The Jansen Harkins experiment in Pittsburgh might have reached its conclusion. The Penguins waived the forward today, after picking him up off the waiver wire 17 days ago.
Placed on NHL waivers: Jansen Harkins (PIT), Zack MacEwen (OTT) and Radim Simek (SJ).— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) October 19, 2023
Harkins, 26, was drafted and with the Jets up until a couple of weeks ago. He made a solid first impression in the preseason for Pittsburgh with his speed and forechecking but stumbled out of the gates in the regular season. Harkins did not record a point in the first four games of the season.
His stint in Pittsburgh may have been effectively ended when he took a minor penalty last night in the second period against Detroit. The Red Wings scored and extended their stranglehold in the game to a 4-1 lead on that power play, and the Pens’ comeback effort fell short at 4-3 before empty net goals clinched the game.
As noted in the recap, after the penalty Harkins was mostly benched in the third period, taking only a few shifts and having his spot filled by Matt Nieto.
Beyond the penalty, it wasn’t a sustainable start for Harkins, whose 34.5% expected goals percentage ranks lowest on the team among forwards. His Corsi (38.6%) and scoring chance number (33%) were also among the lowest.
Pittsburgh is only carrying 12 forwards right now due to the salary cap, and if Harkins clears or is claimed when tomorrow, they will have the space to call-up a player from the minors like Alex Nylander, Radim Zohorna or Colin White to fill the spot. They should have time to do that and get the new player to St. Louis for the next game on Saturday.
Harkins’ career is at a cross-roads, he’s been unable to find a niche in Winnipeg or Pittsburgh at the NHL level, though he has proven to be a very productive player at the AHL level. If Winnipeg claims him back and no other team puts in for him, the Jets could outright send him immediately to Manitoba of the AHL. If he clears, the Pens would be free to send him off their NHL roster and salary cap by assigning him to Wilkes-Barre.
This type of move to quickly address the bottom-six group and find players who could contribute was mentioned by Pens GM Kyle Dubas on the TNT broadcast during intermission last night.
Kyle Dubas stopped by to chat with the crew about how things are going for him after his move to Pittsburgh ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/yXoXUpXGlp— NHLonTNT (@NHL_On_TNT) October 19, 2023
“When we set off through the off-season, we wanted to get back to (team toughness) and address that in the bottom six,” Dubas said. “I don’t know if we’re quite there yet, and that falls on me, but we’re giving guy a chance here to show they can do that and win opportunities and win those jobs.”
Harkins got the opportunity, but it didn’t get off to a great start. Dubas and the Pens have moved quickly to change it up and will look to give another player the chance as they look to jump-start their under-performing lower lines.
Tomorrow afternoon should answer what happens with Harkins and who is up next to get the next chance, but as to be expected, Dubas is showing that he’s not waiting around too long before pulling some strings and changing up the mix of his team.