Ron Hextall joined Colin Dunlap and Chris Mack on The Fan Morning show on Audacy’s 93.7 The Fan today. It’s always fascinating when he speaks to the media because it doesn’t happen very often.
Hextall responded to the Penguins’ ageing this offseason by mentioning Ryan Poehling and Ty Smith, two players in their 22-23 year range who have played NHL games. On this front, he’s correct, because Pittsburgh didn’t have a lot of young players capable of playing NHL games last year.
When it comes to forward depth, this may be “for what it’s worth,” but Hextall stated that he likes his forward group right now. Josh Archibald, his most recent signing, was also on his mind.
(As an aside, I believe Pittsburgh fans remember Archibald as the tweener who bounced between the NHL and AHL and couldn’t find a role in 2014-17. Archibald hasn’t played in the AHL since the fall of 2017, and for better or worse, he’s in his NHL phase right now, with management clearly seeing him as NHL material for next season).
Aside from Archibald and Poehling, the Pens like Drew O’Connor’s size and speed, and he should get a good look in camp with a chance to make the team.
It could mean a little or a lot, but it appears that Hextall is fairly comfortable (or just doing a good job of keeping it close to the vest) if the team starts with Archibald, Poehiling, and O’Connor to join Teddy Blueger. The third line would consist of Jeff Carter, Brock McGinn, and the yet-to-be-signed Kasperi Kapanen.
When asked about the Evgeni Malkin negotiations, Hextall stated that he did not believe there was any contention between the team and the player’s camp.
“Geno’s representatives were excellent and extremely professional,” Hextall said. “These guys get to the point where they have the right to unrestricted free agency, so if they want to go there, that’s a right they’ve earned.” But, having said that, we’re thrilled Geno chose to return and finish his career with the Penguins.”
When asked about the team’s current salary cap space, Hextall said the flat cap is a challenge, but the Pens are “in reasonable shape” to get and stay under the cap moving forward.
Hextall likes the team’s defensive depth and believes it will be easy to stay under the salary cap with the nine players they currently have. If they want, they can send newly acquired Ty Smith to the AHL without going through waivers.
Overall, Hextall is a manager who was able to shake up his team and change the composition of his defence. He accomplished this over the weekend with two trades that changed the team, but perhaps over the summer we’ll see how comfortable he is with his forward group without the benefit of much cap space to make many more changes.