Gameday 61: No Such Thing As An “Aliveline”

Happy trade deadline eve everyone! In about 24 hours the frenzy of transactions that has been going on for the past week or so will finally end. More and more each year the deadline itself is less about the bigger names on the market and more about filling in the remaining pieces, and naturally it’ll be curious to see just how the Pittsburgh Penguins finalize their roster as we head into the last month-and-a-half of the regular season.

It was only a few weeks ago of course that it was very hard to see any daylight between what the Penguins probably wanted to do and their salary cap situation, but over the past week general manager has (finally) made some moves to ameliorate that problem, waiving Kasperi Kapanen, Brock McGinn and Mark Friedman. Kapanen was snatched up by the St. Louis Blues, saving Pittsburgh a couple million dollars. McGinn and Friedman however went unclaimed, so best-case Hextall can assign them both to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and save himself $1.875M.

Hextall will have to reckon with the fact that he just got rid of two of his worst signings from this offseason which failed to make the Penguins’ third line a dangerous one, but he is still handling the reins of this roster for now and he has an opportunity to atone for his errors. Unfortunately (and worst of all) Jeff Carter is still a factor, but if Hextall can find better wingers (or a center to push Carter to wing) then maybe it’ll be okay.

(Author’s note: once again, I’ve written this too early. Hextall took all of the salary cap space he pulled back from the numerous transactions he’s made in the last week and…spent it (and a second round draft pick) to acquire Mikael Granlund from the Nashville Predators. Heads are scratching everywhere as it appeared Hextall was poised to fix the bottom six, but Granlund is yet another overpayment on the growing list of overpaid acquisitions he’s made since arriving in Pittsburgh. You never know what tomorrow will bring, but the dissatisfaction with Hextall’s seemingly directionless management of this team is growing.)

Revenge is probably in the minds of the Tampa Bay Lightning, humbled by Pittsburgh in a 7-3 loss on Sunday. This time they won’t have Brian Elliott between the pipes for the entire contest, but rather Andrei Vasilevskiy, in the midst of another season which will likely see him in the top five or even top three of Vezina consideration this summer.

Having an elite goaltender covers up for a lot of a team’s failings, but for Tampa, even as they are aging and perhaps weaker than the two teams ahead of them in the Atlantic Division standings (Boston and Toronto), they have an argument for the better goaltender in Vasilevskiy. The Bruins have Linus Ullmark who is definitely going to be a Vezina finalist this year, but Vasilevskiy has two Stanley Cup rings in his trophy case, and that kind of experience usually trumps the likes of even the best goaltenders. Maybe we’ll get to see the two face off in the second round of the playoffs.