Penguins forced to make difficult choice ahead of expansion

How can they let one of them go?!


All teams in the National Hockey League need to subit the list of protected players ahead of the expansion draft for the Seattle Kraken, and it sounds like the Pittsburgh Penguins are facing a difficult choice that is taking them more time. 

According to Ryan S. Clark of The Athletic, the Penguins will have to choose between exposing veteran Jeff Carter or winger Kasperi Kapanen for the expansion draft. 

Earlier this week, the Penguins re-signed forward Teddy Blueger to a two-year extension, and Clark believes the team will opt to protect him. He then explains how Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin must be protected due to no-move clauses and expects Jake Guentzel, Jared McCann and Bryan Rust to also get protection, which means there is only one more spot left up front for protection. 

If you compare both KK and Carter, you can see why the choice is a tough one to make. Kapanen was traded from the Toronto Maple Leafs in the fall of 2020 for a package that included a first-round pick. He tallied 11 goals and 30 points in 40 games during the regular season, and added one goal and three points in six playoff games. He is set for restricted free agency next summer with one year at a $3.2 million cap hit left on his deal.

As for Carter, the guy is a two-time Stanley Cup champion with the Kings, who was brought in from Los Angeles at the trade deadline this year in return for two draft picks. He had 17 goals and 30 goals in 54 games between the two teams and added four goals and five points in a clutch six-game playoff run. The veteran forward carries a cap hit of just $2.636 million, with the Kings having retained half his salary in the deadline trade. 

The good news might be that whoever gets picked by Penguins general manager Ron Hextall, the one left unprotected might not get picked up by Seattle. There are talks, which Clark confirms, that the Kraken could still have interest in Brandon Tanev or Jason Zucker in the expansion draft.

If I were Hextall, I’d protect Kapanen, leaving a much older Carter available and see how things roll. The Penguins’ roster is doomed to change and this is just one of the moves that will occur this offseason in Pittsburgh.