The regular season hasn’t even begun yet, and the Penguins have enough meat on the bone in terms of injury news that it’s newsworthy. Yay!
But it’s seemingly good news, as coach Mike Sullivan announced that defenseman Brian Dumoulin and goalie Tristan Jarry (both injured in Friday’s preseason finale) are day-to-day with with upper and lower body injuries, respectively. Forward Daniel Sprong (injured in last Wednesday’s preseason game) is also day-to-day but skated on his own before practice, which Sullivan found “encouraging”.
With those three players all absent from the team on the ice, here is how the rest of the club lined up this morning in Cranberry:
#Pens lines and D-pairs:— Pens Inside Scoop (@PensInsideScoop) September 30, 2018
The obvious eyebrow-raiser is rookie Juuso Riikola on the top pair with Kris Letang. Now, this possible could be just a placeholder move if the team feels Dumoulin will be back in practice in the next couple days as Pittsburgh prepares to start the season with home games on Thursday and Saturday. The purpose of that would be to allow the other two pais they want to use (Olli Maatta + Jack Johnson and Jamie Oleksiak + Justin Schultz) to get time together in practice without having to shuffle them around.
However, the next day or two will be the key to watch. If Dumoulin remains away from practice the higher the odds that Riikola might be in a key role in the NHL early in the season.
“The [Friday night] game in Columbus was the closest thing to an NHL game as far as the rosters of both teams,” Sullivan said today after practice. “I thought [Riikola] had a really strong game.”
The Pens have a little bit of book-keeping to do as well. They have 27 players in camp, four above the maximum roster size of 23. Pittsburgh could get close to that if they place Dumoulin, Sprong and Jarry on IR to open the season.
—Friendly Off-season refresher that in the NHL, a player on the IR is out for a minimum of seven days. This player doesn’t count to the 23-man limit but his salary does continue to count against the team’s salary cap, unless the player is place on the long-term injury reserve. In that case, the team is allowed to exceed the upper limit of the salary cap, if necessary, for as long as the player is injured. No future space is “banked” or accumulated by doing this.
Given day-to-day nature of the current injuries, there’s no reason for Pittsburgh to put any player on the LTIR (which requires a player to miss at least 10 games AND 24 days at minimum).
Which presents a new problem in that they are currently about $1.505 million dollars over the salary cap’s upper limit. So even in that regard, there’s no real reason to use the IR, because this team needs to cut a few more players anyways. If the Pens assign Jarry and Zach Trotman to the AHL that will trim over $1.2 million from the cap. Those moves seem pretty obvious - though an injured player can’t be moved from NHL to AHL, so Jarry’s injury could complicate things for a bit.
With that in mind, the Pens might have to bite the bullet and demote a talented young player in Riikola or Zach Aston-Reese. Both of these players have the entry level maximum of a $925,000 cap hit and both players can be assigned to the AHL without passing through waivers. Should the Pens demote BOTH young players they will be looking at quite a bit of salary cap space to start the season.
Pittsburgh is in a good place with regards to the salary cap, so it shouldn’t be a major worry just a matter of how and when management wants to shuffle a few pieces to IR and/or Wilkes-Barre to put the finishing touches on training camp and get the team ready for the start of the 2018-19 regular season.