With the signing of Matt Cullen, the Pittsburgh Penguins team is almost complete for 2016-17.
GMJR said Pouliot "will be in the mix" for a top-six spot. I asked, "You done?" GMJR: "Other than Vesey, we're not looking to do anything."— Jason Mackey (@JMackeyPG) August 17, 2016
Penguins met with Vesey in Boston yesterday. They can still fit him under the cap even with Cullen now signed.— Josh Yohe (@JoshYohe_PGH) August 17, 2016
Is it reasonable that the Penguins can still have room for Jimmy Vesey even after signing Matt Cullen yesterday? Here's our look at the current team over the next seven seasons, with salary cap hits listed:
This matches the great resource of General Fanager, currently, except for our calculation we have Oskar Sundqvist back in Wilkes-Barre and they currently have him in the NHL.
Obviously at this point Pittsburgh has exceeded the NHL's salary cap, however they will get under it by putting injured/"retired" forward Pascal Dupuis on the long-term injury reserve.
There are a lot of misconceptions about what the NHL's LTIR is. It is not a free pass to wipe Dupuis' 2016-17 salary completely off the Penguins books. Nor do the Penguins simply get to exceed the salary cap by Dupuis' exact salary just because. It will take some accounting tricks and flexible mathematics to maximize the amount of room that the Penguins have.
This, of course, is nothing new to the Penguins who have used creative methods over the years to become cap compliant. For more of the nuts and bolts, check out the old Mike Colligan piece from 2013 (which also references moves made in 2010 as well) for a better detailed explanation of how and why this goes on.
From a 10,000 foot view that we prefer, Pittsburgh's cap is in good hands. Even if Vesey doesn't sign, they should be able to manipulate their roster on the league's first day (possibly sending down waiver eligible players like Sundqvist, Derrick Pouliot and Matt Murray) for phantom demotions in order to maximize the benefit of the Dupuis move to LTIR.
The pieces will shuffle around temporarily as they must but the important part remains that the Pens were able to re-sign Justin Schultz and Matt Cullen for 2016-17 and basically minimize all roster turnover from the group that just won the Stanley Cup.
Pittsburgh's pure window should be open for several more years with the likes of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel and Kris Letang all locked up at relatively team-friendly (or at least team-fair) cap hits for the next 6 seasons, but this current group of supporting players will certainly look much different in 2017-18. We all know the expansion draft is looming, which will probably necessitate a trade of Marc-Andre Fleury. And 4 key veteran UFAs who all may be moving on for various reasons (Cullen, Chris Kunitz, Nick Bonino and Trevor Daley) might be playing their last seasons in Pittsburgh. All of those guys make decent salaries which means the Pens will be in good shape to hopefully find fitting replacements and keep the train rollin'.
Still, bringing back almost the entire 2016 Cup team should makes for another very exciting season of hockey in Western PA.