It is impossible to overstate just how damaging Ron Hextall’s reign of error was for the Pittsburgh Penguins, and even after his departure things somehow keep looking worse.
The latest example came on Friday when reports out of Sweden indicated that forward Filip Hallander has signed a five-year contract to return closer to home.
That likely ends his tenure with the Penguins after playing just three games in the NHL.
He was set to be a restricted free agent this summer.
Hallander’s journey with the Penguins is a gigantic circle of failure, and this is just the final gut punch for it all.
He was originally a second-round pick by the Penguins in 2018, and eventually used as a trade chip to acquire Kasperi Kapanen from the Toronto Maple Leafs. He made his way back to Pittsburgh in July of 2021 when Hextall, in advance of the Seattle Kraken expansion draft, traded Jared McCann for him in a deal that seemed awful at the time.
While Hallander spent two forgettable years toiling around in Wilkes-Barre, McCann broke out and became the player the Penguins always hoped he would be and has scored 67 goals over the past two years, including 40 goals this season. The Penguins could have used that sort of impact player on their roster.
I am not going to lose any sleep over Hallander going to Sweden, and neither should you. He was not likely to ever be a long-term answer in Pittsburgh, and McCann probably would not have had the chance to score 40 goals in a different role with the Penguins this season.
But the whole thing just points to how poorly constructed the Penguins roster was under Hextall and how he just seemed to have no idea what he was doing. Whether Hallander returned next season or not it would not have made the trade look any better. But the fact you do not even have that to hang some hope on just adds to the mess.
There was no need to lose McCann, whether it be in the expansion draft or in a trade.
Not only did Hextall lose him, he lost him for a fringe prospect that the Penguins already had and traded for a different disappointing player that Hextall re-signed to an absurd contract that looked like a mistake the second it was signed.
It was just another unforced error in a series of unforced errors over two-and-a-half brutal years of incompetence.
Now McCann is Seattle’s biggest offensive star, has helped the Kraken make the playoffs in just their second year, and the Penguins have absolutely nothing to show for it.