Although the Penguins have minimal cap space and two players still in need of new contracts in defenseman Marcus Pettersson and center Zach Aston-Reese, GM Jim Rutherford told DKPittsburghSports’ Dave Molinari that he doesn’t foresee needing to make a small cap-saving move to get in compliance with the $81.5MM Upper Limit for next season. Instead, he indicated that their plan is to carry less than the maximum 23 skaters, a strategy that would certainly carry some risk if short-term injuries were to arise. That plan also suggests that their intention is to sign each RFA to a one-year contract as anything longer would certainly carry a larger cap hit. Per CapFriendly, Pittsburgh has just over $840K in cap space with a 22-man roster but some of those players on their current roster could be in the minors to start next season.
More from Pittsburgh:
- In that same interview with Molinari, Rutherford indicated that there have been no discussions yet regarding a potential contract extension for goalie Matt Murray. He’s entering the final year of his contract with a $3.75MM AAV and as an RFA with arbitration rights next summer, it’s going to cost considerably more to keep him around. The GM also believes that they won’t need to trade fellow netminder Tristan Jarry. While he’s no longer waiver exempt, Rutherford feels that with most (if not all) of the backup slots around the league now filled, there’s much less of a risk to exposing him to the waiver wire.
- If the Penguins do indeed decide to make a move to free up cap space to give themselves some additional flexibility, Matt Vensel of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette suggests that winger Bryan Rust, center Nick Bjugstad, and defenseman Jack Johnson are the likeliest trade candidates. Rust was inconsistent last season and with a $3.5MM AAV, they could look to save there. Bjugstad failed to come close to his 2017-18 output so his $4.1MM price tag is a bit on the high side though they’d likely prefer to see what he can do after a full training camp under his belt. Johnson’s cost is the cheapest at $3.25MM per season but with four years remaining, Vensel acknowledged that Pittsburgh would need to provide an incentive to be able to move his contract.