Penguins Have Free Agent Options to Replace Jared McCann

The Pittsburgh Penguins made a tough decision last weekend as the team traded forward Jared McCann to the Toronto Maple Leafs for one-time Penguins prospect Filip Hallander and a 2023 seventh-round draft pick. The deal had everything to do with a numbers game in Pittsburgh and nothing to do with acquiring Hallander.

This summer will be tough for general manager Ron Hextall, as the team currently has under $4 million in cap space heading into the Seattle Kraken expansion draft. They’re hoping the Kraken select a player with an expensive contract come the Penguins’ time to get poached.

Losing one of Jason Zucker or Marcus Pettersson would be the best-case scenario for Pittsburgh. This would more than double the team’s available cap space and give them a chance to add a significant player. While I reported the Penguins need to take a serious run at free-agent-to-be Zach Hyman, it sounds like the interest is going to drive up his annual salary into the danger zone for the Penguins. They’ll have some other options on the free-agent market to replace McCann’s minutes.

3 Free Agents the Penguins Should Consider

Mikael Granlund

The 29-year-old Finnish forward is someone who plays the game the right way each and every night. Granlund is known for having an everlasting motor, being versatile enough to play up and down the lineup, and is someone who could provide the Penguins with lineup flexibility depending on the matchup.

Mikael Granlund Nashville Predators
Mikael Granlund can play both center and the wing (Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images)

For those screaming he’s basically Jason Zucker, he’s far from it. Granlund was 51.8% in the faceoff circle in 2020-21, taking 469 draws. Zucker took 10 faceoffs last season and is not even close to being this versatile. As for McCann, he was being used on Jeff Carter’s wing and at center on occasion, and Granlund could easily fill these shoes. Last season the former ninth overall draft pick made $3.75 million on a one-year contract with the Nashville Predators. While money is surely tight in Pittsburgh, after the expansion draft, the team will have some more wiggle room to work with. If they can afford it, the Penguins should consider adding Granlund to their group.

Brandon Saad

Saad has been linked to the Penguins for a while now and this summer could finally be his time to head home. The Pittsburgh native could lace them up in front of family and friends on a nightly basis and find himself on the wing of Evgeni Malkin on the team’s second line. While Saad doesn’t take as many faceoffs as McCann, he’s capable of chipping in when he needs to, taking over 600 faceoffs in his career to this point. He’s a pure goal scorer and a recent nominee for the NHL Cy Young award with his “15-9” record, as he lit the lamp 15 times while adding just 9 assists in 2020-21.

Chicago Blackhawks Brandon Saad Winnipeg Jets Mathieu Perreault
Saad has spent his career in Chicago, Columbus and Colorado (AP Photo/Matt Marton)

Saad put on a show during the recent Stanley Cup Playoffs and stepped up after the Avs lost Nazem Kadri to suspension. Negotiation can be about timing and his 7 goals in 10 postseason games right before his next contract was ideal. Regardless if it’s in his hometown or not, the veteran winger will likely fetch $4.5-5 million on the open market and if Hextall is willing to go longer-term with the 28-year-old, maybe Saad will give the team a hometown discount.

Mattias Janmark

Janmark hits free agency after being dealt midseason from the Chicago Blackhawks to the Vegas Golden Knights. After putting up 19 points in 41 games in the Windy City, the 6-foot-1 Swede struggled to find his place on The Strip, only collecting 5 points in 15 games. The postseason was a little better though, as Janmark got more comfortable with his new teammates. His 8 points in 16 Stanley Cup Playoff games with the Golden Knights matched his entire 26-game total from the previous season with the Dallas Stars.

Mattias Janmark Vegas Golden Knights
Mattias Janmark could be an affordable option for a lot of teams including the Penguins (Photo by David Becker/NHLI)

Janmark’s best season came back in 2017-18 with the Stars when he scored 19 goals, however it’s worth noting he was on pace for 20 goals last season before he was shipped to Vegas. Finding a home and some linemates to build chemistry with should be at the top of his priority list this summer. The Penguins could easily find a home for him with Jeff Carter next season. Janmark is likely the cheapest of the three options listed here for Pittsburgh.

Penguins fans are on the edge of their seats as they await the results of the expansion draft. As for management, they had their hands tied sending McCann to Toronto and had to at least get something for him. While the young forward is still developing and certainly a candidate to break out next season, Hextall and company made the call and now have to sit back and watch like the rest of us. If they end up having some money to spend come July 28, Pittsburgh could find a reasonable replacement on the open market.


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