The Pittsburgh Penguins took my advice and brought in another veteran goalie for training camp, Louis Domingue. The team remains cash-strapped, so don’t expect any additional headline moves before camp, but there’s still some affordable veteran talent available on the free-agent market, and the Penguins should take a look at a few forwards on a professional tryout.
Penguins fans are very familiar with Neal, and while he may not be able to score at the clip he once could, the veteran winger is a solid option to push for a job in camp. Last season in Edmonton, the 34-year-old recorded 10 points in 29 games, and he scored at a 25-goal pace as recently as 2019-20. He’s a natural sniper, and with the uncertainty between Jason Zucker and Evgeni Malkin on the second line, it wouldn’t hurt to bring in another option for some internal competition.
Neal is still without a contract after being bought out by the Oilers, who are on the hook for $1.9 million against the cap until the 2025-26 season. Regardless, that isn’t the Penguins’ problem, and general manager Ron Hextall and president Brian Burke should give Neal a call and see if he’s willing to come back to Pittsburgh on a tryout basis. It would be a low-risk, high-reward move and one that Penguins fans can get behind.
Bozak is another player who seemed unlikely to last this long without a contract. He is coming off a 17-point season in 31 games with the St Louis Blues. The Penguins have Jeff Carter, Teddy Blueger and Sam Lafferty as options for the third and fourth line center roles; however, considering the versatility of those three, who can all play on the wing, Bozak could fit right in.
Burke was with the Toronto Maple Leafs when they signed Bozak out of the NCAA, and the Penguins executive has been a huge fan of his professionalism and work ethic on and off the ice for over a decade. He’s a strong faceoff presence and a veteran with a Stanley Cup ring. If there’s PTO to be offered, Hextall and company need to make it happen.
At 27 years old, it’s almost weird to call Galchenyuk a veteran, but that’s the case. He’s been around the block and has felt the ups and downs of being a top prospect who never found a permanent home. The former third-overall pick (2012) did very well with the Maple Leafs to end last season, and Burke saw it up close and personal as a member of the Toronto media. Is it enough to warrant a tryout? It absolutely should be.
Neither Hextall nor Burke was in charge when Galchenyuk was shipped out of town or brought in from the desert. The deal with the Arizona Coyotes didn’t sit well for a lot of Penguins fans because Phil Kessel was such a fan favorite and had done nothing but win Cups in Pittsburgh. However, that can’t be put on Galchenyuk’s shoulders, and hopefully, he’s a familiar face that the fanbase would embrace, considering how hard he worked to fix his game in Toronto.
Last season in Toronto, Galchenyuk skated with either Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner or John Tavares and William Nylander at times and showed he’s capable of playing a bang and crash type of game, yet still has some soft, silky mitts. He produced four points in six Stanley Cup Playoff games, and there’s no doubt he would add to the Penguins’ depth this season.
The Penguins don’t have a ton of cap space to work with, so if management wants to add any more players, it will be tough to make the money work. Regardless, that’s a problem for later, and Hextall and Burke should invite more veteran forward talent to training camp to battle for jobs. Internal competition is a wonderful way to motivate and bring out the best in players. Casey DeSmith found this out, and perhaps the Penguins’ forward group is next.
Shane’s been a part of The Hockey Writers team since 2020, covering the Toronto Maple Leafs & Pittsburgh Penguins. A constant contributor, his versatile perspective on game results and everything off the ice produces diverse content. You can also find him on the Maple Leafs Lounge podcast with Peter Baracchini and Alex Hobson. Follow along on Twitter @ShugMcSween