The offseason is officially underway, and the Penguins are preparing for what figures to be a relatively routine Summer. Pittsburgh will enter the draft with the core of their squad under contract, and will no doubt be scouring the ranks of eligible prospects in hopes of adding impactful talent to a farm system relatively devoid of it. The Penguins will not have much cap room to add to their current roster, however remain in a somewhat enviable position. Bryan Rust, Riley Sheahan, Daniel Sprong, Tristan Jarry & Jamie Oleksiak are in need of new contracts and should be locked up in due time. Tom Kuhnackl could be a casualty to the current roster, and the Pens only UFA Carter Rowney is not expected to return.
We won't know for sure how much the cap will increase this Summer, but if it does increase to the rumored $80 million mark, Jim Rutherford should have little difficulty securing his RFAs - the largest deal will certainly be Rust's, which should come in somewhere between the $3-$3.5 million range. When the dust settles, Jimmy will have little cap room to add to his current lineup and will again need to get creative if he wants to make a major addition. Truthfully, trades are likely the best route for Pittsburgh to add. The speculated departure of Conor Sheary or Carl Hagelin could clear enough off the books for JR to add some talent, albeit at the expense of useful players.
According to Jason Mackey of the Post Gazette, Pittsburgh will not be buying out any member of the squad
) and truthfully, no contract is poor enough to warrant such a measure. The continued presence of a struggling Matt Hunwick further complicates matters, and absorbs precious cap space that could be used to sign fresh blood.
Enter Tobias Enstrom.
The Pens inquired about the availability of Enstrom two Winters ago as a potential addition for a playoff push. Nothing ever came to fruition of course, but it appears that could be a distinct possibility.
A former 8th round pick of the Atlanta Thrashers, Enstrom has only ever played for the franchise. That time is at an end.
The disgruntled blueliner isn't the top-four defender he once was, however the Swede is still a serviceable 5th or 6th defenseman. His offensive output has steadily declined in recent years, and there's no doubt he is now past his prime. That said, he still managed 6 points in 43 games for the Jets despite seeing a career low of 17 average time on ice. Enstrom skated in a 3rd pairing role and posted a CF% of 52.2. Possession metrics still favor the veteran, and he could be a useful player in a limited role alongside Jamie Oleksiak.
Jim Rutherford has stated publicly that his preference is to add a right-handed shot to the blueline, and while Enstrom does not fit that bill, Oleksiak looked comfortable on the right side and should be fine with that assignment. The addition of Enstrom becomes especially plausible if JR can find a way to rid himself of the Hunwick pact as Enstrom could be available on a year or two year "prove it" deal for about the same price.
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