Happy belated, we celebrate Ron Hextall's worst moves as Penguins GM
Yesterday was Ron Hextall’s 59th birthday. Appropriately, we are going to belatedly celebrate his worst moves as Penguins general manager in chronological order:
Jared McCann to the Maple Leafs for a 7th round pick and Filip Hallander
It was crazy for a goal starved team to leave McCann unprotected in the expansion draft. Even crazier to trade him away for peanuts and allow the Kraken to select another functional rostered player from the lineup. I won’t pretend like I didn’t want to shed Tanev’s contract, but not at the cost of moving Jared McCann to make it happen. McCann was a pending UFA and showed real positive signs of being a quality depth scorer for the Penguins. They threw him away for nothing. Strangely, the Leafs did, too. McCann has scored 67 goals in two seasons with the Kraken. The Penguins had the worst third line in hockey.
Brock McGinn signs four-year 11M extension
The only positive with how Hextall handled the expansion draft was freeing up Tanev’s 3.5M cap hit. Tanev was an overpaid functional fourth line player. Hextall turned right around and pretty much blew through the entire savings for a less effective bottom six player in Brock McGinn. One of the most milquetoast players in recent memory. The Penguins needed dirt cheap bottom six players and money to spend on impact players. All the Penguins got out of McGinn was a series ending turnover against the Rangers.
Jeff Carter signs a two-year 6.25M contract
Jeff Carter was a good trade, initially. The Penguins third line center production was absent for many years after Nick Bonino. Carter came in and scored goals. It didn’t mean Hextall should have rushed to give him a two-year extension on a 35+ deal. The contract structure is a complete disaster. Hextall frontloaded the contract by 250k thus making it ineligible under the new 35+ rules to be bought out. Unless Carter goes full Hossa and has an allergic reaction to his equipment and hits the LTIR there’s nothing the Penguins can do to rid themselves of Carter’s bloated cap hit. Unless they trade him, but oh by the way he also has a full NMC. This contract and Sullivan’s willingness to keep giving him minutes absolutely killed the Penguins this year and potentially next.
Owen Pickering taken with 21st overall selection in 2022 NHL Draft
This is less about Pickering and more of a conceptual mistake. The Penguins should have used this asset to help the current roster. Pickering wasn’t any help in 2022-23 and it is very likely he won’t help in 2023-24. The Penguins are on the tail end of a run where they extended their core. They need help now, not later. They should also be trading their 14th overall selection in this year’s draft.
Jan Rutta signs a three-year 8.2M contract
There was no need for this. Chad Ruhwedel and Mark Friedman were capable of splitting the bottom pairing duties. This is like signing Brock McGinn. Why waste your valuable cap space on meh depth? This money should have been used to help find some depth goal scoring.
Penguins trade John Mario to New Jersey Devils for Ty Smith and a 3rd round pick
Trading Marino created a big hole in the Penguins top four defense on the right side. Marino had a wonderful rookie season which earned him the class ~4M Rutherford extension. After his rookie season mediocrity hit. The weird part about dealing Marino is the second half of last season was some of his best hockey since his rookie season. He was trending back up at 25 years old. The Devils gladly jumped on Marino and he has had a very successful first season in New Jersey. This trade of course led to…
Penguins acquire Jeff Petry and Ryan Poehling from Montreal for Mike Matheson and a 4th round pick
Jeff Petry’s season was just OK. The problem is for what it cost the Penguins they needed more than OK. Mike Matheson was the Penguins best left defenseman the year prior. His absence led to the Penguins over extending both Brian Dumoulin and Pierre-Oliiver Joseph in roles above their capabilities. Not to mention the prior discussed Marino trade to make room for Petry. The Penguins revamped their entire defense group to be older, more expensive, and less productive. It was a huge misstep.
Kasperi Kapanen re-signs on a two-year 6.4M contract
This contract was ludicrous. Kapanen had no leverage coming off the season he did. The Penguins had no cap space due to the revamped defense group. What little space the Penguins had was wasted on another blah year from Kapanen. The Penguins were incredibly fortunate the Blues took him off of waivers, but by then the damage was done. The cap space was wasted during the offseason which is the easiest time to improve the roster. This coincided with the Penguins allowing Evan Rodrigues to walk on a cheaper one-year deal to the Colorado Avalanche. Rodrigues wouldn’t have solved the Penguins depth issues. He would have done way better than Kapanen.
Penguins acquire Mikael Granlund from the Nashville Predators for a 2nd round pick
Probably the most pathetic trade of the entire trade deadline. Hextall consistently tried to be stingy with his draft picks to save for the future and when he finally wants to spend one he absolutely crushes the team’s cap flexibility moving forward. Granlund is completely washed and has two more years left on his contract at 5M. The only logical explanation is Hextall knew he was getting canned and purposely made a bad trade on his way out. It is likelier Hextall lacks any modicum of hockey acumen and thought Granlund was still a good player. The new general manager's first order of business will probably be buying out this player months after the acquisition.
Anways, happy belated, Ron! You were terrible.
Thanks for reading!