CRANBERRY — Ron Hextall knows he’ll have to make up about $1.5 million from the Pittsburgh Penguins’ salary to get under the NHL salary cap.
He knows there are two ways to accomplish this.
He’ll probably make a trade or two, perhaps one of the nine NHL-caliber defensemen currently on the training camp roster.
But there is a catch.
Or he could assign Ty Smith and Drew O’Connor to the Penguins’ farm team in Wilkes-Barre, as either of them could clear waivers and cut their salary combined, leaving the Penguins under the $82.5 million cap hit for 2022-23.
Except it’s not as easy as it sounds.
Explains why When discussing the Pittsburgh Penguins’ capital situation with reporters on Friday, Hextall said, “We have some tough decisions to make.”
Of course, it is not as easy as it seems, but he can spend his salary by doing one or more trades.
Depending on how one projects, about half of the NHL’s 32 teams are over the cap or under $1 million. This means that in the next few weeks, many clubs will want to move players and the buyer’s market will create everything, but it will remove any advantage for teams that want to move workers.
“There are a lot of teams at the top (of the cap),” Hextall said. “I guess you’d be surprised what some teams are going to do. Obviously we are in this situation. … In terms of wanting to take money, there are only a few takers, so it’s a tough market.
Deciding which defenseman to part with in either the trade or the American Hockey League may not be an easy call
“I really like the mix we have on[defense],” Hextall said, “between puck-movers and skill guys and kind of defensive backs. “We don’t know exactly where we’re going right now. We definitely have some ideas, but we’ve got some tough decisions for us.
Another difficulty could be deciding what to do with O’Connor and/or Smith, who had strong performances in camp and forced management to stay on the major league roster.
Hextall allowed that it’s “definitely an option” to down those two, but quickly added, “We want to put the best team we can on the ice on opening night, so if they’re a part of it, we’ll keep it.” Try to find a way (to keep them).
It hasn’t been decided exactly which forwards and defensemen will be in uniform against Arizona on Oct. 13, but barring injury, Tristan Jarry and Casey DeSmith are keys to forming their goaltending lineup.
Hextall confirmed that he has held contract talks, has a cap hit of $3.5 million and will be an unrestricted free agent next July, but indicated that neither side is pushing to reach an agreement anytime soon.
“There is no urgency from either side, but we will continue to talk and do something,” Hextall said. “I don’t expect to talk when the season starts, but who knows?”
Jarry bounced back from a late series slump against the New York Islanders in the 2021 playoffs, but missed all but Game 1 of this spring’s opening-round series against the New York Rangers. Foot injury.
The Rangers’ victory extended the Pittsburgh Penguins’ franchise-high playoff losing streak to five series, but that didn’t stop Hextall from re-signing Kris Letang, Evgeni Malkin, Bryan Rust and Rickard Rakell to shake up the Patriots’ core. They were free agents this summer.
“Every year is a new year,” Hextall said. “Well, we’ve lost in the playoffs the last two years since I’ve been here. We felt like we could definitely win both series, but I think that’s what gives you hope that it’s still there.
“These guys are still very good players. … We felt this team could still run and do a lot of damage. … I’m really excited about where we’re at right now as a team.
“It’s hard to win in this league. Winning in the playoffs is tough. Winning the Stanley Cup is tough. But that’s our mission.
After agreeing on how to meet the salary cap anyway.