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Random thoughts: Where do the Penguins go after the Kapanen extension?

The Penguins’ puzzling offseason continues.

NHL: MAY 09 Playoffs Round 1 Game 4 - Rangers at Penguins Photo by Jeanine Leech/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The dust has settled. Or has it?

The free agent frenzy is slowing down, many of the premier names are off the market, and now several teams, the Pittsburgh Penguins included, are dealing with in-house matters, like signing restricted free agents to avoid the arbitration process.

The Penguins, just yesterday, announced the re-signing of winger Kasperi Kapanen to a two-year deal with an average annual value of $3.2 million.

With Kapanen back in the mix (at least for now), the Penguins have a lineup that is projected to look something like this:

An unofficial depth chart, as of July 21, 2022.
Depth chart via CapFriendly

CapFriendly also projects the Penguins as being over the salary cap by $480,175.

With all this said: where do the Penguins go from here? It’s a question that will be asked, probably every day, until training camp starts up in two months. General manager Ron Hextall, never one to really tip his hand, surely cannot be satisfied with that bottom-six depth, even if he has gone on record to praise the likes of Josh Archibald and other lower-line players.

That’s what makes the Kapanen extension, specifically the cap hit, all the more confusing to me. $3.2 million for a guy who was often demoted throughout last season? Sure, he has speed, but outside of that, what else is he bringing to the table? There’s no way he’s going to replicate his 16.2 shooting percentage from the 2021 season.

2021-22 was a season to forget for Kapanen, he knows this, we all know this. His shooting percentage last season was the worst in his professional career to date—just 8.5 percent, nowhere near his career rate of 11 percent.

Hextall and the Penguins’ brass are banking on a rebound campaign for the soon-to-be 26-year-old. And if that doesn’t come to fruition? Yikes.

Jason Zucker at $5.5 million, Brock McGinn at $2.75 million, and now Kapanen at $3.2 million. Nearly $12 million in cap space could have been used to acquire more effective players.

The allocation of funds to fill out the depth around the Penguins’ stars is cause for concern, but it’s obviously too early to hit the panic button just yet.

This random collection of thoughts is being typed up on July 21, 2022. Just like the Jeff Petry and John Marino trades, something could come out of left field at any moment. Something will have to give at some point simply because there’s no way the Penguins are opening the season with all those defensemen on the roster.

Maybe P.O Joseph gets packaged in a trade with Kapanen?

Who knows what other fantastical trade proposals everyone will conjure up between now and training camp, but if Hextall decides to stand pat with what he has now? The older stars on the league’s oldest team are going to have to do even more heavy lifting than maybe originally thought. Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Kris Letang are all generational talents, but they’re all on the wrong side of 30. Now, more than ever, if you’re looking to maximize this window, the stars need a supporting cast that can actually help win games. Otherwise, you might be left with something like this:

Where should the Penguins go from here? Should they actively shop a prospect like Joseph or a veteran with name value like Brian Dumoulin, if they aren’t already doing so? Could Kasperi Kapanen be signed and then traded? Are you satisfied with how the team looks right now? Sound off down below.