Winger targets, Matt Murray's next contract, and future line combos
All Star Weekend has come to an end. Kris Letang was -4 and Tristan Jarry gave up three goals and neither of those things matter. Kris Letang had great family moments with his son and Tristan Jarry got an experience he could have only dreamed of playing in WB/S last year. While some teams are going to returning to action tonight the Penguins are off until Friday due to their bye week. For that reason I took some questions
In a bubble all four of your players mentioned would improve the Penguins. I think if I had to rank them from their ability to positively impact the Penguins it would go Chris Kreider, Jason Zucker, Tyler Toffoli and JG Pageau. Don’t know if you put them in that order intentionally, but that’s the way I see it. As far as the best fit I don’t think it is Kreider because I think he will be one of the more popular rentals on the market and cost to acquire will be higher. Zucker seems like he would be a very good fit. He is also signed for a few more years so if you are going to spend some legit assets I would rather it be on him than a Kreider rental. Tyler Toffoli is a great option if you go the rental route because I doubt his cost to acquire will be like Kreider’s. Pageau has inflated offensive numbers and his defensive play is the safer bet. Problem being the Penguins are already great defensively this season. They need offensive punch without Guentzel and I’m not trusting the guy shooting way above his career average and as a result upped his market value. I think Zucker is the best fit because of skill set and contract situation. I think Toffoli is the best rental option when you balance the player and cost of acquisition. Mikael Granlund is another rental option, but that is pending on Nashville dropping out of the playoff race.
The benefit they have is the NHL bends over backwards to keep parity in the league. I don’t know what constitutes “success” because Pittsburgh fans have been spoiled for quite some time. Scraping to make the playoffs and getting in would be a realistic success after the team transitions from true contender to post Crosby and Malkin. It might not be perceived that way, though. While the on-ice success of the Penguins will have some rough moments on the horizon the true success of this era of Penguins hockey (and Lemieux’s) is the southwest Pennsylvania region is one of hockey’s top growing areas in the country. More and more kids are playing hockey in the Pittsburgh area along with Washington and St. Louis (hmmm what is the common denominator). Even if the pro team has some down time the overall hockey community should still be going strong which is one of the best victories possible.
Matt Murray has had a crumby season. He is on the upswing, but it’s been bad overall. Before Jim Rutherford signed Marc-Andre Fleury to a contract extension I wrote a lot of pieces about how finding playable goaltending doesn’t have to come at a high cost. I hate the idea of saddling your salary cap situation with such a volatile position. Matt Murray came in and proved that point. Tristan Jarry may be doing the same.
I’m not an expert on all the contract rules and the quirks of when certain options are available or not for an RFA. One of these options would be team initiated arbitration. This is when the team, not the player, takes things to arbitration. The catch with this version is no matter what the arbitrator comes up with the team has to accept. The strategic part of this method is the contracts are either one or two years. This of course would piss off the player, but you would have the player under reasonable term. When I look around at other goalie contracts being signed around the league I don’t like the idea of Murray getting five or more years at around 7M. There have been stretches of brilliance and also what we’ve seen this year.
An alternative to signing him would be to trade him. Goalie markets are weird, but he does have two-time Cup Winner® status. Pittsburgh still has Tristan Jarry and Casey DeSmith so their situation wouldn’t be horrible. Arbitration or trade would be the two options if you didn’t want to buck up and take the long term goaltender contract ride.
Before I answer this just know I don’t feel strongly enough about any one particular lineup with the forwards. This team has a lot of flexibility with both positions and the ability to go up and down the lineup. The defense I’m more certain of so I’ll start there.
I wouldn’t have Johnson there and I hate playing him with Schultz, but what can you do? Johnson is going to play and Marino doesn’t deserve to have his middle pairing minutes taken from him. I am playing the team’s best four defenseman together and hopefully the bottom pair can avoid being awful with third pairing minutes. As for the forwards…
There are quite a number of options to be had. The one constant has been the Aston Reese-Blueger-Tanev line so I’m just going to leave that together. Very good defensive line with not a ton of offense. Tanev’s 1.48 points per 60 at 5v5 leads the way with Blueger at 1.01 and Aston-Reese at 0.98. Since the offense isn’t great and the defense is I would throw this line to the wolves and hope they tread water against the other team’s best. The offense can come from other places.
I’m a winger short from making this work quite well. Alex Galchenyuk doesn’t fit ANYWHERE. Total bust. I was thinking about reuniting the Simon-Bjugstad-Hornqvist line, which did really well last year, but I didn’t have anybody to play the right side with Crosby if Malkin gets Rust. Some of these wingers can play either side and if you were to acquire Zucker, Toffoli, Granlund etc… you would have a well-balanced lineup. Right now it is one winger short. Here’s an alternative lineup if you wanted to try Bjugstad on the wing
This will look better after Jim Rutherford makes a trade for a winger. If Pittsburgh can survive until a potential Guentzel return…
Thanks for reading!