Penguins General Manager Ron Hextal is still looking to ease the salary cap

Preseason begins Sunday for the Pittsburgh Penguins, and regular season approaches October 13.

But Ron Hextal is still off-season in one way.

The team’s general manager is trying to find a way to bring his team’s roster into line with the NHL’s salary cap.

Although the league cap isn’t really enforced during the holiday season, the penguins are expected to be $1,480,175 over the $82.5 million cap according to Cap Friendly.

Hextall has less than three weeks to get that number into compliance.

“Obviously there are some mechanisms that we have to do to overcome it,” Hextal said. “We have good depth. We’ll see how the pre-season matches go. We have some tough decisions to make, and make no mistake.”

Perhaps the most difficult of these decisions comes on the bloated blue line where there are at least nine NHL-caliber defensemen on contract.

Brian Dumoulin, Mark Friedman, Chris Letang, Marcus Peterson and Chad Rohwedel were complemented by newcomers like Jeff Petrie, Jean Ruta and Ty Smith. And there’s the rise of talented star PO Joseph, who is no longer exempt from waivers for deals involving Wilkes Barr/Scranton of the American Hockey League.

“I really like the mix in (defense) that we have between the puck-moving guys and the skilled guys and kind of defensive defenders,” Hextal said. “I really like mingling with the players we’ve added along with the players we have. We have nine NHL defenses guys. They can all play. We have some tough decisions. Quite frankly, right now, we don’t know exactly where we’re going.”

One decision may involve one or two trades. But given the somewhat stagnant NHL revenue in recent years due to the pandemic, the salary cap hasn’t grown much. As a result, 12 of the league’s 32 teams are expected to exceed the salary cap for each friendly team.

AP

Penguins defenseman Marcus Pettersson enters the third year of a five-year contract with a maximum salary of $4,025,175.

“There are very few suitors in terms of wanting to make money,” Hextal said. “It’s a tough market now in the last couple of years with a fixed cap. It’s been a challenge for all of us, for sure. You know what we’ve been through this summer with our guys trying to fit in everyone. It’s a tough market now and yes, it makes a tough move.”

Hextall had a session with the media after the second full day of boot camp at Cranberry on Friday and covered a number of topics.

• Unlike last season, the Penguins don’t have many concerns about suspended unrestricted free agents.

But there is one key item on their roster set to hit the market in the 2023 season in start-up All-star goalkeeper Tristan Garry.

Hextal said he had some initial discussions with a representative of Gary about a possible contract extension, but provided few details.

• Smith and Forward Drew O’Connor are exempt from assignments to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. Although they have proven themselves to the NHLers, the team’s salary cap concerns may leave Hextall few options instead of sending her to Northeast Pennsylvania to open the season.

“It’s definitely an option,” Hextal said. “But we want to put the best team on the ice on opening night as often as we can. So if they’re a part of it, we’ll try to find a way. You look at all your options and you start to work out, and talk about them with the staff and coaches. Make those decisions when the time is right. But these A fair discussion you will be a part of.”

• Smith was acquired in July through a trade that sent defenseman John Marino to the New Jersey Devils. Penguins’ primary motivation in that deal was to get rid of Marino’s salary cap ($4.4 million). But Hextall has long been keeping an eye on Smith, a first-round pick (#17 overall) for the Devils in 2018.

“We loved it as I was (formerly the Philadelphia Flyers general manager) on his draft,” Hextal said. “All the scouts (penguins) loved him. We talked about him, checked the reports. We just felt he fit well for our group. He’s a young defensive guy, first of all. He skates very well, he’s very agile, he has good puck skills, and a lot of bluffing.” with the imp.”

Seth Rorabo is a Tribune Review writer. You can contact Seth via email at [email protected] or via Twitter .

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