The Penguins have already made a pair of trades this offseason to free up some cap space. Defenseman Olli Maatta was sent to Chicago for winger Dominik Kahun to free up more than $3MM in room while winger Phil Kessel was shipped to Arizona for forward Alex Galchenyuk and defense prospect Pierre-Olivier Joseph which freed up roughly $2MM more. Despite that, GM Jim Rutherford may still have to make another cost-cutting trade in the weeks to come.
Right now, Pittsburgh has just under $1.6MM in cap room on a projected 21-man roster for next season, per CapFriendly. They have a handful of restricted free agents to re-sign as well. That list is highlighted by defenseman Marcus Pettersson who made a sizable impact after being acquired early in the season, averaging nearly 18 minutes a night with the Penguins while putting up 19 points in 57 games. Even though he isn’t arbitration-eligible, the 23-year-old should be able to command the rest of Pittsburgh’s cap space on his own.
Up front, there are pair of forwards that need new deals in center Zach Aston-Reese (who filed for arbitration) and winger Teddy Bleuger (who didn’t). Aston-Reese has done enough to earn a small raise on the $925K he made last season after putting up 17 points In just 43 games with Pittsburgh so his new deal will take up a big portion of their remaining cap room. Blueger, meanwhile, had 10 points in 28 games but the fact he spent so much time in the minors will likely keep his AAV closer to the league minimum of $700K.
Even if the Penguins carry a roster that’s smaller than the maximum of 23 players (which will be tricky considering none of the players projected to make the team are waiver-exempt), they will have some difficulty getting Pettersson and Aston-Reese signed while staying below the Upper Limit of $81.5MM. Accordingly, expect Rutherford to be looking to make a small move to give the team some extra flexibility to re-sign their remaining free agents and leave some wiggle room for in-season movement and recalls. There has been some change already in Pittsburgh and there may still be a bit more to come.