Early free agency targets

Well the 2018 NHL playoffs are still going on but the Penguins are out of it after an impressive run. General Manager Jim Rutherford has said that hes going to make some moves. He doesn’t know exactly what moves yet but the salary cap situation is again the problem for the Penguins. Players could be traded away with high salary cap hits this offseason. This could be a different looking team next year. Also the salary cap will rise to around 80 million this offseason. So that’s going to help the Pens a little bit but not enough to make some moves when it comes to free agency or trade. But I’m not here to underestimate Rutherford after the past success he’s had with acquiring players. Here are some free agency targets that the Penguins could go after when July 1st hits. I’ll rate the possibility from low go medium to high of the signing possibility of the specific player.

Derek Ryan, Center

Ryan is a player that made some money this season with tallying 38 points as a 31 year old. He’s a late bloomer for sure and adds some experience on special teams as well. Odds are that Carolina lets him walk. I’m not to sure what his value will be when it comes to the open market but one team might overspend for him. I put him here because he would be a solid player for the Penguins to target. I had him on this list last year before he broke out and he finds himself here again. If Derick Brassard is moved to wing then you’ll need another center to replace him.

Possibility: Low

Thomas Vanek, Winger

Vanek is always highly productive but seems to find himself always on one year or short deals. He had another very productive year especially offensively with over 50 points. Hes a solid top 9 winger that can easily play top 6 and be productive on the power play. If he is the forgotten man during the free agent frenzy again then a one year deal at an affordable rate would allow the Pens for a great addition.

Possibility: Medium

Mark Letestu, Center

Letestu has been with the Pens before but now he’s an older player. He adds in offensively once in a blue moon but isn’t consistent. Again if Brassard moves to the wing and Riley Sheahan is your 3rd line center then that 4th line center will need to be replaced. He is good at faceoffs and adds ability to play on the penalty kill. He was also connected to the Penguins during the trade deadline. I think this could be a possible signing since it would come at a cheaper price and for a shorter term.

Possibility: High

Michael Grabner, Winger

Another player who was connected to the Penguins at the trade deadline. He adds amazing speed to any lineup in the league. He would fit in perfectly with how the Penguins play. He has the ability to play anywhere in the lineup. He also provides great penalty kill ability. With a bad playoff outing his value might’ve sunk a little. But he will be in high demand and might be to much for the Penguins to pursue. If Carl Hagelin is traded then Grabner would be hard not to at least go after. The fit is too good to not put on this list.

Possibility: Medium

Chris Kunitz, Winger

It’s fairly obvious why he’s on the list here. He has a lot of history with the team and I was surprised when he wasn’t signed last offseason. He’s cheap but is getting older by the day. He still has his speed and penalty kill ability. He would be a cheaper option then Grabner but he won’t produce as much offensively as a Grabner would. The only concern I have isn’t the fit but the age factor. Also the Pens didn’t resign him last year so might not this season.

Possibility: Medium

Dominic Moore, Center

Moore was connected to the Penguins during last offseason as a replacement for Matt Cullen. He’s experienced and is high up there when it comes to the age department. But Moore played decently and would add a solid 4th line center and become a mentor to the 4th line like Cullen was. He chips in on offense but also has penalty kill ability. He would be a cheap add to the team and save some cap.

Possibility: High

Kevin Connauton, Defense

In Arizona this season, Connauton had a quiet but solid campaign. He had over 20 points and had a positive plus minus on a bad Arizona team. My concern is why hasn’t he stuck in the NHL until this past season? But at 28 years old I think he would be a great addition and come at a cheap price. He seems to be a solid defender who is finally getting to his potential. With all the reclamation projects the Penguins have succeeded with, this player could be a great add. The Penguins need another bottom pair defenseman and Kevin would be a great add for the Penguins situation.

Possibility: Medium

Francois Beauchemin, Defense

Beauchemin is coming off a solid season at 37 years old. He was a plus 12 with 17 points in almost 70 games played. He isn’t the player he once was but could add a role that Ron Hainsey did. He is a puck mover and could fit nicely in the Pens system. The concerns are with the age and injury history with him. Also does he still have good skating ability or is he to slow to play in the Penguins system now? Those are the setbacks when I look at a player like this.

Possibility: Low

Thomas Hickey, Defense

Hickey is probably going to make some good money this offseason. At 29 years old, he just screams over pay and too long of a contract. But maybe he won’t get that kind of deal. I put him on this list because he plays a very solid game for a small defenseman. He had 25 points and was a plus 20 on a bad Islanders team. That pretty impressive and he will probably be out of long island when free agency hits.

Possibility: Low

John Moore, Defense

Moore is a solid bottom pairing defenseman for many teams. He made a reasonable salary over the past few seasons. Hes only 27 and that’ll attract some teams to him. He could be a surprise overpay but he reminds me ofIan Cole for some reason. He had a solid season with 18 points and a plus 3. He would be a great add if the Pens could get him at around the same contract as the Matt Hunwick deal.

Possibility: Medium

John Tavares, Center

I know what you’re thinking, NO WAY! Well that opinion is probably absolutely correct. But hear me out for one second. Elliotte Friedman reported that it wouldn’t surprise him if a team like Pittsburgh was a surprise team in on Tavares. It was interesting to include the Penguins in this as he just doesn’t throw out names of teams too often. Tavares would have to come on a cheap and short deal obviously. He would come to win and have a crazy all star lineup. I mean if you thought the Lightning had an all star lineup then imagine the Penguins’ three centers being Crosby, Malkin and Tavares. All while having Kessel and Brassard on the wings I mean that would be absolutely ridiculous. Tavares will probably resign with the Islanders but I figure I’d put in the Penguins scenario because of the Friedman report that I saw.

Possibility: Lower then Low, I’d say around a 1% chance.

This free agent list will change from now until the first day the frenzy begins. With trades that happen from now through the draft and leading up to free agency, it can change everything that’s listed above. Above are players that could help what the Penguins weaknesses were last season. Those weaknesses were scoring depth, defensive depth, and penalty killers. Offseason’s are fun and this offseason shouldn’t change that. The Penguins will have some changes due to salary cap and some players needing contracts. It’ll be interesting to see how Rutherford improves his roster both through trades and free agency.

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