Penguins News & Rumors: Ristolainen, Outdoor Games, Mark Cuban

Welcome to Pittsburgh Penguins News & Rumors for The Hockey Writers. In the first edition of this series, we will touch on the rumors surrounding Buffalo Sabres defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen, the Penguins’ plans for potential outdoors games in the 2021-22 season, and Mark Cuban’s ownership flirtation back in 1999.

Ristolainen to the ‘Burgh?

Per Dan Kingerski of Pittsburgh Hockey Now, expect the Penguins to kick the tires on Ristolainen. He was stiff against them this season, especially on Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel, and impressed many.

Kingerski stated that the Penguins’ trade chips include a second-round pick but that the New Jersey Devils also have interest in the Finnish defender. If Pittsburgh can fit his $5.4 million salary cap on their roster, they will try to acquire him, and perhaps the Seattle Kraken could help with that. Alternatively, the Sabres could be interested in a roster player rather than a draft pick as they try to become competitive.

Rasmus Ristolainen, Buffalo Sabres (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

This is Ristolainen’s final season of his six-year contract, and he will be an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2022. He had four goals and 18 points and a -4.3 goals above replacement (GAR) through 49 games.

Given the Penguins’ defensive depth on the right side, including Kristopher Letang, John Marino, and Cody Ceci, Ristolainen likely isn’t what they need going forward. However, general manager Ron Hextall has stated numerous times that he wants the team to be tougher and stronger, and Ristolainen fits the bill. We should find out shortly since I assume this trade would happen before the 2021 NHL Draft because draft capital will likely be included.

No Outdoor Games for the Penguins

The NHL recently announced their outdoor game schedule for the 2021-22 season, and the Penguins were not on it. The Winter Classic will be held at Target Field, home of the Minnesota Twins of the MLB, as the Wild takes on the St. Louis Blues. This will be the first News Year’s Day outdoor game held in the state.

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The Carolina Hurricanes Stadium Series game, which the Penguins were supposed to be a part of, will not happen next season and has been replaced by the Tampa Bay Lightning visiting the Nashville Predators at the Nissan Stadium in Tennessee on Feb. 26, 2022. It is unclear if Pittsburgh will be included if the Hurricanes reschedule theirs, presumably in the 2022-23 season.

Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The Penguins have participated in five of the 32 regular-season outdoors NHL games held since 2003; their most recent was against the Philadelphia Flyers at Lincoln Financial Field in 2019, when they lost 4-3 in overtime. They have played the Flyers twice, Chicago Blackhawks once, Washington Capitals once, and the Sabres in the league’s first-ever Winter Classic. With Crosby and Evgeni Malkin as the main attractions, we will see another outdoor game for this team soon, but not for another year, at least.

Mark Cuban, Almost a Penguins’ Owner?

Mark Cuban recently joined Victory The Podcast and mentioned that before the Dallas Mavericks, he was in talks with Mario Lemieux to join the Penguins’ ownership in 1999.

Cuban said he flew to Pittsburgh because Lemieux wanted to meet with him. He also mentioned that he wasn’t a hockey guy, but it was more about him helping to keep the team in the market. Cuban further said he wanted to be a part of Lemieux’s ownership group and help the Penguins out of bankruptcy, but he had philosophical differences with Lemieux’s group and pulled out. He purchased a majority stake in the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks for $285 million and has since led their franchise to one championship.

Mario Lemieux (Photo by: Harry How/Getty Images)

In the end, Lemieux partnered with businessman Ron Burkle, which worked out for the better because he is mainly a hands-off partner who is fine with staying in the background. Under this ownership group, the Penguins have made four Stanley Cup Final appearances, won three championships, and have built one of the greatest teams of the salary cap era.

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