The Pittsburgh Penguins are headed for a busy offseason, but won’t be taking advantage of the upcoming buyout period. Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that the team will not buyout Matt Hunwick or any other player when the first window opens on June 15th.
Last year saw 11 players bought out during the first window and this year could see much of the same. We’ve already heard reports that the San Jose Sharks and Buffalo Sabres are expected to buy out Paul Martin and Matt Moulson, while other candidates like Brandon Dubinsky, Troy Brouwer and Marion Gaborik remain. The Penguins though won’t cast Hunwick aside so quickly, despite his struggles this season to fit in on the blue line.
Hunwick played in just 42 regular season games and was held out of the postseason for the Penguins, even after they moved Ian Cole out midseason. That fact is troubling given that the 33-year old has two years left at $2.25MM. The team could bury him in the minors and save $1.025MM in cap space, but a buyout would have saved even more and allowed them to pay less actual salary. A Hunwick buyout would mean a $708K salary for the next four seasons, but result in just a $458K cap hit for 2018-19. That would afford the team some more space this summer to go after a big fish in free agency, with the drawback of needing some cap space (but not a lot) down the road.
Other than Hunwick though, it doesn’t come as much of a surprise that the Penguins will avoid buyouts. The team isn’t locked into many long-term contracts, and the ones they do have are for star players. Patric Hornqvist’s recent extension could turn poorly over the next few years, but they won’t have to deal with that until he shows signs of a real decline. Instead, the Penguins will try to fix their tight cap situation through other means like trade. Phil Kessel, another big-money contract, could be available for the right price but would never be bought out following his 92-point season. We’re expected to know more about the upper limit of next year’s salary cap around June 19th, at which point GM Jim Rutherford will know exactly how much room he has to work with.