There are rumblings of something of a curious move from the Pittsburgh Penguins, but one that could very well help their team if they can find a way to make it work.
Most believe that the Penguins have closed up shop for the offseason but according to a new report from Penguins reporter Dan Kingerski, Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford may have his eyes on one more forward. Kingerski, citing sources from around the National Hockey League reports that former Florida Panthers centerman Erik Haula may be that target.
Haula is unquestionably something of a gamble given his rather extensive injury history over the last few seasons, but he is also one of the few remaining forwards in free agency that could be considered an impact player. Prior to his string of injuries Haula looked like a monster for the Las Vegas Golden knights, recording 29 goals and 26 assists for a total of 55 points in just 76 games in that teams inaugural season, and he did that while winning the majority of the faceoffs he took for that team. Since then however he has played just a combined total of 53 games over 3 seasons split between the Golden Knights, Carolina Hurricanes and Florida Panthers, but did register 12 goals and 17 assists for 29 points over that stretch.
Haula's injuries have been pretty serious as well, it was a devastating leg injury that effectively ended his tenure with the Golden Knights, resulting in him being dealt in a cap clearing move, and since that time it's been knee injuries that have kept him on the sidelines.
The problem here for Pittsburgh will be the money. The fact that Haula is not signed yet would suggest to me that he is looking for a raise in these trying times, something that teams probably should shy away from given his recent rash of injuries. That being said there's no question that he would be a massive improvement to the Penguins bottom 6, assuming he's healthy, and the question would then shift to who has to go in order to clear the cap space required to sign the veteran Haula?
Zach Aston-Reese will no doubt start the season on long-term injured reserve if the start date of January 1st holds true, but that would only be a temporary solution. Kingerski suggests that forward Colton Sceviour could be sent down to the minors as well and that defenseman Juuso Riikola could become expendable, but in this current cap crunch era of the NHL moving a $1.15 million salary attached to a player with only 73 games of NHL experience may be easier said than done.