One of the important dominos waiting to fall this offseason is the Marcus Pettersson contract. The signing will eventually get done. Pettersson has 84 games of NHL experience (all in one year) and is an RFA. Players with limited samples and restricted free agency status don’t exactly possess huge amounts of leverage in a landscape with bad offer sheet strategy.
“We could just go with a qualifying offer,” Rutherford said. “But that’s not what we want to do. That’s why there’s a hold-up. There’s a deal that we really want to get done with him.”
“We’re on top of the situation,” Rutherford said. “It will get done. It’s not going to be a problem.”
So there are a couple questions that need to be answered with this approach because it could be good, but also not fit the path the team is on.
The first question should be an obvious one. Just how good is Marcus Pettersson?
Well, I’d have to say his overall sample in the 84 games he has played has been encouraging. The other day I showcased
how Evgeni Malkin was light years better playing with Pettersson than he was Jack Johnson. One of the most important things for the Penguins to get right this year is give Malkin the quality of teammate he deserves. Early returns are that Pettersson could be part of that solution. The issue we are going to have answering this question will be Pettersson’s sample. It is only 84 games.
The numbers are solid and I personally find them more impressive considering he put these up with a sizable chunk of his ice time being played with a perennial replacement level player in Erik Gudbranson. I can understand why the Penguins may want to extend him with a more serious offer than the bridge route.
The second question is how will the Penguins get this contract to fit? This is a legitimate question because it starts to get into balancing short term interests with long term interests. There are plenty of examples in Nashville of David Poile giving a player with a limited sample more AAV than the player would normally earn at the time in exchange for a lot of years bought at that price. He bets on the players eventually outplaying their cap hit. Ryan Ellis, Roman Josi, and Mattias Ekholm all come to mind as successful bets for the Predators. Conceptually this makes sense for a player like Pettersson.
The issue for Pittsburgh is that they have totally abandoned their long term future unlike Nashville at the time of those signings. Does it make more sense for a cheap bridge deal with Pettersson keeping costs down during these very important years left with Crosby and Malkin? I think there is a strong argument for going cheap if the fallout from a long term deal is going to cost the team a useful player as a cap casualty. What difference does it make if the Penguins have Marcus Pettersson on a “good” contract in four or five years? The sad truth is it doesn’t matter.
The team already gave away Phil Kessel and his 6.8M price point and now lesser impactful players like Bryan Rust and Nick Bjugstad are being mentioned. Right now the Penguins strength is their forward depth. Sacrificing the best part of the roster to pay a player on defense more than he would normally make at this juncture might hurt the team now more than it will help. The now matters the most in Pittsburgh. If you told me the cap space for a long term Pettersson deal would be created by moving Jack Johnson, Erik Gudbranson, or both(!) then I would have minimal reservations about it. Selling off Bryan Rust for spare parts because you want to tie up replacement level defenders way above market value isn’t where you want to be as a general manager. These are self-inflicted errors though.
There’s a world where the Penguins bet on Marcus Pettersson, are right about it, but still hurt their ability to win the Stanley Cup. That’s what happens when you have no direction as an organization and bounce back and forth between different roster construction philosophies. Random approach leads to random results.
Thanks for reading!