Former Pittsburgh Penguins forward Evan Rodrigues signed a one-year, $2 million deal with the Colorado Avalanche last week. Reports indicate that Rodrigues may have also turned down a major offer initially of free agency. But after a summer of GM Ron Hextall’s successes, there remains a decision with two parts, one that doesn’t count.
Why sign Kasperi Kapanen to a $3.2 million two-year contract with AAV that put the team above the salary limit?
Why sign Kaplan instead of Rodrigues?
Full praise to Hextal this summer. He managed seemingly impossible tasks by signing Brian RustoChris Letang, Evgeny Malkin, and Ricard Raquel, Hextall added Jeff Petrie on the blue line and got an additional third-round pick in the John Marino trade, who also netted young (and much less expensive) defenseman Ty Smith.
the Penguins Better team today than in May. When Brian Burke told collaborator Dave Molinari the same thing last week, he wasn’t puffed.
Yet the Kapenen contract does not stand for its value, as Kapenen probably received the full market value, if not more, and not for what it needed. The Penguins got nothing more than Kapanen last season.
The Kapanen deal stands alone in an otherwise hot summer as the contract changed the Penguins’ cap number to red. Officially, they are about $1.4 million more than the NHL salary limit. Late in training camp, they’ll send a pair of qualified players to the WBS Penguins or keep a few players who didn’t make the big team through a waiver. Those moves will get the penguins just under the cap, but won’t create enough cap room to call-up if they should suffer certain injuries or illnesses.
Hey, COVID is still around and can put a player off for five days. Some writers at National Hockey Now took it upon themselves last week, and it was not pleasant for them. If some players get the bug, penguins can be shorthanded because they lack the cap space to replace them for certain games.
Last season, the New York Islanders season hit a tailspin as they were caught shorthand.
It can be possible.
There are competing narratives surrounding Rodrigues. The first covers unreliability. Rodrigues had never scored nearly 19 goals before. It was a whisper. He got cold in the second half of the season. It was a fluke, and he came back for the mean. The Penguins did not win the playoff series. It does not make a difference that.
The other narrative, which is more reality-based, is that Rodrigues was a major figure when the Penguin needed him. He scored 19 goals, most of them in the first half of the season, when the Penguins were without Sidney Crosby And Evgeny Malkin, or just Malkin. Rodrigues emerged after too many seasons of Press Box Nachos and, being a bubble player, was never sure of his place in the Buffalo Sabers or Pittsburgh Penguins lineup.
As the playoffs drew to a close, Rodrigues raised his game again. He was one of the best Penguins forward in the Round One playoff series against the New York Rangers. He scored three goals and five points in the seven-match series.
Pittsburgh Penguins Fork in the Road
If the reports are true, and Rodrigues turned down three years and $10.5 million on the advice of his agent, then it is Rodrigues’ fault.
But Penguin eventually paid almost as much money to Kaplan. It’s Penguin’s fault.
After five seasons in the NHL, Capanon has been on a roller coaster. It’s true that he’s had a better career than Rodrigues so far, but it was hard to see how each fit in with the Penguins last season and conclude that Kapanen was the player to keep.
Lakshya Yoga only tells a little bit of the story. Rodrigues played every forward position and almost every role last season. From top-line winger to fourth-line centre, he did it all.
Kaplan hasn’t broken the 40-point plateau in three NHL seasons (in fairness, he was on pace in the 2020-21 COVID-shortened season). The Toronto Maple Leafs eventually demoted him to fourth-line duty before the Penguins trade.
Inconsistency has been a burning problem for Kapanen, who has the talent to be the dominant force ahead. Still, seven years after his NHL debut, perhaps that situation is more anticipated than expected.
You, readers and fans, have every right to agree with me today, but tweeted me in March after Kapenen scored 30 goals, “It was not a good age.”
But in a summer of near-perfection, clever cost moves and player acquisitions (at least in the short term. We’ll see about longer contracts in four years), going over the cap with Capan at the expense of Rodrigues is a decision I didn’t get.
Whether the Penguins need a top six help in the middle or on the left this season, I doubt the E-Rod legend will rise. He will also have a healthy chance at the Stanley Cup with the Colorado Avalanche, further cementing the lament.