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Penguins make qualifying offer to Kasperi Kapanen, but not Danton Heinen

Pittsburgh gives qualifying offers to Kapanen, P-O Joseph and Kasper Bjorkqvist

NHL: MAY 13 Playoffs Round 1 Game 6 - Rangers at Penguins Photo by Jeanine Leech/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Penguins have issued their decisions on qualifying offers for free agents prior to today’s deadline.

The Pens have given offers to Kasperi Kapanen, Pierre-Olivier Joseph and Kasper Bjorkqvist. The Pens also announced a two-way contract with Alex Nylander to avoid free agency for one-year at NHL minimum of $750,000.

The team did not give a QO to Danton Heinen, which will make him an impending free agent on Wednesday. The issue itself wasn’t that the qualifying offer amount — $1.1 million, Heinen’s prior salary — was too high, but for the inflationary technique of what would come next in the process.

Players like Kapanen and Heinen, the ability to elect for salary arbitration (which unsigned players in their position almost always do) makes for a tough decision about whether or not to issue a qualifying offer. NHL teams must accept the salary arbitration of anything less than $4.5 million.

If anything, the surprise isn’t that the team didn’t qualify Heinen, it would be that they did qualify Kapanen. Kapanen slumped mightily with just four goals in his last 56 games, was often demoted from lines and benched during games and even a healthy scratch last season. His career has shown a lot of variability from alternating an impressive year with a dreadful one, and with his talent and skill, the hopes are clearly still high that Kapanen can continue what has become a typical yo-yo to turn a bad 2021-22 season into a quality 2022-23 campaign.

As far as Heinen goes, teams are allowed to negotiate a contract prior to the arbitration hearing and award, and that often is the case in the majority of restricted free agencies.

Heinen was not given a QO, but had a good season and may still be a candidate to return to the Pens. In the past, Tyler Kennedy and Evan Rodrigues have not been qualified by Pittsburgh, but still have signed as unrestricted free agents to return.

While the Pens’ focus is still largely with Evgeni Malkin and a resolution there, they still have a number of open spots in their lineup to sign or find a replacement from impending free agents like Kapanen, Heinen and their unrestricted free agents in Rodrigues and Rickard Rakell.

Along with Heinen, a host of other minor players were not tendered qualifying offers and will be unrestricted free agents. They include Justin Almeida, Jordy Bellerive, Jan Drozg, Nicolas Almeri, Cam Lee, Will Reilly and Alex D’Orio.

Free agency begins at 12 noon eastern time this Wednesday.