With ten days left until the 2022 trade deadline, Hextall met with media members on Friday, March 11, to discuss what actions the Penguins might take to shore up the team at the deadline.
His apparent outlook might best be summed up from this quote about searching for depth scoring:
“I feel good. I don’t feel like I have to do anything, but if we can get better, we’re certainly going to try.”
As Seth Rorabaugh pointed out in the Tribune Review, that’s similar to what Hextall told media before the 2021 trade deadline. On April 7 of last year, five days before the Penguins acquired Jeff Carter from the L.A. Kings:
I like our team. I like our depth... I like where we’re at right now.
You can listen to the full Hextall press conference here, courtesy of National Hockey Now.
Trade deadline talk
If we are in for a deadline move like 2021’s Carter deal, it seems likely the trade will be for a bottom-six— or at least bottom-nine— forward. Earlier in the year, the Penguins’ secondary scoring carried them through stretches of time without each of their four top forwards. But since February 1, these four (Sidney Crosby, Bryan Rust, Jake Guentzel and Evgeni Malkin) have accounted for over two thirds of the team’s goal total.
Hextall stressed that the secondary scoring solution could already exist within the organization.
“They’re certainly capable of it... I think when you’re not scoring, you need to dig in a little bit more and get to the net,” he said. “I think we can do a better job with that. That said, we have confidence that if we can’t do something, that we do have enough scoring.”
The other option is to reach to another team for a bottom-six forward, the availability of which depends on an as-of-yet quiet trade market.
“It’s something that we’d like to add, but with the cap situation and asset-wise and fit-wise, it’s all got to fit together,” Hextall said. “So we’ll continue to look.”
Hextall indicated the Penguins would wait to see how the trade market develops before making any moves with assets like their 2022 first-round draft pick.
“We’ve talked to some teams, and I have no idea whether it’s going to flush out here... but if everything aligns, and we can add someone who helps us for the push here, we’ll definitely do it,” Hextall said.
Hextall indicated he wouldn’t be focusing on size in the trade market, citing the six-game series against the New York Islanders as an example of the Penguins already being able to handle themselves against a hard-hitting team.
“You can look and say, “Well, we probably deserve to win that series,’” Hextall said. “And it’s like we played against a big, heavy, hard team that we played through and played very well. So I like the way we play.”
Hextall touched on the Penguins’ three recent free-agent acquisitions of Taylor Gauthier, a 20-year-old goaltender with the WHL Portland Winterhawks; Jordan Frasca, a 20-year-old forward with the OHL Kingston Frontenacs; and Corey Andonovski, a 22-year-old forward from NCAA Princeton.
The Penguins have agreed to terms with college free agent forward Corey Andonovski to a two-year, entry-level contract.— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) March 10, 2022
The contract will begin during the 2022.23 season. Andonovski will report to the @WBSPenguins on an amateur tryout contract.
Details: https://t.co/JFGuARRevm pic.twitter.com/otOgCGoO7g
“There was a lot of teams after (Andonovski), and it’s a tough market to get people, but we’ve had success in Pittsburgh with college free agents,” Hextall said. “I think when you've had the number of draft picks we’ve had without first-round picks the past few years, you look into that market a little bit more, and sometimes you have a better chance because your prospect pool isn’t stacked.”
No major updates were shared on the contract situations of pending unrestricted free agents Malkin, Letang and Rust. Hextall listed Malkin and Letang as the priorities, and noted contract talks could be paused at the deadline to avoid distractions during the postseason.
Frank Seravalli reported on Thursday the Penguins “appear to be far apart on term” in contract discussions with Kris Letang.