Watch CBS News

Penguins Perspectives: An offseason plan emerges

CBS News Live
CBS News Pittsburgh Live

Welcome to Penguins Perspectives, a weekly column by KDKA-TV Digital Producer Patrick Damp. Each week, Patrick will talk about the week that was, the week to come, what to watch for, and more.

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) - We as Penguins fans have been in the honeymoon phase in the past couple of weeks.

Hextall and Burke were out, Kyle Dubas was in, and we were all happy to bask in the glow of a new beginning in the Penguins' front office. 

Now, the work begins. 

With the beginning of that work, and some hints from Dubas, a plan has emerged. 

The NHL Draft is behind us and the free agency period begins tomorrow. 

Prior to leaving for Nashville, Dubas addressed the local media for about half an hour and gave some insight into what his plan is heading into the rest of this offseason. 

"I think we're in a good spot and fortunate that the cap has remained flat," he said. "It allows us to take on people from other clubs that can bring us good value and have us push to contend."

That was evident just before the draft began on Wednesday evening when the Penguins sent a third-round pick in 2024 to the defending champion Vegas Golden Knights for forward Reilly Smith. 

Vegas is one of those teams that Dubas was describing. Following their Stanley Cup victory, the team is faced with some tough decisions. One of those was re-signing trade deadline acquisition Ivan Barbashev following a big postseason. 

Smith's contract, a $5 million/season deal with two years remaining, essentially makes him the Penguins' replacement for unrestricted free agent Jason Zucker. While Dubas and head coach Mike Sullivan haven't shut the door on Zucker returning, it's believed he's seeking a 5-year, $5 million deal. With similar production, the Penguins got a player who can bring a lot of the same production but for less term. 

As the draft progressed throughout the past two days, many expected the Penguins to use their first-round pick, 14th overall, to make a splash either for a goaltender or a defenseman, but no such deal developed. 

This shows us that Dubas is likely operating from a place of strategic patience. 

As of June 30, according to, 20 of the NHL's 32 teams find themselves with $10 million or less remaining in salary cap space. This puts Dubas and the Penguins in a position of strength once the free agency window opens on July 1. 

Despite a free agent class that doesn't feature many big names, plenty of teams near the upper limit still have needs to fill and with limited room to operate, the Penguins are likely to go shopping at Aldi rather than Giant Eagle, so to speak. 

With a lack of trades during the NHL Draft and teams such as Edmonton, Calgary, Vegas, and others giving away productive players for future, late-round picks, the Penguins are going to wait for their chance, just as they did with Smith. 

The teams the Penguins are grouped with right now, having $15 million or more in salary cap space, are not at the same place as Pittsburgh. Teams like Arizona, Chicago, Detroit, and Ottawa are in different phases of rebuilding. Sure, they can also weaponize cap space, but a lot of players expected to be moved have some level of trade protection. They're not looking to be on the ground floor of a rebuild, they're looking to win. 

That is both the mandate from Fenway Sports Group, and the plan articulated by Kyle Dubas - to maximize the remaining years of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Kris Letang. 

Considering some of the players believed to be available such as Noah Hanfin out of Calgary, the Penguins remain an attractive destination because the chase for a Stanley Cup remains. 

The most valuable asset this offseason is cap space and the Penguins have just that. 

This summer would be the ideal time for Dubas to wield that weapon as president. 

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.