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PITTSBURGH'S SALARY CAP SITUATION LEADING TO TOUGH DECISIONS; CROSBY NOT PLEASED

MAY 16, 2022  (18H29)      JON
As is the nature of the salary cap era of the NHL, the Pittsburgh Penguins are under serious pressure to shed cap space. After a disappointing series defeat to the New York Rangers, the Penguins' offseason is sure to be a busy one. Per CapFriendly, they have a little over $32M coming off their books with the following NHL contracts expiring:

- Evgeni Malkin
- Bryan Rust
- Kasperi Kapanen
- Rickard Rakell
- Danton Heinen
- Evan Rodrigues
- Brian Boyle
- Kris Letang
- Nathan Beaulieu
- Casey DeSmith
- Louis Domingue

Seven free agents at the forward position this summer, so it's entirely plausible their group gets an extreme makeover. The obvious priorities are Malkin, Rust, Rodrigues, & Letang. At least one would think. However, Malkin & Letang's contract negotiations are reportedly not going well. On the 32 Thoughts Podcast with Elliotte Friedman & Jeff Marek, it was reported that each of the long-time Pens received identical offers of three-years at $5M/year. Well below market value, depending who you ask.

Rob Rossi, of The Athletic Pittsburgh, reported that the news did not sit well with Sidney Crosby, who has a history of advocating for his teammates in contract talks. Naturally, Sid wants to see his friends & fellow champions finish their careers in Pittsburgh. If there's a city who understands the significance of players finishing their careers where they started, it's Pittsburgh. However, with a whole new ownership group & front office, the players once thought 'untouchable' don't necessarily matter like that anymore.

Now if you'll recall, a few months ago the Penguins franchise was acquired by Fenway Sports Group, who also own the Boston Red Sox & Liverpool FC. The group has a history of a) deploying analytics on a deep organizational level & b) winning. Or at least the expectation of doing so. And as long as Sidney Crosby dons the Penguin logo, it's safe to say they won't accept anything else. After their loss to the Rangers, it doesn't appear as though the Penguins will be able to contend as long as Malkin & Letang command such large salaries. The fact is, with those guys making $17M between them, the team simply can't afford the talent necessary to contend. Pittsburgh needs to invest in a goaltender, among other things, and give their team a serious facelift in order to remain a contender. Those aren't cheap. The good news is that $32M we talked about in the introductory paragraph goes a long way in the right hands. Which is where the Moneyball approach comes in handy.

Consequently, it seems like the front office, under GM Ron Hextall & President Brian Burke, is willing to part ways with one or both of Malkin and/or Letang. They don't owe any personal allegiance to anyone in the organization except 87. And with a new boss to answer to, it's very likely Burke & Hextall will take a calculating but aggressive approach to the free agency & trade markets this summer.
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