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Random Penguins thoughts: From Barrasso and the Hall of Fame, to Kyle Dubas’ first offseason

Just touching base on a few different things here.

1991 Stanley Cup Finals - Game 4: Pittsburgh Penguins v Minnesota North Stars

I could not decide on or focus on one idea this week for an entire article on it so here is a random hodgepodge of thoughts on some Penguins and NHL-related items for you to discuss.

1. Tom Barrasso Goes Into The Hall Of Fame

There are two sports discussions that I have become wildly indifferent to in recent years — Award arguments and Hall of Fame discussions.

Not because I don’t care about them or think they do not matter, but because there is so much noise surrounding all of them, and so many different definitions and so many different criteria from voter to voter and person to person that it just becomes a maddening exercise of screaming over each other into the abyss.

The Hockey Hall of Fame is the one I have the most issue with because nobody really knows what happens behind those doors. There is so much cloak and dagger crap happening, so much secrecy and so many random admissions that it is becoming harder and harder to take it seriously.

Take this year’s class that includes Tom Barrasso and Mike Vernon.

This just reinforces my long held belief that there are two paths into the Hockey Hall Of Fame. Either you are a legendary, slam-dunk case. Or you played at a reasonably high level for a long period of time on teams that won some championships.

I understand Barrasso and Vernon played in a different era from today’s goalies, with different styles, different games, and COMPLETELY different expectations for what good numbers would look like. But do their careers, even when looked at in the context of their era, scream HALL OF FAME to you?

The argument for Barrasso was always, “well, you just had to see him play behind that team and understand the style” or “you had to see the big saves he did make.”

Which is .... fine. I am not trying to downplay his career or ability or what he contributed to a couple of Stanley Cup winning teams. HIs career definitely had amazing moments, both individually and from a team perspective.

But was he ever considered the best goalies of his era? Or consistently a top-five goalie? Was he somebody that, at the time, the average hockey fan would have looked at and said “THAT guy is a legend of the game.”

Same questions for Vernon.

I am not sure on any of that.

To me, a Hall of Famer is not somebody that you need to watch closely every single night to understand their greatness or brilliance. A Hall of Famer should be one of two things: Somebody whose brilliance was evident in an obvious way even if you do not have the luxury of seeing them every single night, or somebody that contributed some sort of profound and significant change to the game.

The one thing I do like about this class is that we will actually see Barrasso have to speak, and who knows what sort of stuff will come out of that speech.

2. Still hoping for that Mikael Granlund buyout

The NHL’s buyout window is officially open, and so far things are very quiet on the Mikael Granlund front.

And that is not totally unexpected.

For one, they have some time. They do not need to rush into it, and perhaps there is an opportunity to make some sort of trade that minimizes future salary cap issues. Though, I am not entirely optimistic on that. But it still doesn’t hurt to explore your options until you run out of them or runout of time.

The buyout still seems like the most sensible option though because it would not require the Penguins to give up anything else in terms of a sweetener, and it would probably maximize the cap savings over the next two years when it really matters most.

I would rather get the $4-plus million in savings this year and next year and take the $1 million hit the two years after that than have to give up an asset in a trade, or potentially retain more salary over the next two years to make that contract go away.

3. Jake Guentzel is the underrated storyline this offseason

I feel like we are kind of overlooking this one a bit, aren’t we?

He is obviously one of the Penguins’ best players and, in my mind, a top-tier winger in the NHL. He is also Sidney Crosby’s preferred winger and has an undeniable chemistry with him that can produce brilliant hockey.

But he is also in the final year of his contract and already going to be 29 years old when his next deal begins.

How much are you paying him beyond this season? How confident are you in his ability to age gracefully and maintain his level of production? Is there a trade idea that you would consider for him?

The Penguins obviously have more pressing and immediate needs this offseason, but they are going to get taken care of. They will get a goalie. They will sign some depth players. But this one seems like quite the elephant in the room, does it not?

I would need to be blown away in a trade offer, and I wouldn’t necessarily be looking for a quantity over quality deal, either. I would be looking at some kind of a pure hockey trade where you fill another position of weakness with a significant player (Guentzel for Devon Toews was the suggestion I came up with as a hypothetical earlier this season). But even that would be a significant decision that would probably rock the boat quite a bit.

He is eligible for a new extension in a couple of weeks.

Either way, I would not want to have pending free agency hanging over his 2023-24 season.

4. I keep going back and forth on Jason Zucker

On one hand, Zucker was one of the Penguins’ best players this season and one of the few constants that they could count on to bring it every night and produce.

It was also a taste of what he could have been capable of all along in Pittsburgh if he had simply had some better injury luck.

There is a compelling argument to want to bring him back.

But the injury history is what it is, and that concern will always linger, especially as he keeps getting into his 30s. You also have to take into account aging curves for production. It is one thing to sign an all-time great or a superstar like Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin or Kris Letang deep into their 30s. They are starting from a much higher place and even if/when they decline, it is still going to keep them at a top-line level.

Players like Zucker, however, do not necessarily have that level to lose. A couple of months ago I would have had Zucker in the “must re-sign” category. But now, and especially after getting an idea of what he might cost in a thin free agent class, I think I would rather utilize that salary cap space in another area and on another player.