The Pittsburgh Penguins have summer adjustments to make to the roster and they have been quite clear about that. While most folks have been focusing on the ongoing trade rumours concerning top forward Phil Kessel, there is a lot more happening off the ice.
According to Jason Mackey of The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Penguins have discussed the possibility of signing a veteran defenseman, who that had requested a trade during the season.
Jack Johnson requested a trade this season from the Columbus Blue Jackets as he looked to move to a team to better his future as a veteran blue liner in the NHL, for his financial situation and his family's needs. The Jackets ended up holding on to the defensive defender and there seems to be little doubt he will sign elsewhere on the opening of free agency on July 1st.
Mackey believes the Penguins will however have to move a contract or two to clear space for Johnson, since space might be an issue with the signing. He thinks that Carl Hagelin, Conor Sheary and Matt Hunwick could be likely candidates to be moved to make room for Johnson.
The plan might be to offer Johnson a short-term deal in hopes of improving his value and image after sitting out all six of the team’s playoff games. The Penguins are known to be great remedy for defensemen who has been known to struggle. Mackey points out the evolution of players like Justin Schultz and Jamie Oleksiak with the Pens, and how it might work as well for a blue liner like Johnson.
The money will remain the main issue for an agreement between both parties. TSN Hockey Insider Bob McKenzie said last week Johnson could receive up to a $6 million average annual value on the open market, which would be too expensive for the Penguins. Pittsburgh is projected to have roughly $9 million in cap space this summer with five restricted agents to sign to contract extensions.
A thing that could convince Johnson to accept a lesser deal is his friendship with Penguins captain Sidney Crosby. The two players, both selected in the first round of the 2005 NHL entry draft, met while attending hockey prep school Shattuck-St. Mary's in Minnesota. At Shattuck-St. Mary’s, Crosby and Johnson went on to win the 2003 USA Hockey Tier I 17 & Under National Championship.
The 31-year-old Johnson tied a career-low with 11 points this past season while average his time on ice sat below 20 minutes (19:33) for the first time in his career.
A stint in Pittsburgh, on the same lineup as close friend Crosby, could be what he needs.