One of the most interesting parts of the Pittsburgh Penguins acquiring Daniel Winnik was how little they added to their salary cap by bringing on the player with a $1.3 million salary.
"We had to get creative in this deal to make it work," Pens general manager Jim Rutherford said.
Creative is good for Penguin fans. In order for the Toronto Maple Leafs to get what they wanted (namely a second round pick plus an additional fourth rounder), Pittsburgh held firm and made Toronto retain half of Winnik's remaining salary, saving the Pens a pro-rated $650k. Then the Pens made Toronto take Zach Sill (which is addition by subtraction for the lineup) and a subtraction of what's left of his $600k salary from the cap.
Because of that, the Pens didn't add much burden to their cap at all in order to acquire Winnik. And by dealing 1 contract (Sill) for another, they retain their flexibility in the 50 player limit as well, meaning they still could deal a pick for a player if they wanted. Thing is, they might not want to.
"There’s a good chance that we’re done," Rutherford said.
For once, I don't believe him.
It's as clear as day the Penguins need a defenseman to play on the second pair with Christian Ehrhoff. It is really encouraging that they are giving youngster Derrick Pouliot a chance to play in that spot. Pouliot didn't look bad against a good Capitals team last night. But Pouliot has played even less NHL games (20) than his age (21) and only to a tune of just 16:38 per night.
The only other candidate is Robert Bortuzzo , who is big, physical but hardly the caliber of player who will perform well in such a key spot.
Pittsburgh needs more of a known quantity for that position.
Rutherford hinted at seeing what "new names" might hit the trade market in the closing days. Perhaps a bubble team will decide to sell off a decent player.
The Penguins don't have a ton of cap space, but they can always get creative again. Dropping Pouliot to the minors clears some room. Making another team retain some salary could help as well. Where there is a will, there is a way, and there should be one more piece added to the puzzle.
Jim Rutherford has completely revitalized a very depleted, very poor bottom six from last season. It was badly needed. Now with the injury to Olli Maatta, there is one more move left to make on the back-end to put the team in a position to go places in the playoffs.