- For his career, when healthy, forward Drake Caggiula has proven he can be an impactful depth player for whatever team he’s been on. The key words there, though, are ’when healthy.’ Perhaps the most notable injury of Caggiula’s came last season, when the forward missed the final 64 games of the Buffalo Sabres’ season with a herniated disc in his neck. Recently, Caggiula had a chance to speak with Trib Live’s Seth Rorabaugh about his injury last season, his recovery, and his play this preseason. The forward mentioned that before his surgery in February, not only was he unable to play hockey, but his quality of life was severely impacted. However, after having surgery, relief was immediate and he was able to recover. Now, the 28 year old says he feels fully healthy. That much appears clear now, not just from Caggiula’s own words, but he has impressed in training camp as a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins, who he signed a one-year, two-way contract with this summer. In three intra-squad scrimmages, Caggiula has three goals, in addition to scoring the Penguins’ only goal of the day in today’s 3-1 loss to the Sabres.
- The Penguins are listing centers Jeff Carter and Teddy Blueger as day-to-day, relays Seth Rorabaugh of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Carter suffered an upper-body injury in an intrasquad scrimmage last weekend while Blueger was injured in a scrimmage on Tuesday. Meanwhile, prospect forward John Gruden and veteran blueliner Taylor Fedun are also listed as day-to-day with undisclosed ailments.
Undrafted Pittsburgh Penguins winger Drew O’Connor has done just about everything that could be expected of him at the AHL level, as the 24-year-old has 51 points in 53 career AHL games. O’Connor was also a college hockey star, scoring 59 points in 65 career NCAA games at Dartmouth. What’s eluded him so far in his young career, though, is consistent NHL game action, and consistent minutes with the Penguins may remain elusive early this season thanks to the pressures of the salary cap.
As Seth Rorabaugh of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review writes, O’Connor might find himself sent to AHL Wilkes-Barre Scranton to start the season not because he did not play well enough to earn a roster spot, but instead because of his $750K cap hit and due to the fact that he is exempt from waivers. The Penguins are currently tight up against the salary cap, and in order to remain cap compliant, the team may need to carry less than the maximum 23 players allowed on their active roster. As a result, that could leave O’Connor on the outside looking in even if he plays well enough to earn a depth role, because the team may prefer to send him down rather than place another player such as Ryan Poehling or Josh Archibald on waivers.
- Teddy Blueger left today’s practice with the Pittsburgh Penguins partway through and is now being evaluated for an upper-body injury. Blueger is an important part of the team’s forward depth, especially as Jeff Carter deals with an upper-body injury of his own. Ryan Poehling was skating as the third-line center in their absence.
- Jeff Petry has received a $5,000 fine for roughing in last night’s game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Detroit Red Wings. The Pittsburgh newcomer played more than every Penguin except Kris Letang, including nearly seven minutes on the powerplay. Despite the nine man-advantage opportunities, the Penguins lost 6-2, with Petry taking a frustration penalty when he punched the back of Jonatan Berggren’s head.
- The Penguins announced (Twitter link) that center Jeff Carter left today’s scrimmage early and is being evaluated for an upper-body injury. The 37-year-old had a strong performance last season with 45 points in 76 games while posting his best point-per-game rate since 2017-18 and losing him for any extended period would certainly be an early blow for Pittsburgh.
- A number of players have been officially activated off of injured-reserve today. Though many of these are not a surprise, some did come with question marks and in the wake of the recent injury updates around the league, particularly Sean Couturier of the Flyers, not everything can always be taken as a given. The Pittsburgh Penguins activated recently-signed forward Drake Caggiula (link). Moving out west, the Vancouver Canucks have activated forward Nils Hoglander and defenseman Tucker Poolman off of IR (link). In the desert, the Vegas Golden Knights activated forwards Brett Howden and Reilly Smith (link).
Tristan Jarry was in a bad spot after the 2020-21 season. His mistakes at crucial moments heavily contributed to the Penguins’ season-ending first-round loss to the New York Islanders, and there was speculation that offseason on whether the Penguins would go in a new direction in their crease. But last year Jarry issued a powerful response to those doubters, going 34-18-6 with a .919 save percentage in 58 games played. Jarry looked every bit like an elite goalie and ranked just outside the top five goalies in save percentage and goals-against-average.
While we didn’t get a chance to see Jarry play extended time in the Penguins’ playoff games, that hasn’t kept the Penguins from firmly believing in Jarry as their long-term solution in net. Jarry is set to be an unrestricted free agent next summer, though, so his contract status could possibly keep him from being a Penguin long-term. That being said, the Penguins are likely to make every effort to keep him in Pittsburgh. Speaking to the media today, GM Ron Hextall said (as relayed by Matt Vensel of the Pittsburgh Post-Tribune) that the team had begun extension talks with Jarry and is fully invested in retaining him. For a team that is intent on remaining competitive for the rest of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Kris Letang’s careers, it’s easy to see why they’d want to get a Jarry extension done as soon as possible.
When the Pittsburgh Penguins signed Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang to extensions this summer, they committed themselves to a “win-now” short-term competitive plan, focusing the energy and resources of their franchise into squeezing one last Stanley Cup victory out of their three franchise pillars. The face of the franchise, Sidney Crosby, has three years remaining on his current contract, and as things currently stand he’s not thinking beyond that point.
In an interview with Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman and Jeff Marek for their 32 Thoughts Podcast, Crosby was asked about his playing future and whether he’d like to play into his forties as Zdeno Chara has. Crosby responded that he wouldn’t, and added on that he’s “thinking about [the] three more years” remaining on his contract before considering the next step for his career. At 35 years old, Crosby isn’t “Sid the Kid” anymore, but he did score 84 points in 69 games last year and remains an elite player. But based on these comments, the Penguins will need to consider that Crosby may not be playing for the entirety of Malkin or Letang’s new extensions.
Now, for some other notes from across the NHL:
- Vancouver Canucks GM Patrik Allvin has been a busy man this summer, signing major contracts with J.T. Miller, Ilya Mikheyev, and Andrei Kuzmenko. And despite the fact that training camps are close, he may not be done. In a conversation with The Athletic’s Thomas Drance, Allvin stated that the team would still be looking to add to its current group of players, saying that there is enough “cap space, and roster spots, and contract slots” to be able to facilitate an addition. (subscription link) We’re certainly late into the offseason free agent market, but with the preseason waiver wire set to be active and a few free agents still remaining, it’s possible that the Canucks get a new face or two into the mix before they open their 2022-23 campaign.
- The St. Louis Blues have signed some major extensions recently, specifically with their two top young players: Robert Thomas and Jordan Kyrou. While the Blues are undoubtedly better off having signed those deals, they could come with a cost. As Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes, the byproduct of these extensions is that the team could find it difficult to match the sort of offer captain Ryan O’Reilly could receive on the open market. Since both O’Reilly and Vladimir Tarasenko will be unrestricted free agents next summer, the Blues seem to have made retaining their two franchise pillars a more difficult task with their recent moves.
Simon played in a career-high 72 games last season split between the Penguins and Ducks after he was included in the Rickard Rakell swap just before the trade deadline. He picked up three goals and ten assists in those contests while averaging a little over ten minutes a night, numbers that put him in line with plenty of fourth liners. For his career, he has 22 goals and 55 assists in 256 games, most of which came during a pair of stints with Pittsburgh.