Even in the NHL, $5M is a sizeable amount of money. The league is predicting a raise of approximately that amount to the salary cap for the upcoming season. Last offseason saw an increase of less than half that size when the cap was raised from $73M to $75M. Along with the other 30 NHL clubs, the Pittsburgh Penguins could benefit greatly from an $80M cap in 2018-19.
The extra room could be spent to bring in a talented player, but the question is where? And once that question is answered, the next question would be who?
The Penguins struggled on D this year. Everyone is tired of hearing it, everyone else is tired of saying it. One player in particular, even though he would be a bit of a reach, may turn out to be a good fit for the Pens. Not everyone would be thrilled with signing a rival, but Jack Johnson’s contract with Columbus expires on July 1, when he hits the market as an unrestricted free agent. Johnson’s previous salary had an average annual volume of just over $4.3M. Perhaps it’s a bit steep, but the new salary cap will provide more wiggle room than many anticipated. The 31-year-old defender saw a bit of a decline in production this past season, but he has managed to rack up 88 points in his last four seasons. It is unlikely that his price tag will vary much in the negotiation of a new contract.
No. Not John Tavares. The fact that some fans have speculated for a second that the Penguins would sign him this offseason is ludicrous. Tavares wouldn’t play either wing nor would he play third line center behind Crosby and Malkin.
The real possibility is Jeff Skinner. Hurricanes General Manager Don Waddell spoke extensively to the media regarding the possible trade of Skinner, the Canes’ top scorer for the better part of a decade. At 26 years of age, Skinner has one year remaining on a $5.725M contract inked all the way back in 2012. That price tag is slightly higher than the new salary cap room afforded to teams this season, but whoever trades for Skinner would gain cap space from whatever they give Carolina in return.
While the Penguins boast a strong corps of right wingers such as Phil Kessel, Patric Hornqvist, their left side could stand some improvement. With a background in figure skating, the fleet-footed 30-goal-scorer would be a welcome addition on the first or second line.
This route is a bit more far-fetched than the Jack Johnson route. The Penguins know their most immediate needs are on the blue line.
Still, nothing is out of the question with the larger salary cap space. Expect teams to get creative this year.