April 18: Locker clean out day
Sadly it’s very early this year and the last chance for formal media availability from the players before their off-season begins. Coach Mike Sullivan and general manager Jim Rutherford are also expected to address the media this afternoon.
May 10-26: IIHF World Championship (Slovakia)
As of yet, we have not heard any official announcements from individual Penguin players about the annual tournament.
It’s a good bet that Evgeni Malkin will play, he never misses an opportunity to represent Russia.
Sidney Crosby last played for Canada at the WC during the Pens’ last first round exit in 2015, winning there and becoming a member of the exclusive Triple Gold club. If healthy and he wants to play a few more weeks of hockey, he certainly could be involved this year as well.
It wouldn’t be shocking if some of the better Pens’ players (Patric Hornqvist, Nick Bjugstad, Brian Dumoulin, Dominik Simon, Olli Maatta, Jake Guentzel) ended up representing their respective countries, though health may over-ride decisions and we may learn more during the upcoming final team media availability.
May 27-June 1: NHL Scouting Combine (Buffalo)
Hey, the Pens have a first round pick! It’s exact location will be decided based on all the teams that get eliminated in the first round, but it’s likely to be about 20th overall — give or take a spot or two. At the combine they’ll get to see all the prospects go through testing and finalize their board.
June 1st: Deadline to sign CHL draft picks
The Pens have to sign 2017 second round pick Zachary Lauzon by this date. Based off the quotes that director of player development Scott Young gave to the PG back in March, it sounds like the organization DOES expect the defenseman (who missed the entire 2018-19 season with injury) to be with the Pens and re-start his career.
“He’s getting ready,” Young said. “I actually just talked to him a couple days ago. He’s just had some unfortunate luck with coming back from injury, getting injured in the gym, things like that.
“It’s been tough on him. He’s in good spirits right now. And he plans on being ready and on the ice in plenty of time to prepare for development camp.”
“He’s obviously been through a rough stretch, but he has our full support,” Young said. “We stand by him. Hopefully he can turn around the injury bug. It’s just been some tough luck for him.”
Lauzon has only played 30 total games in the last two seasons since being drafted due to various injuries. If he’s able to have any sort of meaningful pro career it would be a pretty surprising turn of events at this point.
June 21-22: NHL Entry Draft (Vancouver)
Pittsburgh currently has:
- 1st round pick (as mentioned should be about 20th overall)
- 4th rounder from Buffalo (from Conor Sheary trade, should be about 100th overall)
- 5th round pick (about 144th overall)
- two 7th round picks (their own, and Vegas’ acquired in the Brassard/Reaves trade. Should be about 207th overall, plus wherever Vegas finishes which will be 207-217 range)
Not a lot of great picks there, and the pressure to hit on that first round pick will be huge.
June 25: RFA Qualifying Offers are due by 5 p.m
Roster players who must be given a qualifying offer are forwards Zach Aston-Reese and Teddy Blueger as well as defenseman Marcus Pettersson. This is just a formality and expected to happen in all three cases. The players can then either accept the one year offer, or continue to negotiate with the Pens over the summer. It shouldn’t be terribly difficult to get all three back for next season.
Elsewhere in the organization the team will have to make offers if they wish to retain the rights of forwards Adam Johnson, Joseph Blandisi, Joseph Crammarossa and defensemen Juuso Riikola, Jeff Taylor, Blake Siebenaler and Macoy Erkamps.
One would think Johnson and Riikola would be the most likely to be qualified from this second batch of names, though in Riikola’s case a return to Finland might make the most sense personally and professionally.
June 27-30 (unconfirmed): Penguins Development Camp (UPMC Lemieux)
Habs EOTP put this well for the summer camp that typically happens now the week after the draft:
The development camp is the first chance where we get to see the latest draft class as well as the only time we get to see NCAA-eligible prospects. Forty-plus players take part in the four-day camp that includes on-ice and off-ice exercises, physical and nutritional education, as well as scrimmages.
June 30: Last day to exclusive rights to pending unrestricted free agents
The Pens’ roster free agents this year are forwards Matt Cullen and Garrett Wilson and defensemen Chad Ruhwedel and Zach Trotman. It seems unlikely for whatever various reasons that any will return.
Down the line, the organization will also shed the contracts of forwards Ben Sexton, Jimmy Hayes, Thomas Di Pauli and defensemen Chris Wideman, Kevin Czuczman, Ethan Prow and Chris Summers. Goalie John Muse’s contract also expires.
Of them, Prow stands out as having a great AHL season, so it will be interesting to see if the team acts fast to keep him in the fold for next year. Overall though, it’s a lot more quantity than quality for unrestricted free agents, which is a good thing in the sense not much to be missed is leaving, yet bad in the aspect it doesn’t free up any cap space either.
July 1, 12 p.m. EDT: NHL Free Agency
Who will be this year’s Jack Johnson or Matt Hunwick?
Well, hopefully a better signing than that, but at this time the Pens would need to clear space via trades before they could dream of adding anything. A quick look at capfriendly shows an estimated $79.0 million of cap hits on the board for 17 likely roster players so far next season, with the upper limit of the salary cap expected to be roughly in the $83.5 million range for 2019-20.
August 15th: Deadline to sign NCAA draft picks
Capfriendly says the Pens still hold the rights to defenseman Joe Masonius until this summer, but he did turn pro and play in the ECHL this year for South Carolina so I’m guessing that his time in the Pittsburgh organization is already completed.
August 15, 2020 already looms larger as the deadline to sign 2016-second round pick Kasper Bjorkqvist.
September 6-9?: Prospects challenge (Buffalo) [unconfirmed]
For the past four years, the Pens have bussed their rookies up to Buffalo to take part in a prospects challenge. I haven’t yet seen this confirmed yet but there’s no reason not to expect it as of now.
Other Items of Note
- The biggest off-season item would have been getting a new contract for Jake Guentzel, whose entry level deal expired at the end of 2018-19. However that’s already been accomplished with the Pens getting Guentzel to put pen to paper on a five year, $30 million contract extension that begins next season.
- As of July 1 goalie Matt Murray (signed for 2019-20 for $3.75 million) can be extended for 2020-21 and beyond. Most are expecting this to be a priority, as whether it’s been Murray or his predecessor the Pens always have re-signed their starting goalie a full year early.
- The minor league affiliation with Wilkes-Barre is still very much up in the air as we wait to see the future of Pittsburgh’s AHL home. Pensburgh has been all over this and we’ll keep you updated on the resolution as soon as it breaks.
- 2019-20 is the last year of Justin Schultz’s contract and that will be interesting to see how that plays out if the team negotiates or pushes a decision down the line.
- Trades are the big unknown hanging in the air and likely the major way the 2019-20 Pens team will get reshaped. 18 of the 20 players who dressed for Game 4 this week are under contract next year but most expect a different looking team by October.