It’s 12 days until the NHL season, so you know what that means.
Well, if you don’t, it means that waivers are now in effect and teams can send down players to the AHL after using them. Usually that’s not a huge move on the opening day of waivers and teams wait to see how camp plays out, but the Penguins decided to zig when most of the league decides to zag today by putting five player on waivers - including Ty Smith.
Smith, famously (or now is it infamously?) traded for John Marino last summer played great last pre-season, but was sent to the minor leagues mostly because of salary cap issues and his lack of a waiver status. He would appear in nine NHL games as a call-up due to injuries.
Pitlick was acquired in the massive transaction that sent Erik Karlsson to Pittsburgh. He has been on waivers before, and never figured into Pens’ camp as a major piece. With his $1.1 million salary, the team could benefit by keeping players cheaper to the salary cap. He had requested a trade from Montreal and they moved him along, but his fourth NHL team didn’t find much of a use for him at this level either.
Taylor Fedun has served as the Wilkes-Barre captain, no major shock to see him hit the waiver wire. Ditto veteran Xavier Ouellet, who hasn’t played in the NHL since the 2020-21 season. Jonathan Gruden has looked decent enough as a lower line option but has a limited ceiling.
Dropping Smith now at this point is the most shocking one. At this time of the year, very few teams have the roster and cap space to give anything up via a trade to acquire unestablished players. A majority of players who get claimed on waivers are often sent back to the waiver wire at some point in the season, so it’s no guarantee that Smith has written his final chapter with the Pens.
But it does show a failure to launch for an important young player. The Pens don’t need a left side defender, and surprisingly enough depth defenders like Chad Ruhwedel and Mark Friedman have found ways to surpass a former high pick like Smith.
The timing of doing it on the first day raises eyebrows. It gives Smith a chance to catch on someone else, if a team wants to take a flyer on him. But it was something that didn’t have to be done now, which goes to show what direction that Kyle Dubas and company want to go in — and maybe how much faith (or lack thereof) that they had in Smith changing their minds.
Training camp cuts are inevitable, but can’t say I had the Pens dumping Pitlick and Smith on the very first possible chance they had to send them down. Never a dull moment with this team, now we’ll see tomorrow if either are still with the organization.
Update: the team also announced the following cuts to the roster that do not require wivers:
The Pittsburgh Penguins have reduced their training camp roster to 37 players, it was announced today by President of Hockey Operations and General Manager Kyle Dubas.
The following players have been assigned to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s training camp in the American Hockey League:
Forward Corey Andonovski
Forward Avery Hayes
Forward Marc Johnstone
Forward Austin Rueschhoff
Defenseman Isaac Belliveau
Defenseman Justin Lee
Defenseman Dmitri Samorukov
Defenseman Jack St. Ivany
Goaltender Joel Blomqvist
After waivers are announced tomorrow, the group could move down to 32 if anyone waived today clears and is re-assigned to Wilkes.
The Pens are expected to keep 21 players plus the injured Jake Guentzel when camp breaks for the regular season.