Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang are the most important decisions the Pittsburgh Penguins are facing this offseason.
What to do with Tristan Jarry and the goaltending situation for both the short-term and long-term are also fairly significant.
But those are not the only big decisions general manager Ron Hextall and the team’s front office have to deal with.
There is also the matter of the two main restricted free agents, forwards Danton Heinen and Kasperi Kapanen and what should be done with them. Will they be tendered qualifying offers? Traded? Signed to extensions? And what would be the best course of action with all of them?
Let’s start with Heinen.
He made just $1.1 million this past season and the Penguins probably got their money’s worth on that. His goal scoring was streaky and came in bunches, which is to be expected for a bottom-six winger. At the end of the day he ended up scoring 18 goals and 33 total points in 76 games while also posting solid defensive metrics. He did all of that while averaging just about 12 minutes of ice-time per game. On a per minute basis, he was one of the Penguins’ more productive 5-on-5 players. Go back to the offseason and tell yourself that the Penguins are going to get that level of production from him on that contract and you probably would have taken it.
A qualifying would be $1.1 million (equal to his 2021-22 salary). Is that worth doing? I am not sure you are going to find a better player on the open market for a better price than you will ultimately get Heinen at, and he does not really have any meaningful trade value as an RFA. I also am not sure that he has anymore upside than what he has shown. What you see with him at this point is what you are going to get.
Kapanen is the the wild card here.
The Penguins made a huge investment in him in terms of draft and trade assets, and is by far the superior talent between the two players. Based on preseason expectations, he was a significant disappointment when compared to Heinen, even if their numbers ended up being mostly similar.
Kapanen spent most of the season residing in head coach Mike Sullivan’s doghouse, consistently getting demoted from the top-six and even finding himself as a healthy scratch. Despite that, he still had his moments where he looked like a player that could make a meaningful impact (especially late in the season and in the playoffs). His talent is obvious, as he has a good shot, has game-changing speed, and can beat defenders one-on-one when he actually tries to use his speed and talent instead of pulling up at the top of the face off circle and circling back. Of the two RFA’s, he is the one that would still seemingly have the most upside. If he puts it all together, you have a hell of a player. But how long do you keep waiting for that to happen? At some point what you see is what you get.
Because his base salary for the 2021-22 season was only $880,000, he also carries a very small qualifying offer for this season.
Both players have arbitration rights.
Given the production, qualifying offers, potential for arbitration, and the fact that letting them go would create two more openings that need to be filled this offseason, what would be your approach to this situation this offseason?
What should the Penguins do with Danton Heinen and Kasperi Kapanen?
This poll is closed
Qualifying Heinen, non-qualify Kapanen
Qualify Kapanen, non-qualify Heinen
Do not qualify either