cherry – Ron Hextal knows he has to pay nearly $1.5 million in Pittsburgh Penguins payroll under the NHL’s salary cap.
He also knows that there are two ways to achieve this.
He could play a career or two, perhaps for one of the nine NHL-caliber defensemen currently on the training camp roster.
but there is a problem.
Or he can give up Ty Smith And Drew O’Connor to the Penguins’ farm team in Wilkes-Barre, where neither of them will have to cancel waivers and drop their combined pay will leave the Penguins below the $82.5 million ceiling for 2022-23.
Except that this isn’t necessarily as simple as it might sound either.
Which explains why, when discussing the cap status of the Pittsburgh Penguins with reporters on Friday, Hextall acknowledged that “we have some tough decisions to make.”
Of course, he can part with his salary by making one or more deals, although this is not as simple as it may seem.
Depending on how a single draft is shortlisted, nearly half of the 32 NHL teams are either above the cap or within $1 million of it. This means a lot of clubs will be looking to transfer players in the next few weeks, and a buyer market that creates everything but takes away any leverage for teams hoping to transfer people.
“There are a lot of teams that have gone beyond (the hat),” Hextal said. “I think some of the teams, you kind of wonder what they’re going to do. We’re obviously in this situation. … There are only a few suitors, in terms of wanting to make money, so it’s a tough market.”
Determining which defensive man to break away from, whether by trade or demotion to the American Hockey League, may not be easy either
“I really like the (defensive) mix that we have, between professional players and skilled people and a kind of defensive back,” Hextal said. “At the moment, we don’t know exactly where we are going. Obviously, we have some ideas, but some tough decisions for us.”
It can be hard to decide what to do with O’Connor and/or Smith if either of them is a solid performer in the camp and effectively forcing management to keep him in the Major League roster.
Hextall allowed that it was “certainly an option” to drop those two ranks, but quickly added, “We want to put the best team on ice on opening night that we can, so if they’re a part of it, we’ll try to find a way (to keep them).”
The exact attackers and backers were not identified on October 13 against Arizona, but barring the injury, Tristan Gary and Casey Desmith They are locks to form their target side by side.
Hextall confirmed that he has had quick contract talks with Gary, who has a cap of $3.5 million and is set to be an unrestricted free agent next July, but noted that neither party has pushed for an agreement soon.
“There’s no real urgency there, either side, but we’ll keep talking and get something done,” Hextal said. “I don’t expect to talk when the season starts, but who knows?”
Gary rebounded from the series’ late meltdown against the New York Islanders during the first round of the 2021 playoffs with a solid regular season performance, but missed all but the first game of the opening round series against the New York Rangers this spring due to a foot injury.
The Rangers victory extended the Pittsburgh Penguins franchise, the worst playoff losing streak to five series, but that didn’t stop Hextal maintaining his veteran core by re-signing Chris Letang, Evgeni Malkin, Brian Rost and Rickard Raquel when they were Clients are free this summer.
“Every year is a new year,” Hextal said. “Well, we’ve lost the last couple of years in qualifying, since I’ve been here. We felt we could definitely have won both series, but I think that’s what gives you hope that it’s still there.
“These guys are still good players. … We felt that this group can still run and do a lot of damage. … I am really excited about where we are now as a team.
“It’s hard to win this league. It’s hard to win a playoff round. It’s definitely hard to win the Stanley Cup. But that’s our mission.”
After they’ve settled on how to stick to the salary cap, anyway.