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Tyler Bozak would be a great short-term patch for the Penguins

Pittsburgh needs a center, free agent Tyler Bozak needs a team. Connect the dots!

NHL: DEC 29 Penguins at Blues Photo by Keith Gillett/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman weighed in on a couple various NHL loose ends, one of which involved the Penguins:

Finally, a couple clubs indicated they were expecting Tyler Bozak’s decision on where to play in the next few days. The 764-game veteran has a couple of options. Wonder if one is Pittsburgh, with both Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin injured to start the year.

At this point the 35-year old Bozak would be an optimum short-term patch for the Pens, who will be without Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin to start the season.

Since Bozak “has a couple of options” as Friedman put it, he’s probably not coming in for absolute dirt cheap, he could well be in the $1-2 million range. The financial situation is in a gray area, some limbo if you will for Pittsburgh.

While they don’t have much cap space, the way Ron Hextall talked about Malkin this week leads one to believe he will be missing at least 10 games and four weeks of the season, which means he could be eligible for long term injured reserve. It can’t be emphasized enough what LTIR does mean and doesn’t mean (please, brush up here), but in essence and in a simple tone, it would allow the Pens to replace Malkin while he is out and exceed the upper limit of the salary cap.

The issue, as Hextall has also pointed out, is that Malkin is expected to be back, so the team will have to be cap compliant at some point. That could be a “later problem”, especially since with the Pens it’s completely possible that some other player might need to go on LTIR by the time Malkin is back. It’s also conceivable a trade could be made to give access to more salary space as well, though that is a concept that is easier said than done in the flat cap world of the NHL today.

At this point. Hextall’s focus should be to make the Pens as strong as he can. The loss of Crosby and Malkin present huge and irreplaceable holes in the lineup. The top centers on the team are now Jeff Carter, Teddy Blueger and then a host of, well, stuff. There’s the aging Brian Boyle (on a tryout). There’s Evan Rodrigues (who isn’t really an NHL center), and other potential warm bodies that could also moonlight in the spot.

Adding a player like Tyler Bozak looks like a very good idea!

Bozak wouldn’t set the world on fire, but he would be a solid, real life NHL center. The Pens could badly use that, even at full health. The financial considerations are an issue, but often times in matter of the salary cap the phrase to remember is “where there’s a will, there’s a way” to figure it out in a situation like this for a relatively low amount and a one year contract.

That “will” also applies to Bozak, who would have to want to come to Pittsburgh. Given his age, family situation, possible desire to play in a certain market, that might not be in the cards for him.

However, for a traditional contending team with a need at his position and opportunity to play a lot, Bozak is not going to do better than what the Pens could offer in that regard. If trying to chase down another Stanley Cup is high on his list, a fit in Pittsburgh is really easy to see those dots get connected. Pretty soon we will see if they do.