- It appears that former Florida GM Dale Tallon may not be out of a job for long. Rob Rossi of The Athletic reports (subscription link) that the 70-year-old has emerged as a candidate to join the front office in Pittsburgh. The Penguins made a move yesterday with the firing of Jason Karmanos and it’s possible that they could turn to Tallon to take his place, albeit likely in a role other than assistant GM.
After the Pittsburgh Penguins announced they had relieved AGM Jason Karmanos earlier today, they now have brought in a new (though familiar) face to the front office. Trevor Daley, who won the Stanley Cup with the team in both 2016 and 2017, has decided to retire and join the organization as a hockey operations advisor. Daley had played the last three seasons with the Detroit Red Wings, but will now hang up his skates and put on a suit. Penguins GM Jim Rutherford released a statement on the hire:
First, I would like to congratulate Trevor on an incredibly successful 16-year career. In addition to being a Stanley Cup Champion with us, he left us with a great impression due to his professional demeanor and quiet leadership qualities. Those traits, along with his desire to want to learn about the business side of the NHL, made him a great candidate to join our staff.
Daley, 37, played more than 1,100 games in the NHL, suiting up for the Dallas Stars, Chicago Blackhawks, Penguins, and Red Wings. A smooth-skating defenseman that could contribute at both ends of the rink, he racked up 309 points in 1,058 regular season contests including a career-high 38 in the 2014-15 season. After winning his second title with Pittsburgh in 2017 he signed a three-year, $9.5MM contract with the Red Wings, but dealt with several injuries and ended up playing in just 164 games with the team.
With the Penguins, Daley will assist with player evaluations and serve as an “eye in the sky” for the coaching staff during games. While this is just the beginning of his post-playing career, it does provide the Penguins with another set of hands in what had recently become quite a thin front office.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images
The Pittsburgh Penguins have fired assistant general manager Jason Karmanos, who had been with the team since 2014. While the team searches for a replacement, Sam Ventura, the team’s director of hockey research, will assume the AGM duties. Erik Heasley, manager of hockey operations, has been named interim GM of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, which Karmanos had also been in charge of.
Penguins GM Jim Rutherford released this statement:
We would like to thank Jason Karmanos for his contributions to the organization over the past six years. I have been evaluating our hockey operations department and this is the first part of the process to re-organize our group.
While assistant general managers are let go all the time in the NHL, this move is especially surprising because of the long history between Rutherford and Karmanos. Not only did they come to the Penguins together in 2014, but they also were together for more than a decade in the Carolina Hurricanes front office. Karmanos’ father was the owner of the Hurricanes at the time and has worked closely with Rutherford since the 80’s in various organizations.
The relieving of Karmanos from this post should not be taken lightly in Pittsburgh, though it will immediately bring up additional speculation about former AGM Jason Botterill. The former Buffalo Sabres GM cut his teeth in Pittsburgh under Rutherford and has been rumored to be a candidate to return to the Penguins since the Sabres let him go earlier this year.
Rutherford has actually been open about his desire to add to the front office this offseason, but with Karmanos gone it leaves a very thin group in terms of managerial experience. The GM was clear he was extremely disappointed by the team’s postseason performance and has already made sweeping changes to the front office, coaching staff and roster.
Despite the excitement of the free-agent flurry that started off the 2020 offseason, things have calmed down now quite a bit and yet there remain a number of free agents out there for teams to pick up. Yet with little cap room remaining for most the playoff hopefuls, teams are being extra cautious about paying out too much to free agents. especially if they are coming off a down season. That perfectly explains the situation for free-agent center Erik Haula, who has now found himself looking for a fourth team in just two-plus seasons and is coming off a 12-goal campaign last year.
The 29-year-old will be hitting 30 during the 2020-21 season and has dealt with numerous injuries, including a gruesome leg injury that held him to just 15 games in 2018-19. However, that hasn’t stopped teams from showing interest in the center, one of the few potential impact centers remaining on the free-agent market, who was ranked 16th in our PHR Top-50 Free Agents. If healthy, he has the potential to fill a second-line center role or be a top third-line option in the middle. He has the potential to put up goals, scoring 29 goals in Vegas’ inaugural season in 2017-18.
Despite Vegas’ love for Haula, the team even had cap issues after their second season and were forced to send Haula to the Carolina Hurricanes to free up some cap room. Haula signed a three-year, $8.25MM contract ($2.75MM AAV) with Vegas as part of a deal for the Golden Knights to select him in the expansion draft from Minnesota and looked like a significant find after the first year. The injury held up that outlook for the next season and Carolina was hoping to recapture some of that offensive magic last season. Instead, he struggled through more knee injuries on and off and only appeared in 41 games with 12 goals before the Hurricanes packaged him to Florida for Vincent Trocheck. Haula scored no goals in seven games for the Panthers before the team’s season ended.
However in the right system and with plenty of extra time to allow his knee to fully mend, Haula could fill a significant hole in a team’s middle and if everything goes right, could thrive there.
Not surprisingly, Haula has received significant interest from at least 10-12 teams, yet no deal has been struck. The forward is likely looking for a potential long-term deal, deals that aren’t really offered to players right now as several free agents have had to ink one-year deals in hopes that the 2021 offseason may prove to be more lucrative and hopes that COVID-19 may settle down in a year.
Perhaps one of the most obvious suitors would be returning to the one team where he had the most success. The Golden Knights might be a perfect fit for Haula as the team was forced to send off center Paul Stastny to Winnipeg to save cap room and with Cody Glass’ rookie season having also been interrupted by injury, there is a clear opening for a No. 2 center in the system. Of course, the team is so tight against the cap that the team doesn’t even have the money for a minimum-salaried deal without clearing more cap room, which will be difficult. The team has already made it clear they will not be moving now back-up goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, which means they will be spending $12MM on their goalies this coming year.
Rumors that the Pittsburgh Penguins could be looking for a third-line center to fill in some depth for another Stanley Cup run with their veteran squad. Pittsburgh doesn’t have a clear-cut third or fourth-line center, so Haula would be a big addition to a team that needs to get more scoring from their bottom-six. Of course, the team must look at their cap issues as well. Other teams such as the New Jersey Devils and the Vancouver Canucks have come up although there are likely many others, but only the Devils have the cap room to easily bring him in.
PHR initially projected Haula to receive a three-year, $11.25MM deal, although that number now looks quite high considering some of the contracts that other players have received in the last week or so. Players ranked much higher, such as Evgenii Dadonov and Tyler Toffoli each had to settle for less than they were hoping for. Dadonov received three years and $15MM from Ottawa, while Toffoli signed a four-year deal at $17MM with the Montreal Canadiens.
Considering that Haula is coming off two injury-plagued and disappointing offensive seasons, it doesn’t seem likely that he can easily pry a long-term deal away from any team and may have to sign a one-year “prove it deal,” except for the fact that his services as a center could give him slightly more leverage than most free agents remaining on the market.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Pittsburgh has sent another one of their prospects overseas to get some playing time in Finland as Hameenlinnan Pallokerho (HPK) of the SM-liiga announced that they’ve added Penguins goaltender Emil Larmi on a loan agreement. The agreement is for up until NHL training camps begin but does contain an option to be extended for the entire season.
The 24-year-old is in the second and final year of his entry-level contract that was signed back in June of 2019. Larmi split last season between AHL Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (nine games) and ECHL Wheeling (eleven games) and the results weren’t particularly strong at either level as he posted a 3.55 GAA with both teams.
A return to the Finnish league could be exactly what Larmi needs as his 2018-19 campaign with HPK was a very strong one as he had a 1.94 GAA in 36 regular playoff games and was even stingier in 18 postseason contests, posting a 1.72 mark to help win a league title. As things stand, the Penguins have a couple of goalies that will be minor league bound in veteran Maxime Lagace and Alex D’Orio. If they decide that D’Orio is better suited to be the backup in the AHL, it’s possible that the loan could be extended. If not, Larmi will have some work to do to secure a qualifying offer next offseason.
Defenseman Cam Lee is preparing to make his pro debut this season, but it won’t be with the team he expected when he signed with the Pittsburgh Penguins this spring. When Lee takes the ice to begin the 2020-21 campaign, it will not be in the NHL or AHL but in the Slovakian Extraliga with HC Slovan Bratislava. The club announced that they have negotiated a loan with the Penguins that will allow Lee to play in Bratislava until NHL training camp opens.
Lee, 23, embarks on his first pro season after wrapping up an impressive four-year collegiate career at Western Michigan University. Lee notched 20+ points in each of the past three seasons, including 21 points in just 26 games as a senior, and led all Broncos defensemen in scoring in each of the past two years. The nephew of former NHL star goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere, Lee is a high IQ player who sees the ice well and moves the puck. Lee is unlikely to be rushed to the NHL like some other Penguins’ NCAA free agents, but if he can improve in some need areas over the course of his two-year entry-level contract, he could compete for opportunities at the top level down the road.
Easing in to the pro game by starting in Bratislava rather than Wilkes-Barre/Scranton may end up helping Lee in his first season. A former KHL club that is well-regarded and finished second in the Extraliga standings last season, Bratislava is a good team and a place where a young player can learn the game without feeling too much pressure. Former NHL defenseman Andrej Meszaros may also be a great mentor to the young defenseman. With that said, the team stated in their release that they have been disappointed by a slow start to this season, so Lee may also get the opportunity to play a key role for the club in the time before he returns for training camp.
The Penguins have added some defensive depth to the right side of their back end as they announced the signing of Cody Ceci to a one-year contract. The deal is worth $1.25MM, a significant drop from the $4.5MM he made last season. GM Jim Rutherford released the following statement about his new acquisition:
Cody is a two-way defenseman who plays with size and a speed game that fits our system well. He brings both regular season and playoff experience, and can be utilized on the penalty kill.
The 26-year-old was able to hit the open market a year earlier than most as he has seven NHL seasons under his belt. He spent last season with Toronto after they acquired him from Ottawa last summer and his role decreased as a result as he averaged 20:32 per night, his lowest ATOI in four years. With the Maple Leafs also having more offensively-gifted options in front of him, he wasn’t put in many offensive situations either and as a result, Ceci managed just a goal and seven assists in 56 regular season games.
While he is known for some untimely defensive lapses, Ceci should be able to provide some more minutes than the Penguins have typically received from their third pairing as Kris Letang and John Marino are ahead of him on the depth chart. At first glance, he could be lining up alongside fellow newcomer Mike Matheson who was recently acquired from Florida. Jack Johnson (buyout) and Justin Schultz (free agency) have both moved on from last year.
Ceci was ranked 30th on our Top 50 UFA list and while his first trip in unrestricted free agency didn’t yield the type of contract he was certainly looking for, a good season with Pittsburgh could help restore some value before hitting the open market next offseason still as one of the youngest blueliners available. Meanwhile, the Penguins have a little over $1.3MM in cap space remaining per CapFriendly with a full roster. That doesn’t leave much more room for offseason additions but if they carry that much into next year, they should have a decent cushion built up closer to the trade deadline.
TSN’s Darren Dreger was the first to report the contract.
The Pittsburgh Penguins have wrapped up their restricted free agent group. The team has announced that forward Sam Miletic has agreed to a new one-year contract. It is a two-way deal that carries the NHL minimum $700K salary. AHL terms were not disclosed. This signing leaves Pontus Aberg as the only unsigned RFA for Pittsburgh, but Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Matt Vensel notes that he plans to play in Europe this season.
Miletic, 23, is a former OHL standout whose game has more or less translated to the pros, at least through two AHL seasons. An undrafted prospect who earned a contract with Pittsburgh through his efforts at development camp, Miletic has gone on to record back-to-back seasons of more than 30 points. This has placed him among the leading scorers for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins both years and earned him an AHL All-Star nod this past year.
A hard-working forward with a decent amount of skill, Miletic projects as a third-line caliber player in the NHL, but may not get that opportunity this season. Although there is less certainty among the Penguins’ bottom-six than in years past, the starting jobs seem locked up at least to begin the year. Even if there was to be an opening, GM Jim Rutherford never hesitates to look for a trade first. If he does opt to promote from within, Miletic faces competition from Sam Lafferty, Jordy Bellerive, Anthony Angello, and veteran newcomers Frederick Gaudreau and Josh Currie to jump into an NHL role. However, if he can take a step forward in his AHL scoring, perhaps to lead WBS, then later this season or next year he will be more competitive.
The free agent market is still wide open with Alex Pietrangelo and others unsigned, but some minor transactions are also happening behind the scenes. We’ll keep track of some of the deals that don’t get the same headlines:
- Dalton Smith has signed a one-year AHL contract with the Rochester Americans, returning to the team for a fourth season. Smith, 28, actually made his NHL debut in 2019-2- with the Buffalo Sabres but will not be eligible for recall on this deal.
- The Pittsburgh Penguins have loaned Jan Drozg to HK Olimpija Ljubljana in Slovenia for the time being, giving him a chance to play while the North American seasons continue to wait. Drozg, 21, was the Penguins fifth-round pick in 2017 and split last season in the AHL and ECHL.
- Logan Day has signed a one-year AHL contract with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, bringing him over from the Edmonton Oilers minor league system after he was not given a qualifying offer. Day, an undrafted free agent signing out of division III college hockey, had 16 points in 48 games for the Bakersfield Condors in 2019-20.
The Penguins have re-signed one of their restricted free agents, announcing that they’ve inked Anthony Angello to a two-year deal. The contract will carry a cap hit of $725K. GM Jim Rutherford released the following statement:
We’re really pleased with Anthony’s development. We thought he did well when we brought him up to the NHL and look forward to watching his continued growth as a player.
The 24-year-old made his NHL debut last season, getting into eight games with the Penguins where he scored his first career goal while logging just shy of six minutes per contest in playing time. He was productive with their AHL affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton thought, potting 16 goals in just 48 games.
Angello is waiver-exempt for next season so it’s likely that he will begin the season back with the Baby Pens. He’ll likely serve as injury recall depth once again and could be counted on to play a bit of a bigger role this time around.