The Penguins placed three players on waivers today, including Alex Nylander.
Waivers Oct 5https://t.co/dxblIaQW6w— CapFriendly (@CapFriendly) October 5, 2023
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Mathias Emilio Pettersen
Andreas Johnsson and Joona Koppanen hitting the waiver wire is hardly surprising at this point, nor is it for the usage of Nylander in recent days of his usage and placement in the full team practices. Nylander started camp hot and got an early look with Evgeni Malkin but was unable to carry that momentum into finding a spot. That development is undoubtedly coupled by the even stronger camp performance of the man who finds himself in the spot these days in Radim Zohorna.
The Pens will find out tomorrow afternoon if all players clear, at which time they could be assigned to the AHL.
One player who went through that process last week was Ty Smith. Smith was a surprise early waiving and did not find any takers for his services and remains with the Pens’ organization. Elliotte Friedman used his contacts to dig into why some in the league thought he passed safely.
Like many of you, I was surprised the likes of Bernard-Docker and Ty Smith were not claimed on waivers. One executive made a strong point: that teams would have known during the summer these players were on the bubble and/or available. Unless something drastically changed during training camp, you’re not going to change your thought process on these players. A few had a similar opinion on Smith. It can’t be easy for him, going from the all-rookie team in 2021 to 43 points in his first two seasons to where he is now. But they stressed they needed to see more competitiveness from him. If that happens, there will be opportunity.
Smith, along with Rem Pitlick, was brought back into the NHL fold for a quick game to help the club get through pre-season. Since they cleared last week, the team was able to send them back down to Wilkes today, as was Valtteri Puustinen and Sam Poulin (the latter two not require waivers at this time).
The Penguins have assigned the following players to the @WBSPenguins:— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) October 5, 2023
• Avery Hayes (forward)
• Rem Pitlick (forward)
• Sam Poulin (forward)
• Valtteri Puustinen (forward)
• Xavier Ouellet (defenseman)
• Ty Smith (defenseman)
Training camp roster: https://t.co/WjUolJZk0s
If no one claims Nylander, Pittsburgh could still keep him on the NHL roster, though this move is typically a precursor to moving him down to the AHL.
Whether Zohorna is placed on waivers (or continuing to avoid them) might be the angle to track. Interestingly enough, today in practice it was Drew O’Connor skating in the top-six, which could open the door for the Pens considering keeping players like Austin Wagner and Jansen Harkins, which might lead to Zohorna getting shuffled off like Nylander.
Either way you slice or dice it, assuming health, the math boils down to Pittsburgh likely only having two forward spots available on the opening roster to decide between Zohorna, Wagner, Harkins, Colin White and Vinnie Hinostroza.
That could lead the picture developing into something close to these two different setups for opening night:
Rakell - Crosby - Rust
Smith - Malkin - Zohorna
O’Connor - Eller - Nieto
Harkins/Wagner - Acciari - Carter
O’Connor - Crosby - Rust
Smith - Malkin - Rakell
Harkins/Wagner/Zohorna - Eller - Nieto
Harkins/Wagner/Zohorna - Acciari - Carter
(With maybe even Colin White or Vinnie Hinostroza subbing in at any point where Harkins/Wagner was written, if you’re feeling extra spicy)