Black Friday: Pittsburgh Penguins Edition

I’ve never understood the craziness that is Black Friday.  You won’t find me in line at three in the morning to snag a deal.  So instead I decided to participate in Black Friday by looking at some of the bargains the Penguins have been able to grab.  The reality is that the Pens are a top-heavy team in a salary cap league.  We are feeling the effects of this this year more than ever.  It’s great to sign superstars like Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, but the consequence is that there is less money to go around for everyone else. This has magnified the effect of bargains in the Pens organization. 

Top Line Wingers

There may be no better bargains in hockey than the Penguins first line wingers.  Last year, Chris Kunitz was named to the NHL’s first All-Star team after scoring twenty-two goals and fifty-two points in the shortened season, all while having a cap hit of $3.25 M. Pascal Dupuis put up twenty goals and thirty-eight points, with a cap hit of $1.5 M.  It earned him a new contract with a cap hit of $3.75 M.  For the purpose of this post, I will be using last season’s statistics with this year’s cap hits simply because this season is still too young to provide concrete stats and there is no sense in looking at old cap hits. With that in mind here are Kunitz’s and Dupuis’ dollars per goal and point.

  • Christ Kunitz – $169,318/goal $71,634/point
  • Pascal Dupuis – $187,500/goal $98,634/point

Sure, these aren’t what the average person would think of as a small amount of money, but when compared to players with comparable stats the bargains become a lot more clear. Here are the dollars per goal and point of some other top line wingers who put up similar numbers last season.

  • Alex Ovechkin – $$294,952/goal $$168,544/point
  • Taylor Hall – $375,000/goal $120,000/point
  • Henrik Zetterberg – $553,000/goal $126,700/point
  • Andrew Ladd – $244,444/goal $95,642/point
  • Zach Parise – $418,800/goal $198,380/point
  • Martin St. Louis – $330,882/goal $93,750/point
  • Patrick Kane – $273,913/goal $114,500/point
  • Alex Semin – $538,460/goal $159,000/point
  • Corey Perry – $575,000/goal $239,500/point

The only two players on the list that have a lower dollar/point value are Andrew Ladd and Martin St. Louis, who both only have smaller values than Dupuis.  There is a strong argument that Kunitz was the best bargain in the entire NHL last season. In April, Jesse Spector of Sporting News listed Kunitz as top line left winger on his all-cap team.  

Above Average Players for Below Average Prices

The average NHL cap hit is $2.4 M.  While the Pens have several players signed to contract with much higher value than the average, they have also managed to sign effective players for less than the average cap hit. 

The Pens signed Jussi Jokinen for $2.1 M against the cap. (Actual cap hit $3 M, $900,000 paid by Carolina).  Last year some claimed this was too high of a cap hit for what he brought to the table, especially since he was a healthy scratch for multiple playoff games.  This was a fair thought last year, as it was a waste of money if he wasn’t going to play. However, the Pens had cap space to burn last year and thank goodness they did.  We ended up picking up Jokinen from Carolina for a conditional pick. The condition was never fulfilled, so we got him for nothing. We are seeing the benefits of the signing this season. Jokinen has seemed to find a permanent spot on the second line with Malkin and Neal.  This is one of the best lines in hockey, and it helps that we’re paying one third of the line less than the average NHL cap hit.

Brandon Sutter can also be considered a bargain. He has a cap hit of $2.07 M, and has so far had a very underrated season.  He has been phenomenal on the defensive side of the puck, something that has gone unnoticed by several viewers.  There will always be those who cry, “He’s not Jordan Staal”.  You’re right, he’s not. Sure, Sutter doesn’t have the same goal scoring ability as Staal. He doesn’t have the same physicality.  He also doesn’t have a $6 M cap hit. Sutter comes at a third of the price of Staal, and Sutter is way more than a third of the player Staal is. 

The Pens have also taken advantage of entry-level deals. Had he not gotten injured, Beau Bennett would be playing a prominent role in the Pens lineup. He probably would have put up 15 or so goals this season had he been healthy.  The best part is that we’re only paying him $900,000.  Another entry-level deal that has come into play this season is defenseman Olli Maatta.  Maatta’s entry-level deal carries a cap hit of $894,167.  

Speaking of Olli Maatta, his defensive partner, or at least who should be his defensive partner, Robert Bortuzzo, only has a cap hit of $600,000.  Bort is definitely worth more than that.  We can only hope that Dan Bylsma realizes that too, or we may have to get used to seeing Engelland in the lineup quite often.

Until the salary cap increases, and even then it will be a factor, the Pens will continue to be a top-heavy team.  This isn’t necessarily bad, it’s just the reality of the situation. I can complain about how top-heavy we are, but to be honest, I wouldn’t have done anything differently. The Pens have no where near the roster depth they’ve had in recent years.  Thankfully though, Ray Shero has been able to find bargains that have put a competitive win-now team on the ice. 

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