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Ron Hextall: We’ll look at every position to make ourselves more competitive

The Penguins’ GM spoke to the media as the first day of NHL free agency concluded.

2021 NHL Draft - Round One
Director of Player Personnel Chris Pryor (L) and general manager Ron Hextall (R) of the Pittsburgh Penguins attend the first round of the 2021 NHL Entry Draft at PPG Paints Arena on July 23, 2021.
Photo by Ryan Yorgen/NHLI via Getty Images

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.

In addition to this move, the team brought back beloved forward, Dominik Simon, on a one-year deal, as well as announced the signing of collegiate netminder, Filip Lindberg.

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:

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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:

The dream is still alive... even if it may be on life support.