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Better options than Jack Johnson

Could the Penguins avoid Jack Johnson? Pretty please?

NHL: Pittsburgh Penguins at Detroit Red Wings Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford means what he says and says what he means.

It’s clear he wants to add a defenseman. He said as much earlier in the week.

“Our priority in this off-season was to add another defenseman,” Rutherford said after the trade of Conor Sheary to Buffalo. “I talked about getting balance through the lineup. I think we have that with our forwards. If we can add another defenseman I’d be pretty happy going into opening night.”

Local reporters have tied Jack Johnson to the Pens as basically a done deal when free agency opens on Sunday. And, no one is disputing sources or calling bluffs. But this time of year, always keep in mind who benefits from the information released. We heard a specific term Pittsburgh was going to give Johnson (5 years) and a general price (between $3-3.5 million dollars per season). Hmm. Almost as if someone wanted that information out there to the world so others might step up and improve on it, huh?

Also interesting is absolutely 0 national journalists have confirmed this information. Much to the chagrin of the local mainstream media, the Elliotte Friedman’s and Bob McKenzie’s and Darren Dreger’s and Pierre LeBrun’s of the world pretty much break all the Penguins stories (see Dreger having the aforementioned Sheary trade first). In an up-to-the-minute world, that matters to them. Weird how just the Pittsburgh media is saying Jack Johnson to the Pens is a done deal with silence from the big guys, huh? In fact, on a radio segment, Dreger said he believes it not to be a done deal of late.

This isn’t to bash the media, and even Dreger hints that it wouldn’t be a surprise for Johnson to sign with Pittsburgh. But perhaps it’s not as done of a deal as we think. And, nothing is official until Sunday.

The rumors of JJ to Pittsburgh have been about universally panned by anyone with a clue (including even Blue Jackets fans!) So with some open room, who should the Pens look for?

Well from that same Dreger interview he had the following thought:

“I don’t know that the Penguins are done yet, to be fair,” noted Dreger. “I had someone tell me yesterday that maybe – maybe – they’d consider trading Tristan Jarry. The only reason they would be because someone is in a full panic mode. Like the Islanders need a goaltender, the Hurricanes need a goaltender. Tristan Jarry is going to be a good goaltender, he’s just not going to get that starting opportunity, I don’t think, with Matt Murray in Pittsburgh.

The potential trade of Tristan Jarry is alluring, especially if he’s got any sort of value. Could he be used to get Trevor van Riemsdyk (RFA) from the Hurricanes? If so, that’s a better move for Pittsburgh than signing Johnson. I’m not really sure what the Islanders have as defensemen they would be willing to trade that the Pens would be interested in.

But if not a trade, there are still plenty of affordable, non-JJ options to pursue in free agency. Let’s go!

Mike Green: the former Capital once scored 30 goals in a season as a premiere offensive-defenseman. Those days are over, but as a right handed shot and some semblance of decent play, giving Green a few million bucks on a short-term deal would be preferable to signing Johnson for 3-5 years.

Thomas Hickey - he’s probably closer to what most Jack Johnson fans perceive him to be offensively coming off a 6 goal + 19 assist season. Younger than Johnson too.

Dylan DeMelo - Had 19 assists for San Jose last season. 25 years old. Can skate. Immensely preferable to Johnson in the next couple of seasons.

Greg Pateryn - Three years younger than Johnson, right handed, scored more points, ended up a + player on Dallas even while playing 19 minutes a night.

John Moore - solid season in New Jersey, and as the theme goes is younger, was more productive, played more minutes and was a positive +/- player last season.

And what they shouldn’t or can’t consider:

Calvin de Haan: the former Islander is said to be a sneaky free agent in the $5-8 million per year range, per The Athletic. While he’s likely at the low end of that, he’s coming off a shoulder injury and a borderline top-4 type of guy with little offensive ability. Just say no to signing him, even if he is young and isn’t terrible- Pittsburgh just doesn’t have the space to commit to a guy like that.

Brooks Orpik - thanks but no thanks!

Cody Franson - it’s not applicable to talk about signing Cody Franson until August. Let’s check back in then.


Nothing is official so, ideally, Johnson gets a better offer than what Pittsburgh has, or the Pens come to their senses and realizes that between Green, DeMelo, Pateryn, Moore and many others there are cheaper options available who probably will play better than Jack Johnson next season, and especially beyond. Keep those fingers crossed.