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2020-21 Season In Review: Ron Hextall

Ron Hextall’s first year as Pittsburgh Penguins general manager was mostly quiet with a significant addition at the trade deadline that made a huge impact.

2018 NHL Draft - Rounds 2-7 Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Name: Ron Hextall

Position: General Manager

Birthdate: May 3, 1964

Birthplace: Brandon, Canada

Date hired: February 9, 2021

Playing career: Philadelphia Flyers, Quebec Nordiques, New York Islanders

2020-21 Season Record: 32-11-2 (after hiring), first place in East Division

2020-21 Playoff Result: Lost in First Round to New York Islanders in six games

Story Of The Season

The fact that Ron Hextall is even the general manager of the Pittsburgh Penguins is easily the wildest development of the 2020-21 season for the team. When Jim Rutherford resigned for unknown reasons just seven games into the season it created an opening in the front office. The Penguins turned to Hextall (and Brian Burke as president of Hockey Operations) to take over. The Penguins ended up going 32-11-2 in the regular season after the hiring of Hextall and Burke and ended up winning the East Division. Hextall did not do much to change the season, but his trade for Jeff Carter was a major difference maker in the stretch run of the regular season.

Roster Moves

— Claimed Mark Friedman on waivers from Philadelphia Flyers

— Traded third-round pick in 2022 and fourth-round pick in 2023 to the Los Angeles Kings forJeff Carter

Ideal 2020-21

An ideal year for Hextall is going to be keeping things in perspective and understanding why the Penguins did not advance in the playoffs, It was not because the team needs a massive overhaul or to get rid of core players. The team overall played well enough to win. It simply lost because it lost the goaltending matchup.

This is not a team that needs a major shake up or change. It needs a few tweaks, it needs to correct the right players in the expansion draft, and it needs to take a major look at upgrading the goalie position.

The other ideal element: Not going crazy in trying to get grit and physical play for the sake of grit and physical play and at the expense of speed and skill.

Questions To Ponder

There are a couple of significant questions for Hextall in his first offseason as Penguins general manager.

  1. Who to protect in the expansion draft? This is going to be the first big decision. It is a pretty safe assumption that the Penguins are going to go with seven forwards, three defenders, and a goalie.

There are a few players that should be locks: Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Jake Guentzel, Bryan Rust, Kris Letang, Brian Dumoulin.

Also a couple of players that seem very likely: Kasperi Kapanen and Jared McCann.

From there, it gets a little more complicated. Is Carter worth a protection spot? (I say yes). If he is, that leaves players like Zach Aston-Reese, Brandon Tanev, Teddy Blueger, Jason Zucker exposed.

On defense, with John Marino and Pierre-Olivier Joseph exempt for the expansion draft, is the third defense spot guaranteed to be Marcus Pettersson? Or do the Penguins dangle him out there with the hope that maybe his contract gets taken to create some salary cap space?

2. What sort of contracts to give Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang? Both players are entering the final year of their current contracts, and both seem to have a desire to finish their careers in Pittsburgh with the Penguins (and the owner and captain also seem to have that desire). How much money and how many years is a good investment for them at this stage of their careers?

3. Do you bring in another goalie to push Tristan Jarry? And if so, which goalie? Goaltending was obviously the big issue for the Penguins in the playoffs, not only running into a hot goalie in New York Islanders future superstar netminder Ilya Sorokin, but also Jarry struggling in the Penguins’ net. He could bounce back, but another proven goalie could definitely be a strong addition. The top options in free agency, Phillip Grubauer and Tuukka Rask, are going to be way out of the Penguins’ price range within the salary cap. Do you go for the second tier of goalies, like a Chris Driedger or Frederik Andersen? Or explore a trade? Big question here.


How would you rate Ron Hextall’s job performance this season?

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