Penguins’ Cap Crunch Could Lead to Decisions on 3 Players

At this point, there are only a handful of players who should consider themselves safe on the Pittsburgh Penguins’ roster. Fans and media alike have little to no idea what is going on inside the organization as general manager Ron Hextall is pretty tight-lipped. However, with free agency beginning on July 13, some of the questions that have been looming since the season ended will start getting answered, including who will stay and who will go. 

Jeff Carter

Jeff Carter played third-line center last season, and had an interesting year. He played in 76 regular-season games, and scored 19 goals with a total of 45 points. He played in all seven playoff games and had four goals and one assist. Although he started last season out strong, he hit a couple rough spots. 

If Carter was not on the ice scoring goals, then there was not much else he was contributing. When he was on the ice, it seemed like the team struggled to control the pace of the game. He put up some of the worst numbers on the team where it relates to scoring chances and time of possession. That is not great news for his team as his contract runs through the 2023-24 season and carries a salary cap hit of $3.125 million. 

Jeff Carter, Pittsburgh Penguins
Jeff Carter, Pittsburgh Penguins (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

There is no doubt that Carter has a good, strong shot, but he is not a player who is capable of carrying a line. His contract has a no-movement clause attached to it, so the Penguins will have to figure out where he best fits in the lineup, but it will probably not be at center on the third line. 

Brian Dumoulin 

Since 2015, Brian Dumoulin has been one of the most consistent and reliable players on the Penguins’ roster. However, last season was a bit of a different story. He was plagued with injuries for much of the season, and his decision-making skills were less than great. He recently revealed that at the beginning of the season he was dealing with a foot injury, and suffered a torn knee ligament during the playoffs. He has one year left on his contract that carries a cap hit of $4.1 million. 

Brian Dumoulin Penguins
Brian Dumoulin, Pittsburgh Penguins (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

It is still unclear if Kris Letang, Dumoulin’s long-time defensive partner, will return to the lineup next season. However, if Letang does return, it would make sense for the Penguins to keep Dumoulin as the two have played well together in the past. Even if Letang does not return next season, the team may still keep Dumoulin exactly where he is as they will need the experience he brings to the table. 

It may just be that Dumoulin had a below average season. It is bound to happen even to the best of players at some point in their career. Hextall will have to decide if he gets another year in Pittsburgh to prove that he is still a consistent playmaker. 

John Marino 

In the summer of 2019, the Penguins made a trade with the Edmonton Oilers for defenseman John Marino in exchange for their 2021 sixth-round draft pick. In his rookie season, he scored six goals and had a total of 26 points in 56 games played. Since then he has struggled to remain consistent, scoring only one goal last season and finishing the year with 25 points in 81 games. However, he did show glimpses of his former self during the playoffs, averaging 23 minutes of ice time per game and led defensemen in expected goals. 

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The Penguins are in a bit of a sticky situation when it comes to cap space, and Marino has a salary cap hit of over $4 million. Although, with Letang still not signed he is the only player who naturally shoots right, which makes him a pretty important asset. However, they may not have a choice as not many teams have shown interest in taking on the last three years of defenseman Marcus Pettersson’s contract. 

Answers Coming Soon

It is now officially the month of July, and whether the Penguins like it or not it is decision time. They need to get some contracts signed and figure out a way to deal with their cap space issue. Will they keep the core together or opt for a rebuild? It should be an interesting month.

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