Hextall, should Penguins pay the price? The flames move the wage market

According to CapFriendly, there are 14 teams currently above the $82.5 million salary cap, including the Pittsburgh Penguins. General manager Lou Lamoriello and the New York Islanders wouldn’t pay the price. The Calgary Flames and general manager Brad Treliving did just that, as they tied a first-round pick in Sean Monahan to facilitate the trade from the Montreal Canadiens.

Therefore, Nazem Kadri will be skating in Calgary this season, not UBS Arena, and the NHL trade market is set.

Will Penguins general manager Ron Hextall pay the price?

Should they?

The Penguins have three players with salaries over $4 million who don’t meet the untouchable classification: Brian Dumoulin, Marcus Pettersson and Jason Zucker. Speculation has gone far beyond reported trade talks, but if the Penguins are to make a deal involving salary, one of these three is the likely candidate.

The configuration: market price, fewer teams available

Until this week, there may have been hope that the Penguins could move one of the salaries and not tie a coveted first round. However, Calgary broke the seal, and by tying a first-rounder to Monahan, they signaled to other general managers that a team forced to move salary will indeed pay the piper.

There is a caveat with Monahan. His production fell off a cliff. He had 82 points in 2018-19 but fell to just 23 points (8-15-23) last season as another hip injury slowed him down. He had left hip surgery a year ago. He had surgery on his right hip in April. Its $6.3 million cap reached for this season far exceeds its production.

Monahan could bounce back this season if he can finally skate safely again. However, rival GMs are unlikely to split hairs. Montreal got a first-round pick for eating Monahan’s salary for a single season. It’s the price. Take it or leave it.

And there is also a team less capable of taking a salary.

Seamlessly, multiple teams that are over the salary cap will receive significant LTIR exemptions. The Washington Capitals are more than $5 million over the cap, but will put Nick Backstrom’s $9.2 million salary on LTIR, just like the Carolina Hurricanes will put Max Pacioretty on LTIR to go under the cap. ceiling.

After the LTIR, around 8-10 teams are expected to pass the milestone. And there are only a handful of teams with the salary cap space to accept a $4-6 million contract, which is why the NHL’s trade market is clogged.

And there are only a few teams with cap space to burn and an interest in improving. Let’s face it, not every team with cap space wants to improve this summer. The Chicago Blackhawks are in the tank. The Arizona Coyotes have nothing left to lose.

Other teams, like the Detroit Red Wings, have young players who will need big contracts next summer. In Detroit, Dylan Larkin and Tyler Bertuzzi will certainly want to be paid well. Bertuzzi made our list of the top five star players who could make the NHL’s trading block this season because he wants tenure and money.

They will not want to face a defender like Pettersson for several years.

Pittsburgh Penguins (No) Choice

Should Hextall and the Penguins pay the price to move a salary? The choice comes down to one simple factor. Will the immediate benefits outweigh moving a first-round pick?

Would potentially losing PO Joseph for little or nothing be a bigger loss than the pick?

Would giving up a first-round pick to get rid of Jason Zucker benefit the Penguins? If healthy, Zucker could have a rebounding season and be among the Penguins’ top six wingers.

At this point in the offseason, what could Hextall do with a few million? Sure, Evan Rodrigues would be a nice insurance policy against several Penguins positions, but essentially trading a first-rounder for “E-Rod” might be a bridge too far.

Not even Rodrigues and Boyle.

The islanders wouldn’t pay for it, not even for Kadri.

And so, the new salary dump cost far outweighs the benefits for the Penguins, who can stay below the salary cap mark with a few demotions. It’s not the ideal situation, but it’s surely better than sacrificing a first-round pick.

Unless Hextall can make a trade with the Penguins — a hockey, player-for-player trade — in which they save a few bucks, the Penguins’ camp battles could take on added importance this season. A few bubble players might be fighting not for roster spots, but for NHL spots.

It’s the only recourse because kicking another first-round pick seems unthinkable. No, the Pittsburgh Penguins and Hextall shouldn’t pay the price.

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