The Pittsburgh Penguins will be an interesting team to watch this offseason as general manager Ron Hextall looks to start fresh this summer. With limited cap space and a lack of draft picks until 2022, it’s the trade route that’s going to make the most sense for Hextall to make a few changes. One team the Penguins need to target is the Detroit Red Wings, who have some serious needs heading into next season.
The Red Wings currently sit with only two defensemen signed for next season who have NHL experience, and there’s a chance they lose one of them, Troy Stecher, in the expansion draft. While they have loads of cap space with roughly $48 million currently available, it’s obvious Red Wings’ general manager Steve Yzerman is going to have to sign a boatload of players or make some trades.
Penguins Likely Making Marcus Pettersson Available
Marcus Pettersson is one player who will find himself on the trade market as his contract versus his production is not adding up. At 25 years old, there’s still some room to grow for the 6’3 defenseman, and he certainly could develop his game with some more minutes and responsibility in Motown.
The former second-round pick of the Anaheim Ducks is signed for the next four seasons and has no-trade protection that kicks in before the 2023-24 season. From all accounts, that’s nothing to worry about for Hextall, who should be able to move the defenseman this summer. The Red Wings are a perfect fit because not only do they need to add money, they have a dire need for a defenseman who can grow with the franchise. Pettersson has shown flashes of brilliance but unfortunately has fallen out of favor in Pittsburgh. A change of scenery will go a long way for his career, and Detroit appears to be the perfect destination.
Hextall Shouldn’t Be Worried About the Return
The biggest benefit of this trade would be to just get Pettersson off the books. If it’s a mid-level prospect or a mid-round draft pick, it’s likely not going to matter a whole hell of a lot to the Penguins. Considering the Red Wings currently sit with 16 draft picks in the first four rounds of the next two NHL Drafts, they have some picks to pluck from. While Yzerman isn’t expecting his team to compete for a Stanley Cup anytime soon, it’s obvious the Red Wings need to add NHL-proven talent.
The Penguins have a mandate this summer to find ways to make the team tougher to play against and to add more size. Moving the remaining $16.1 million off the books with Pettersson’s contract, gives Hextall a chance to be in the market for a much wider range of players. There’s several free agents who fit the bill of what management is looking for, and if the general manager has some more money to work with, the impact, of course, will be much greater.
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The Seattle Kraken expansion draft will be the first step of the Penguins offseason process, as once they know who they are losing and recalculate their finances, it will give Hextall a better snapshot of exactly what he’s working with this summer. From early reports, it sounds like either Jared McCann or Sam Lafferty could be selected, which are two players who make very different salaries of $2.94 million with McCann and only $750,000 for Lafferty. Depending on who the Kraken poach will certainly have a huge impact on Hextall’s flexibility this summer.
If it’s McCann and his nearly $3 million, that of course creates another hole in the lineup, but it does give Hextall a little bit more money to work with as his cap space would jump to roughly $6.1 million. If you add on moving Pettersson’s contract to Detroit for a draft pick, this figure now jumps to over $10 million. This would give Hextall some more flexibility but increase his to-do list.
The Penguins have forwards Teddy Blueger, Zach Aston-Reese, and Mark Jankowski, who are all restricted free agents and looking for new contracts. Along with defenseman Cody Ceci, who is an unrestricted free agent. He had himself a stellar season and just may have priced himself out of the Penguins limits. It’s also believed because of his ‘softer’ style, management isn’t a huge fan of his game. Look for Hextall to replace Ceci with a defenseman who plays mean, someone along the lines of Zach Bogosian of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
So as we can tell, the Penguins’ offseason moves are tied to two things – who the Kraken select and starting the summer off with a trade to create more cap space. The Red Wings are the perfect target for Hextall to pursue, and a deal sending Pettersson to Detroit for a mid-level draft pick makes a ton of sense for both clubs. Which means 20 other things will likely happen, and nothing I mentioned today will take place. Aren’t predictions fun?
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