As draft day approaches, teams across the NHL look to make some moves. In recent years, the day of the draft has been a more popular trade day than the trade deadline itself. So, as we look ahead to the draft, I expect the Penguins to make some moves to alleviate room on the cap.
A career year for Conor Sheary in 2017 got him a nice little payday when free agency came around. Sheary scored 53 points in just 61 games playing alongside Sidney Crosby, and although he disappeared slightly in a postseason in which the Penguins won a second straight Stanley Cup, Sheary was signed to a simple three-year contract worth three million per year.
His career-defining season though, was proven to be a fluke. It could be said that his stats were inflated when playing next to Crosby because the first year of his new contract he only amassed 10 points in a slightly less 44 games. Sheary is no longer the versatile tool we thought he would be and the money, while not a whole lot, could be spent in better ways.
The Penguins inherited Carl Hagelin and his contract from the Ducks amidst some big changes that turned the team to a Stanley Cup winning season. Hagelin, while not a huge point getter, showed to be almost invaluable on the penalty kill and a very aggressive forechecker. His impact on the infamous “HBK” line cannot be forgotten during the first Stanley Cup run.
He does only have one more year on his contract that has a four million dollar cap hit, but as of right now Bryan Rust needs a contract and arguably he can provide just as much as Hagelin and more. Rust has the speed and the aggressiveness and puts points on the board. Hagelin can fetch a pretty bite, you don’t have to be tied down to him long term and he can provide good service to any team.
When we signed Matt Hunwick, I was astonished, to say the least. Hunwick has a 2.25 million cap hit for just another year, but he provides virtually nothing to the team. He was flipped in and out of the lineup for most of the year. The team already has a lot of money tied up in their defense and you could say Jamie Oleksiak deserves that money a lot more.
Of all the players mentioned, I think Hunwick is the hardest to move. He has almost no appeal, a below average defenseman with a pretty expensive contract. The only thing going in his favor is that his contract only has one more year. Any trade involving him would be for a lower end draft pick and the Penguins might have to retain salary to even move him. Needless to say, it is a very hard move and the least likely to happen of the three.