The Pittsburgh Penguins are guaranteed to lose a player to the Seattle Kraken 2021 expansion draft. No matter how viciously a GM turned the chessboard, a player was on the way, except that the Pittsburgh Penguins are one of the few teams to have lost two NHL players.
And therein lies the problem.
After getting through a terrifying ESPN debut, the thought was inevitable. The money saved did not match the players who lost the penguins, Brandon Tanev and Jared McCann.
https://pittsburghhockeynow.com/pittsburgh-pengu…-expansion-draft/Penguins GM Ron Hextall had two holes to fill before the NHL expansion draft: a lower six RW and a right-back. After the draft there would inevitably be a third open pitch, but since McCann was traded and Tanev lost to the expansion, there are now four open pitches.
But instead of scooping one of their biggest salaries that could free adequate resources, the Penguins lost a pair of wingers with unique skills when Hextall McCann traded for potential Filip Hallander and a seventh-round player to Toronto to keep him from losing to Seattle, and then indeed lost winger Brandon Tanev to Seattle.
Two players are out but there is insufficient money to replace them and mend the holes.
Well, I’ve been with this game long enough not to say that Hextall made a mistake or that he made up his own mind. I’ve only done this in the past to watch a GM take a two-rail bench shot and get out of the predicament.
In the words of Billy Crystal, “He’s only mostly dead!” (Princess Bride Reference. You don’t happen to have six fingers on your right hand?)
Would the Pittsburgh Penguins have been better off keeping McCann and exposing him and Tanev and losing only one? Filip Hallander should be as good as some of my colleagues hope. PHN places him as the fourth, perhaps fifth best prospect of the penguins.
Worse, the McCann replacement cost for an LW / C combo that can score 20 goals is way more than McCann’s salary of $ 2.94 million.
Taken together, the Penguins may find savings on Tanev’s $ 3.5 million AAV to add to the need for a center six winger and quarter liner, but now they need two center sixs and a quarter liner. However, they only cleared $ 6.5 million between McCann and Tanev.
It’s too early to tell if Hextall has considered himself and sacrificed too much …
Penguin replacement costs
What does a 25 year old goalscorer cost with 20 goals in the open market? Using the rough formula every 10 points, you earn $ 1 million, McCann’s replacement costs for 2021-22 are around $ 4 million. That’s a $ 1 million spend compared to the savings.
A fourth line center with everything resembling Tanev’s energy and physicality is likely to cost $ 2 million. Replacing him for less may be unthinkable. Perhaps in-depth strikers Sam Lafferty or Anthony Angelo can fill the role on short notice, but that will be a significant step down for a line that often has the unenviable role of guarding the opponent’s top lines.
This is not a job for newbies, greenhorns or NHL frontier players. That role belongs to an NHL player with high-end defensive skills, and the “fourth” row of penguins is one of the main reasons they are among the front runners on goal differential (+40, fifth overall).
Maybe a CMU graduate with supercomputers can tell me exactly how many wins the Penguins fourth row got, but a dynamic fourth row makes a big difference. Ask the New York Islanders.
So we can guess that the replacement cost for Tanev and McCann is between $ 5 million and $ 6 million, bringing the Penguins’ “savings” to about $ 1 million – and that’s IF Hextall finds players who, too also fit.
Sure, McCann was a goose egg in the playoffs. Perhaps this trend would have continued. Maybe it wouldn’t. Marian Hossa certainly struggled in the playoffs for many years before he found the secret to scoring beyond Game 82.
But with McCann’s versatility of playing a sniper winger or an in-charge center, getting into the playoffs was easier.
A deal could save the penguins even though their hole is deeper than it was a week ago.
It’s too early to tell if Hextall outwitted himself. But it’s not unthinkable.