The Pittsburgh Penguins entered Free Agent Frenzy 2021 exactly how they said they would.
General manager Ron Hextall publicly laid out his offseason plans by stating that his team were not going to be big-money players on day one. And that remained true.
The team’s “biggest” signing thus far is the addition of former Carolina Hurricane, Brock McGinn, a gritty bottom-six winger whose penalty-killing abilities and tenacious play will help fill the void left by Brandon Tanev’s departure.
After the dust settled on a wild first day of free agency, Hextall met with the media to discuss the signings and his outlook on the rest of the offseason.
He opened up his presser by detailing what McGinn will bring to the team:
Ron Hextall on Brock McGinn: "He plays a real inside game. Got really good energy, physical player. He plays the same way every night. We really valued the player, but we also valued the intangibles he brings on a nightly basis and into the locker room."— Pens Inside Scoop (@PensInsideScoop) July 28, 2021
Again, McGinn isn’t the flashiest player, but that’s not what Hextall and co. brought him in for. He fills a need, albeit one I don’t personally see a ton of value in, but management clearly wanted someone on the lower lines to bring physicality and energy.
Ron Hextall: "We don't have a lot of cap space. We would like to tweak some things and we're going to continue to monitor the free agent market. I was a little surprised at how the day went today with the flat cap and poor financial year."— Pens Inside Scoop (@PensInsideScoop) July 28, 2021
As things stand now, the Penguins currently have an estimated $3.6 million in salary cap space. Judging by Hextall’s tone of voice and the slightly ambiguous answers he gave, don’t be surprised if/when more player(s) are moved to create more space.
Hextall said it's yet to be determined whether Simon will be in Pittsburgh or Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. "We’ll see what training camp dictates. We’ve got some kids that’ll be fighting for some spots, and Dom will be in the mix."— Pens Inside Scoop (@PensInsideScoop) July 28, 2021
Penguins Twitter was over the moon to see Simon return to the black-and-gold. Hextall’s comments seem to indicate that Simon’s spot in the lineup is no lock. At worst, Simon is adequate organizational forward depth. No need to lose your head over this signing.
Ron Hextall on Cody Ceci: "We wanted to re-sign Cody, but you saw the numbers, there was no real way for us to make that fit. If we can do something to improve ourselves and fit under the cap, we’ll look at it with every position, and that’s no different with our defense."— Pens Inside Scoop (@PensInsideScoop) July 28, 2021
Good for Cody Ceci to cash in on what was a bounce-back season for the 27-year-old blueliner. No way Pittsburgh could match what the Edmonton Oilers gave him.
Ron Hextall on the status of restricted free agents Zach Aston-Reese and Radim Zohorna: "Zohorna, I would expect to get done in the next little while. I anticipate getting something done with Zach in the near future hopefully as well."— Pens Inside Scoop (@PensInsideScoop) July 28, 2021
Zach Aston-Reese’s contract may be a bit trickier to navigate because he now has arbitration rights. My best estimated guess is that he receives a two-year deal at $1.8 million per season.
Radim Zohorna, on the other hand, has no real leverage for his contract negotiation. Expect to see a two-way deal for under a million dollars.
#Pens Hextall: Jarry and DeSmith did a good job for us last year. We anticipate them both being back.— Josh Getzoff (@PensJG) July 28, 2021
This second quote on the Tristan Jarry—Casey DeSmith tandem is sure to go over well with the fanbase. Sure, Hextall “anticipates” them being back, but he also said that he would look at “every position” to make his club the most competitive it can be. Could Jarry and DeSmith return? Absolutely. Would it make the Penguins a better team? Probably not.
Hextall was asked today when discussions would resume with Malkin, Letang and Rust. "We'll get to those in August here. Figure out a plan and we'll get to those. So I would anticipate in the next little while." https://t.co/CLO3WVJG73— Pens Inside Scoop (@PensInsideScoop) July 28, 2021
The negotiations surrounding Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang, and Bryan Rust are soon to be on the docket. Sidney Crosby and his longtime teammates have all expressed the desire to finish their careers in Pittsburgh. Add in the surefire support from the likes of Mario Lemieux, and it becomes a matter of when, not if, for #58 and #71.
Bryan Rust’s next contract becomes, maybe, the biggest question mark of the three players here. Our own Robbie Naugle tackled this subject a little while back.
And finally, I’ll leave you all with this:
When asked if he had any comment about the Marc-Andre Fleury trade, Hextall said, "No, I don't have a lot. I think Marc-Andre has been a terrific goalie for a long, long time. I've got the ultimate respect for him, and obviously people around here speak very highly of him."— Pens Inside Scoop (@PensInsideScoop) July 28, 2021
The dream is still alive... even if it may be on life support.