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NHL Free Agency Day: Penguins’ cap space situation, look to fill needs as silly season begins

The NHL’s open market kicks off today, the Penguins figure to be active in re-shaping their team

Pittsburgh Penguins v Columbus Blue Jackets Photo by Jason Mowry/Getty Images

Today at noon eastern, the market opens up and teams can start signing free agents. Here’s how the Penguins look going into today.

Cap space

Per CapFriendly, Pittsburgh currently has $15.2 million in available space under the league’s $83.5 million upper limit to round out their team.

Free agents

Unless re-signed shortly before the window happens, the following notable Penguins will be free to seek a contract anywhere: Tristan Jarry, Jason Zucker, Brian Dumoulin, Danton Heinen, Dmitry Kulikov, Nick Bonino. Ryan Poehling was not given a qualifying offer and will join these free agents.

Roster situation

To see what the Pens might do, it’s helpful to have an idea of where they’re at. Here’s a rough working depth chart for the team at the moment.

Jake Guentzel - Sidney Crosby - Rickard Rakell
Reilly Smith - Evgeni Malkin - Bryan Rust
Mikael Granlund - ? - ?
? - Jeff Carter - ?

? / Kris Letang
Marcus Pettersson / Jeff Petry
P.O. Joseph / Jan Rutta
Chad Ruhwedel

Casey DeSmith

What to watch for

Starting goalie: All eyes have been and will continue to be on how Kyle Dubas chooses to address the goalie situation for his first off-season in Pittsburgh. The Pens have reportedly had some contract talks with Tristan Jarry, but it’s only seemed lukewarm or cursory at best to try and figure out what he wants his next contract to be, and if the team even has interest in keeping him. Time is running out and a deal has never seemed imminent or a huge priority for either side, could they be drifting apart and looking for new situations? One way or another, the Pens will need to sign or trade for a starting caliber goalie— ideally in the coming hours or days. This area has to be near or at the very top of the priority list at this point.

Moving out salary: The draft and buyout window have come and gone, and the Penguins still have some veterans on big contracts around. Dubas mentioned seeking creative ways to dump players who weren’t performing, soon it will be time to put that in action. While a lot of focus has been around the status of Mikael Granlund, there’s been more reporting and whispers about the Pens looking to clear up Jeff Petry and his contract as well via a trade. In order to revamp the team, Dubas is going to have to figure out a way to pare away some of these bad vetran player/contracts to open up more flexibility and set a new path.

Bottom six forwards: This is one area Dubas should be able to make sweeping and instant changes. He detailed a plan to not go after high-end free agents, so we should expect some short-term deals for NHL caliber forwards who will help shape the team for next year on the lower lines. These moves won’t catch a lot of glory, but should be exciting to see how Dubas looks to shape the Pens with upgrades from what they have recently had in the lineup.

Lowkey defensive makeover: If the Pens do move Petry, in an effort to get a little younger, and with Dumoulin’s impending departure seemingly all but guaranteed, the 2023-24 Pns defense corps would suddenly start to look a lot different than it did last year. Dubas should have some money to play with and has plenty of extra options like Ty Smith (restricted free agent) to consider plugging in. Pittsburgh could likely use a quality player to partner with Letang, though it might be difficult with limited trade ammunition to land a big fish like Calgary’s Noah Hanifin, the team should still be in the market to improve and switch up the defense more than perhaps was expected.