The Hextall, Penguins Decision I Still Don’t Understand

Former Pittsburgh Penguins ahead Evan Rodrigues signed a one-year, $2 million take care of the Colorado Avalanche final week. Reports point out Rodrigues could have additionally turned down a much bigger provide in the beginning of free company. But after a summer time of GM Ron Hextall’s successes, there stays one resolution, with two elements, that simply does not compute.

Why signal Kasperi Kapanen to a two-year contract with a $3.2 million AAV that put the group over the wage cap?

Why signal Kapanen as a substitute of Rodrigues?

Full reward for Hextall this summer time. He managed the seemingly inconceivable by signing Bryan Rust, Kris Letang, Evgeni Malkin, and Rickard Rakell. Hextall added Jeff Petry on the blue line and acquired a further third-round choose within the John Marino commerce, which additionally netted younger (and far cheaper) defenseman Ty Smith.

The Penguins are a greater group as we speak than they have been in May. When Brian Burke advised colleague Dave Molinari the identical final week, that wasn’t puffery.

Yet the Kapanen contract stands out not for its worth, as a result of Kapanen in all probability acquired full market value, if no more, and never for its necessity. The Penguins did not get a lot from Kapanen final season.

The Kapanen deal stands alone in an in any other case ebullient summer time as a result of the contract shoved the Penguins’ cap quantity into the purple. Officially, they’re about $1.4 million over the NHL wage cap. Late within the coaching camp, they are going to ship a pair of eligible gamers to the WBS Penguins or put a few gamers who didn’t make the massive squad via waivers. Those strikes will get the Penguins just below the cap however not create sufficient cap room to make call-ups ought to they undergo a few accidents or diseases.

Hey, COVID remains to be round and may take away a participant for 5 days. A few National Hockey Now writers had it final week, and it wasn’t nice for them. If a couple of gamers get the bug, the Penguins could possibly be shorthanded as a result of they lack cap house to interchange them for a couple of video games.

Last season, the New York Islanders season hit a tailspin as a result of they have been caught shorthanded.

It can occur.

There are competing narratives surrounding Rodrigues. The first incorporates incredulity. Rodrigues had by no means earlier than scored near 19 targets. It was a fluke. He went chilly within the second half of the season. It was a fluke, and he regressed to the imply. The Penguins didn’t win a playoff collection. It does not matter.

The different narrative, which is extra reality-based, is that Rodrigues was a outstanding determine when the Penguins wanted him to be. He scored 19 targets, most of them within the first half of the season, when the Penguins have been with out Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, or simply Malkin. Rodrigues emerged after too many seasons of press field nachos and being a bubble participant, by no means certain of his spot within the Buffalo Sabers or Pittsburgh Penguins lineup.

As the playoffs approached, Rodrigues once more elevated his recreation. He was additionally probably the greatest Penguins forwards within the Round One playoff collection towards the New York Rangers. He scored three targets and 5 factors within the seven-game collection.

Pittsburgh Penguins Fork within the Road

If stories are correct, and Rodrigues turned down three years and $10.5 million on the recommendation of his agent, that is a mistake by Rodrigues.

But the Penguins ultimately paid Kapanen nearly the identical cash. That’s a mistake by the Penguins.

After 5 seasons within the NHL, Kapanen has been on a curler coaster. True, he had a greater profession than Rodrigues thus far, however it was arduous to see how every match with the Penguins final season and conclude that Kapanen was the participant to maintain.

The aim totals solely inform a bit of little bit of the story. Rodrigues performed each ahead place and crammed nearly each function final season. From top-line winger to fourth-line heart, he did all of it.

Kapanen hasn’t cracked the 40-point plateau in three NHL seasons (In equity, he was on tempo within the 2020-21 COVID-shortened season). The Toronto Maple Leafs ultimately demoted him to fourth-line obligation earlier than the Penguins commerce.

Inconsistency has been a festering drawback for Kapanen, who possesses the expertise to be a premier energy ahead. Still, after seven years since his NHL debut, maybe that standing is extra hope than expectation.

You, the reader and followers, have full authority to agree with me as we speak however Tweet at me in March after Kapanen scores 30 targets, “this did not age properly.”

But in a summer time of close to perfection, of shrewd value strikes and participant acquisition (not less than within the brief time period. We’ll see concerning the lengthy contracts in 4 years), going over the cap with Kapanen on the expense of Rodrigues is one resolution I do not get.

Should the Penguins want top-six assist in the center or on the left this season, I suspect the legend of E-Rod will develop. He will even have a wholesome likelihood at a Stanley Cup with the Colorado Avalanche, additional cementing this lament.

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