NHL Rumor Mill – March 31, 2023
NHL Rumor Mill – March 31, 2023
Is it time for the Penguins to clean house? Will the Red Wings pursue scorers in the offseason? Check out the latest in today’s NHL Rumor Mill.
TIME FOR THE PENGUINS TO CLEAN HOUSE?
PITTSBURGH HOCKEY NOW: That’s what Dan Kingerski believes despite the fact the Penguins could make their 17th consecutive playoff appearance. While he doesn’t rule out a possible playoff upset, he felt that they must shake things up after this season’s uneven performance.
Kingerski believes head coach Mike Sullivan’s job is safe but the Penguins need a retooling of the veteran players surrounding Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang. “No one should be safe, including Jake Guentzel, Bryan Rust and Jeff Petry.” However, he acknowledged Jeff Carter and his $3.125 million cap hit will be back next season
General manager Ron Hextall and his staff should be questioned by their bosses over the rebuilding side of Hextall’s plan. Kingerski noted he hasn’t had the same success signing NCAA free agents as his predecessor, wondered if they’ll land any European free agents, and why their AHL affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton is worse now than they were.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: This isn’t a trade rumor but I think the Penguins will be worth watching in the offseason. There’s no doubt that they have not improved compared to last season. They’re the oldest team in the league and have played like it on too many nights this season.
Making the playoffs should save Hextall’s job but that’s not a certainty with the Florida Panthers nipping at the Penguins’ heels. He’s been feeling the heat from fans and pundits (like Kingerski) over the course of this season. That should be concerning to the club’s owners.
I agree with Kingerski that Sullivan should be back and that the supporting cast around Crosby, Malkin and Letang must improve, especially the goaltending and their blueline depth.
Whether Guentzel is part of those changes remains to be seen. Carter only has a year left on his contract but the 38-year-old center is coming to the end of his playing days. However, his full no-movement clause should ensure he plays out that season in Pittsburgh.
WILL THE RED WINGS PURSUE SCORERS THIS OFFSEASON?
THE ATHLETIC: Max Bultman recently suggested the Detroit Red Wings should bolster their offense after trading away Jakub Vrana and Tyler Bertuzzi.
Finding it won’t be easy in this summer’s free-agent market. Patrick Kane and Vladimir Tarasenko are both on the wrong side of 30, as are second-tier scorers like Alex Killorn and Jason Zucker. Michael Bunting, 27, will be seeking a big-money, long-term contract.
Another immediate fix would be an offseason trade similar to the Ottawa Senators acquiring Alex DeBrincat last summer. However, it’s too early right now to determine which players could be available.
Bultman also believes they must add a more reliable No. 2 goaltender. Possible short-term UFA options could include Semyon Varlamov or Alex Stalock.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Wings have plenty of projected salary cap space (over $30 million) with all their core players under contract for next season. They also have five picks in the first two rounds of this year’s draft plus a deep pool of promising players within their system to draw upon as trade bait during the offseason.
Whether general manager Steve Yzerman will make a significant signing or a bold trade to help his club remains to be seen. Nevertheless, like the Penguins, they could be worth monitoring this summer.