Report: Hextall looking to make a trade?
Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman talks a little about the Penguins in his latest 32 Thoughts podcast:
Here is a transcript of the Penguin-related note on Ron Hextall.
Jeff Marek: Are there any unquoted “latest” quotes around penguins?
Elliotte Friedman: Ron Hextall hates trade rumors, I don’t feel like getting beat up by Ron Hextall. But I hear he’s looking into things.
Marek: I don’t think that should surprise anyone.
Friedman: I’m going to have Felix Potvin live at my house next week in case Hextall hears this and doesn’t like it… I just heard it. [that] he’s looking at things… Pittsburgh, I think they’re just looking around, I think Hextall is trying to figure out what’s out there, and I think he’s looking into some things.
After a seven-game losing streak earlier in the season, as Marek said, it makes a lot of sense that Hextall would be sniffing around and seeing what might be around the league to help the team. The current 5-1-1 stretch the Penguins have gone through the previous seven could ease the urgency of Hextall’s position to make a change. A few weeks ago it looked like it would take an outside jolt to get the season back on track, but fortunately for the team, it’s been able to hit its own stride lately.
Making a change during the season could prove very difficult. At some point last week, 19 teams distributed the league were on LTIR and exceeding the upper limit of the salary cap. The Penguins were one of those teams for the first five weeks of the season until Teddy Blueger bounced back and the team met the cap, albeit with virtually no cap space.
With so many teams short on cap space, there haven’t been many NHL-level trades of late; so far only the desperate Vancouver Canucks have come through with separate offers to add Jack Studnicka and Ethan Bear in relatively minor transactions. This lack of activity can be seen due to the financial landscape and also the early season mentality of teams waiting to see how they start and what position they can find themselves in to try and make a run at a playoff spot (or not) .
In a sense, Friedman’s report could be seen as typical due diligence. As general manager, Hextall’s job is to stay on top of what’s going on around the league and what pieces might be in play for all the other teams.
But the penguins also have a persistent situation that needs solving. Kasperi Kapanen has been a consistent healthy scratch in six of the last seven games. Since the Nov. 5 game, he has only been dressed for one game on Nov. 12, where he had to play only because of the injury situation (and only logged 7:19 of ice time in that contest) . Kapanen has fallen to the fringes of the lineup after a somewhat encouraging start to the season has given way to the notorious bullpen.
Kapanen is a healthy and expensive scratch to carry at his $3.2 million salary, under contract for this season and next. It remains to be seen what, if any, market value he has at this point, but it’s certainly a case where the manager needs to stay proactive and figure out what he wants to do with that piece of the puzzle moving forward.
Defensively, the Pens could be looking at what they should do in response to the slump and demotion of Brian Dumoulin, although the internal promotions of Marcus Pettersson and PO Joseph have gone quite well and also helped alleviate any movement of ’emergency to boost. the defense for this situation.
Overall, Hextall and the Pens are in the situation they are in due to off-season decisions what did they do Unlike Evan Rodrigues in 2021 or Danton Heinen in 2022, they opted to qualify and pay a premium to keep Kapanen. It was instantly an extremely questionable move made even worse by a bad start. It remains to be seen what, if anything, Hextall could do at this point to change or rectify this situation. But there’s still a long way to go until the trade deadline, and an opportunity to make a deal could arise at some point.
While the market isn’t buzzing with activity right now, it’s interesting nationally with some whispers that the Pens are staying active at least with communicating with other NHL teams to see what might be out there. Friedman didn’t explicitly or specifically talk about Kapanen himself, but given how the season has started, there aren’t many other areas that make sense about what Pittsburgh could be looking to do or try to change right now.
Where there’s smoke (trade talks) there’s not always fire (a looming trade), but NHL trade negotiations are often a lengthy process that can take several months for managers to informally hammer out ideas and take the temperature of what they and other teams are willing or able to do work before a deal is finalized. There’s no guarantee a trade will happen in the very near future, but at least it looks like Hextall is staying busy and doing some work to find possibilities down the road.
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