Stay or Go: Offseason survey of decisions will the Pens have to make

This summer could be the big one of change for the Pittsburgh Penguins. A record was set this season in the NHL for the first time three players had all been teammates for 16 seasons (with those players, of course, being Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang). And their ties run even deeper- Malkin was drafted by the organization almost 18 years ago in the summer of 2004, with Crosby and Letang joining the Pens a year after that.

Now, Malkin and Letang are set to become free agents. Unlike the prior management regime, not a lot of information has come out of Pittsburgh. General manager Ron Hextall has acknowledged some talks have taken place with both player’s camps, they’ve said all the right and requisite statements about “wanting to have them back if possible” and all that good stuff, yet it has never felt like momentum for either side has been prioritized.

Beyond that, Pittsburgh has a lot of other decisions to make too. Bryan Rust had a career-year at the right time and is a free agent at age 30, prime to cash in and make a healthy raise over the $ 3.5 million annual salary he had. Newcomer Rickard Rakell was a nice add when he was healthy, would he be a player the team might try to keep?

Then there’s figuring out if Evan Rodrigues is the scorer from the first half of the season, or the depth player from the second half, and what an appropriate salary would be to go along with the role. Rodrigues could go to the free market as well, though.

Danton Heinen got plucked off the scrap heap last summer by the Pens and he rewarded them giving him the opportunity with an 18-goal regular season (and three more in the playoffs). Heinen would require a qualifying offer to retain rights, and then he has an option for arbitration, which may negatively skew how the Pens want to handle him. Then again, it might not be such a big deal either, since most cases can be resolved prior to the arbitration award.

Another player who will need a qualifying offer and has arbitration rights is Kasperi Kapanen. That probably shouldn’t be as difficult a decision after his admitted terrible season.

In net will be interesting with Casey DeSmith’s contact ending after suffering a core muscle injury at the end of two seasons in a row. Unrelated, but did you know Marc-Andre Fleury will also be a free agent this summer?

From there, the Pens have a few minor free agents to go: Juuso Riikola’s deal is finally up, Brian Boyle (and his newly surgically repaired knee) will also be a free agent, as will a player Pittsburgh didn’t use in Nathan Beaulieu. These players typically get cycled through fairly quickly and will likely be moving on, if they’re even offered NHL contracts somewhere at all for 2022-23.

The good news for the Penguins is for the first time since probably the salary cap was put into place, they actually have salary cap space in the form of almost $ 29 million according to CapFriendly. That number won’t stay high forever, since re-signing (or replacing) Malkin, Letang and Rust will take big bites out of that money available.

Now, it’s survey time for the unrestricted free agents.


If finances meant that only 2 of Malkin, Letang, Rust could be re-signed by the Penguins, which players * should * be the priority?

  • 32%

    Malkin + Letang

    (279 votes)

  • 11%

    Malkin + Rust

    (100 votes)

  • 55%

    Letang + Rust

    (473 votes)

852 votes total

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If the Penguins could only sign one of these deals (so the other two choices you don’t make here will end up leaving), which one would be the best for the team?

  • 15%

    Malkin at $ 7.5 million for 3 years

    (126 votes)

  • 30%

    Rust $ 6.0 million for 6 years

    (256 votes)

  • 54%

    Letang $ 8.0 million for 4 years

    (456 votes)

838 votes total

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Assuming that the Penguins DID sign all of these deals, which would be the worst for the team?

  • 50%

    Malkin at $ 7.5 million for 3 years

    (417 votes)

  • 32%

    Rust $ 6.0 million for 6 years

    (269 votes)

  • 17%

    Letang $ 8.0 million for 4 years

    (142 votes)

828 votes total

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At the end of the day, which of the big 3 free agents do you think will actually be back playing for the Penguins next season?

  • 27%

    Malkin + Letang stay, Rust leaves

    (227 votes)

  • 15%

    Letang + Rust stay, Malkin leaves

    (125 votes)

  • 8%

    Malkin + Rust stay, Letang leaves

    (71 votes)

817 votes total

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Which scenario would be worst outcome for the Penguins?

  • 12%

    They extend Kris Letang for a raise over his current salary

    (95 votes)

  • 32%

    They extend Letang for an extremely long contract (4-5 years)

    (253 votes)

  • 55%

    The Penguins and Letang can’t agree on contract, part ways this summer

    (436 votes)

784 votes total

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What is the worst contract the Penguins have on the books for salary, term remaining, value?

  • 21%

    Jason Zucker ($ 5.5m cap hit, 1 more season)

    (168 votes)

  • 25%

    Mike Matheson ($ 4.875m hit, 4 more years)

    (203 votes)

  • 38%

    Marcus Pettersson ($ 4.025m, 3 years)

    (298 votes)

  • 14%

    Brock McGinn ($ 2.75m, 3 years)

    (114 votes)

783 votes total

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It might be nice to have many of the options below, but what is the number one priority for the Penguins this off-season to address?

  • 7%

    Adding more skilled players

    (57 votes)

  • 5%

    Adding more speed

    (39 votes)

  • 31%

    Adding more NHL caliber youth

    (235 votes)

  • 13%

    Adding more size/toughness

    (101 votes)

  • 16%

    Addressing goaltending

    (122 votes)

  • 20%

    Switching out at least 2 defensemen in the top-6 (who have contracts now)

    (153 votes)

  • 1%

    Get a new head coach

    (12 votes)

742 votes total

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Assume the Penguins do not re-sign Bryan Rust or Rickard Rakell for this question. Which player should be the priority to re-sign?

  • 44%

    Evan Rodrigues

    (329 votes)

  • 9%

    Kasperi Kapanen

    (70 votes)

  • 46%

    Danton Heinen

    (342 votes)

741 votes total

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When it comes to Brian Dumoulin the Penguins should:

  • 5%

    Start contract extension talks this summer

    (44 votes)

  • 43%

    For now just plan on keeping him for 2022-23, see how next season plays out

    (318 votes)

  • 39%

    Shop him passively on trade market, to make him available depending on interest

    (293 votes)

  • 11%

    Shop him aggressively and plan on trading him, nearly regardless of trade value

    (84 votes)

739 votes total

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If the Penguins wanted their best chance to compete for a Stanley Cup next season, the best option presented below is:

  • 15%

    Prioritize keeping both Malkin and Letang without much worry about money/term they want (aka give them what it takes to sign) … Deal with other supporting pieces with a lower priority and whatever is left over.

    (109 votes)

  • 50%

    Focus on keeping Letang, practically no matter what (aka, be prepared to compromise to what he wants) … Malkin is more replaceable if favorable terms can’t be reached.

    (357 votes)

  • 8%

    Prioritize keeping Malkin and be prepared to move on from Letang if he wants too much money or too many years.

    (62 votes)

  • 24%

    Completely move on, close the door on the old core (71, 58) almost regardless of what contracts Malkin/Letang will accept. Use that salary space to target new and different (younger) players

    (174 votes)

702 votes total

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