but had signed with Washington.

Paul Statsney, 36, and Andrew Cope, 27, are the other two on the market. Statsney had a revival year with the Winnipeg Jets. He scored 45 points (21-24-45) in 71 games after just 29 points in 55 games during the COVID shortened season.

Cobb came alive with the Rangers and had a great streak against the Penguins. It can also kill penalties. It was a constant reduced threat against penguins. However, being the center of the second streak may be an extension of both.

Another: There must be extra money for a UFA “want” like Evan Rodrigues or a winger who scores a six in the middle. If winning now is the goal, Hextall will have to overpay for Kadri if he makes it to the market or Trocheck. Both could hit the AAV mark of $7 million. None of the deals will be team friendly, but that will be the price of Malkin’s loss.

IF: The Penguins Didn’t Re-Sign Chris Letang

Then: Uh oh. System error.

The drop in the available RHD from Kris Letang to John Klingberg is slight, but Klingberg will sign a huge contract this summer, possibly far beyond the Penguins’ pain tolerance. After that, the landing is a cliff.

Jeff Petrie, Colin Miller and Josh Manson will be the next level available, either through free agency or trade. Neither Miller, nor Manson, nor the Potential Group are the strongest defensemen, but the penguins will have to do it somehow.

Other than that: “then” is the safe option here. Otherwise, Hextall may have to replace the motherboard with a series of moves to improve the penguins.

IF: The Penguins Didn’t Re-Sign Casperi Cabanen

Next: The Penguins’ salary cap structure will get a few million dollars to find a potential scorer with 20 goals. There are not many “middle-class” right wingers who can score. Ilya Mikheev is right there and should land in this price range. Featured 20 goals for Toronto this season.

Maybe that money brings them closer to Nino Niederretter.

Hey, Dominic Simon is here too.

Also, Kapanen’s QO is less than $1 million, so Hextall can keep Kapanen’s rights without making a serious effort to re-sign it. Cabanen rights may also have some commercial value. The player who led the first-round mid-selection just two seasons ago had a terrible year after scoring 30 points in 40 games during his Penguins’ first season.

Another: If the penguins decided to part ways, could they retrieve a third trochanter? Maybe a backup goalkeeper?

IF: Pittsburgh Penguins Didn’t Re-Sign Casey Dessmith

Then: The search for a backup begins in earnest. There are a few low-cost reserve goalkeepers that are set to gain access to the free agent market. Perhaps Mikko Koskinen in Edmonton will become a bargaining option. Mike Smith might want a backup role if he doesn’t retire, but Pekingese is slim. As noted by colleague Dave Molinari, (penguins spare goalkeeper options) the list also included contestants Martin Jones, David Richie and Malcolm Soban.

Other: Pray for Tristan Gary to stay healthy. Or Marc-Andre Fleury announces that he wants to avoid a few million extra dollars and end his career as a low-paid backup just to hang out with Sidney Crosby.

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