The Pittsburgh Penguins may be shopping for NHL free agents. While a phone call from a rival GM could change that, there are still quite a few unsigned players on both sides of the roster. A few will get a raise, and a few may find themselves making pennies on the dollar. A couple of former penguins are in the former group, and a favorite former penguin wing is easily in the latter.
It’s going to be cold coffee with a few desperate players having to swallow their new reality.
For illustrative purposes, we omit Nazim Kadri from the list. His undisclosed deal with the New York Islanders, as reported by NY Hockey Now and others since then, means he will receive a significant raise from his recent $4.5 million salary.
The biggest salary drops
1. Phil Kessel
When Kessel gets the nuts (Poker terms) he has a lot less money to jump at the table. The eight-year, $64 million deal he signed with Brian Burke in Toronto finally ended, but before he was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs, Pittsburgh Penguins and Arizona Coyotes.
Kessel, 34, could be the biggest fall on the free agent board. He’ll do almost nothing in his next contract, worth nearly $8 million. RW, who has six 30-goal seasons under his belt, hasn’t netted more than 20 since playing alongside Evgeni Malkin in 2018-19. He had just eight goals last season and his lack of a 200-foot game or added size is becoming a boutique option.
Worse is the marketplace for the mercurial Kessel. Stanley Cup contenders don’t have the salary cap space to add him, and those who don’t need him.
He may be able to command $2 million to boost the team’s power play, but there isn’t a streak or big need for an easy-scoring winger who hates defenses.
2. In PK sub
Sidney Crosby’s colorful and successful basketball career is coming to an end.
Subban, 33, was fine with the New Jersey Devils last season, but back issues limited his effectiveness. It’s nowhere near his previous $9 million salary.
There was talk that the Edmonton Oilers could run. Edmonton remains popular OpponentsBut Edmonton is one of the teams at or above the salary cap.
Subban probably falls in the $3 million range after scoring 22 points (5-17-22) in 77 games last season.
3. Danny Dekeyser
The Red Wing Protector is one of the best table scrapers on the market. He earned $5 million (AAV) last season and could make less than half that elsewhere.
DeKeyser, 30, is attached to Calvin de Haan. Jack JohnsonAnd Ryan Murray. He’s a solid defenseman who can play big minutes, but he can’t always stay healthy.
The biggest increase:
At this point in the season, “huge increase” is probably a subjective term and light years away from a guarantee. With some symmetry, the two UFAs who got the biggest raises are the Pittsburgh Penguins. However, it is not known whether one can double or triple his previous salary.
1. Ivan Rodriguez
The Penguins signed Rodriguez to a one-year, $1 million deal and rewarded him with 19 goals and a stellar midfield. Rodriguez was alternately second line center, first line RW, second line LW, third line center, fourth line wing and cotton candy salesman.
Evgeni Malkin had a sloppy performance in the second half after returning to the lineup, but improved his playoff streak with strong finishes. A focused team can pick up an absolute bargain for $2 million. It should be another good season and a well-paid player. He continues to be the right fit Vegas Golden Knights and former college classmate Jack Eichel.
2. Brian Boyle
The Penguins rescued Boyle from the pile. He sat out the 2020-21 season, not because of covid fears or vaccine outrage, but because no one offered him a contract. Penguin and G.M Ron Hextall Liked his performance at the 2021 World Championships, he extended his PTO for training camp.
Boyle has become a vital part of one of the best PK units in the league, scoring 12 goals and his teammates refer to him as a great presence.
He earned just $750,000 last season. He won’t be making millions this season, but he has 12 goals, penalty kill, hard-hitting and locker-room leadership value. In a different season, it will be worth double or slightly more than last season’s salary. Zach Aston-Reese earned $1.725 million as a defensive pick.
Boyle will be 38 in December, so he won’t get a long-term deal, but he should get a raise… even if he doesn’t.
3. Sony Milano
Finding a third player who can get a raise or one that deserves one is a bit harder. The Anaheim Ducks did not qualify Milano, who may have arbitration rights. He had 34 points in 66 games; Some of them were highlight-reel lengths, including 14 goals.
Milano, 26, had a long road to a regular NHL career. He was a 2014 first-round pick (sixth overall) of the Columbus Blue Jackets, but did not find a permanent home in the Columbus lineup. He set career highs in games played (66) and career goals in goals.
He would get a nice raise in arbitration. He remains unsigned, and a team looking for offense might be wise to finally snap up the flashy winger. Maybe sell a few more tickets with a few more “Michigan” alley-oops.
Since he’s still unsigned, an increase on his $1.7 million AAV is unlikely, but available.