Four Players The Pens Should Target That Shouldn’t Break The Bank

By @PensNation_Nick

With the NHL Salary Cap set at $69 million, the Pittsburgh Penguins have just a shade over $14.5 million in cap space per Cap Geek, and have only 14 players under contract for next season.

Earlier in the week, the Penguins sent qualifying offers to Brandon Sutter, Simon Despres, Jayson Megna, Phillip Samuelsson and newly acquired Nick Spaling. So that 14.5 million will likely be significantly less, especially if Sutter goes to arbitration or Despres gets an offer sheet from a rival.

Let’s take a look at four players that the Penguins should pursue on the first day of free agency that shouldn’t break the bank.

Photo Credit: sportsnet.ca

Photo Credit: sportsnet.ca

NIKOLAI KULEMIN

The most notable player on this list is unrestricted free agent Nikolai Kulemin of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Numerous reports have linked the Penguins having interest in Kulemin. Evgeni Malkin lost both of his line mates this offseason with James Neal being traded to Nashville and Jussi Jokinen likely pricing himself out and signing elsewhere, bringing in Geno’s longtime friend would help to sooth the sting a little.

Kulemin is a former 30-goal scorer and has been miscast in Toronto under Rick Carlyle. His cap hit was $2.8 million the past two seasons and his production the past couple of seasons recently shouldn’t warrant much of a pay raise.

Kulemin had 20 points (9G; 11A) last season, but could likely flourish and see his production skyrocket playing along side Malkin.

Here’s what Ryan Wilson from HockeyBuzz.com had to say on twitter about Kulemin.

 

Photo Credit: slam.canoe.ca

Photo Credit: slam.canoe.ca

MASON RAYMOND

The Penguins bottom six was an absolute train wreck last season. Left winger Mason Raymond could be a solid addition and might be had for cheap. His cap hit was just $1 million last season in Toronto.

Raymond somehow produced 45 points playing with the Maple Leafs under Rick Carlyle. If you can thrive under Carlyle, you can thrive anywhere. Raymond is capable of killing penalties and can also log minutes on the second unit of the power play. Raymond-Sutter-Dupuis could be a strong third line in Pittsburgh.

Photo Credit: NYDailyNews.com

Photo Credit: NYDailyNews.com

BENOIT POULIOT

Pouliot is the complete opposite of what the Penguins bottom-six consisted of last season. Pouliot made just $1.3 million with the Rangers last season. Signing Pouliot might be more difficult  than some of the other players mentioned on this list because of a strong showing in the Stanley Cup Playoffs to go along with 36 points (15G, 21A) and impressive advanced metrics (55.1% Corsi). He is likely due a fairly decent raise – probably more than double his last contract but still somewhat affordable and could get caught up in a little bit of a bidding war. Pouliot would provide the Penguins with much better possession numbers than they’ve had the past couple of season on the bottom six as-well-as solid scoring depth.

Photo Credit: AP

Photo Credit: AP

DAVID MOSS

Moss is another guy that would provide the Penguins with solid possession numbers. He’s a little underrated because of his inconsistent scoring, but for those who love advanced metrics, he is a solid pick up. His Corsi numbers have been over 50% for the past three seasons. Moss notched 22 points (8G; 14A) last year. He is also solid on the PK and isn’t afraid to be gritty – notching 120 hits last season for the Coyotes (a career high). His cap hit was 2.1 million each of the last two seasons.

Photo Credit: NHL.com

Photo Credit: NHL.com

BRIAN GIBBONS

Gibbons definitely surpassed expectations in his first season in the NHL. In just 41 games, Gibbons tallied 17 points (5G; 12A) while averaging 11:57 minutes per game. The Pens would be making a definite mistake by not re-signing him to a new three-year deal. He played throughout the lineup, at times seeing time with Sidney Crosby, and was easily the fastest player the Pens had all year. He would likely cost less than $1 million a year.