Best trades (and moves) not made; Turn off again

Best trades (and moves) not made; Turn off again

There was a lot of speculation after last season about what moves Ron Hextall might make to improve the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Would he try to break the blue line deadlock by trading Marcus Pettersson?

Would he try to open up some much-needed salary cap space by going up against Jason Zucker and his $5.5 million cap hit?

Would he try to upgrade his backup goalie by allowing Casey DeSmith to leave via free agency and buy a replacement?

Turns out, while Hextall had a busy offseason, the only move he made on any of those players was re-signing DeSmith.

And while some of Hextall’s personnel decisions, like holding on to Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang and Kasperi Kapanen, are perfectly reasonable fodder for debate, there’s not much reason so far this season to suggest he got it wrong keeping Pettersson, Zucker and DeSmith.

While 15 games is obviously a small sample, all three have been positive forces for the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Pettersson has been their most consistent defenseman and has been a capable replacement for Brian Dumoulin alongside Kris Letang on the No. 1 pairing after Dumoulin struggled in the early weeks of the season.

Zucker has finally looked like the guy the Penguins thought they were acquiring from Minnesota nearly three years ago, perhaps because he’s finally healthy. He works hard, is a relentless foresighter and has four goals and nine assists in 13 games, good for fourth in the team scoring race.

DeSmith, meanwhile, has given the Penguins a strong goaltender at a time when Tristan Jarry isn’t living up to expectations. It doesn’t really matter if an injury or other health issue is a big factor in Jarry’s recent troubles; what matters is that DeSmith has filled the gap and helped the Penguins escape their recent 0-6-1 slump.

While Hextall likely wouldn’t have received much criticism if he had parted ways with any of those three over the summer, he now deserves credit for keeping them close.

Another power failure

Yes, Jeff Petry scored a man-advantage goal during the Penguins’ 5-4 loss in Montreal on Saturday, but it was about as far from a classic power-play goal as possible.

Petry didn’t dominate Canadiens goaltender Jake Allen with a slap shot from the top of the circle or sneak a shot past him due to heavy traffic generated by his teammates around the crease.

Instead, Petry got below the goal line and fired the puck toward the front of the net, where it beat Canadiens forward Jake Evans and got past Allen.

Of course, that goal counted as much as a goal otherwise would have, but it should hardly be interpreted as proof that the Penguins’ power play is functioning normally.

The fact is, even with Petry’s goal, the Penguins are just 2-for-19 with the extra man over the last seven games. That dropped his conversion rate for the season to 19.2 percent, good for 22nd in the NHL.

Does anyone really believe that 21 teams have power plays that should be more productive than the Penguins?

The Pittsburgh Penguins play with the extra man continues to make the difference. For all the wrong reasons.

The return of Kapanen

Kapanen, a healthy scratch for the previous two games after going scoreless in the previous seven, regained a spot in the lineup Saturday when the fourth-line left wing Philip Hallander could not play due to illness.

However, he had a less than prominent role in the game.

Kapanen logged just 10 shifts and seven minutes and 19 seconds of ice time. He was credited with a shot on goal and a counter shot.

Best trades (and moves) not made;  Turn off again

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