Examining The Additions And Subtractions Of The Pittsburgh Penguins Off-Season

Sidney Crosby attempts to put the puck past Islanders goaltender Ilya Sorokin(AP/Gene J. Puskar)

(AP/Gene J. Puskar)

Sidney Crosby attempts to put the puck past Islanders goaltender Ilya Sorokin(AP/Gene J. Puskar)

It was a crazy off-season for the National Hockey League (NHL). Marc-Andre Fleury is now in Chicago. Jack Eichel has been stripped of his captaincy in Buffalo and is very likely never playing another game as a member of the Buffalo Sabres. There is a whole new team in the NHL in the Seattle Kraken, who had an…interesting strategy in building their inaugural team. 

For the Penguins, the off-season was busy too. This was the first off-season with Ron Hextall as General Manager and Brian Burke as President of Hockey Operations, and the two have definitely made a mark on this team so far. Let’s look at who is new (“additions”) and who is gone (“subtractions”). 


Jared McCann, Center

Traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs

If you look at the roster of the Toronto Maple Leafs, you will not see Jared McCann on the list. McCann was a Maple Leaf for all of four days before he was left unprotected and claimed by the Kraken in the Seattle Expansion Draft. While many mocked the move, trading for a player you immediately gave away, it did allow the Maple Leafs to keep everyone on their current roster from being taken, including forward Alex Kerfoot. 

McCann, who appeared in 43 games for the Pens in the regular season and had a solid 32-point campaign, struggled mightily in the playoffs, only contributing 1 assist in 6 playoff games. The Penguins were hoping for a bigger offensive showing from McCann. A new franchise could be the perfect way for him to establish a long-term place to play. Despite only being 25 years old, Seattle will be McCann’s 4th NHL team. 

Jared McCann warms up before a game. (Emilee Chinn/Getty Images)

Brandon Tanev, Left Wing

Selected in Seattle Expansion Draft

When McCann was traded, it raised speculation that Brandon Tanev had made his way into the list of Pittsburgh’s 7 protected forwards. Therefore, many were shocked when Tanev was exposed in the Expansion Draft. Seattle, looking for a high-energy guy who can skate fast and hit hard, found exactly who they were looking for. The only real upside to Tanev’s departure is the fact that the Pens are off the hook for his big contract, which carried a $3.5 million dollar cap hit for this season and 3 more. 

Cody Ceci, Defense

Lost to free agency (signed with the Edmonton Oilers)

The reclamation project that was Cody Ceci had an amazing year in Pittsburgh, shattering expectations for him and setting him up for a big payday coming off of his one-year deal with Pittsburgh. The Pens, already a cap-strapped team, unfortunately, did not have the cap space to sign Ceci for his asking amount, and he went off to free agency, signing a 4-year deal carrying a cap hit of $3.25 million. 

Frederick Gaudreau, Center

Lost to free agency (signed with the Minnesota Wild)

This one stings. Freddy Gaudreau, who was a mid-season call-up due to the massive pileup of injuries (a Penguins annual tradition) stepped into the lineup and amazed fans. With only 2 goals in his 19 regular-season games, he, however, did add 8 assists and became a key player on the Penguins’ penalty kill. Gaudreau, after not being re-signed in Pittsburgh, signed a 2-year deal worth a $1.2 million dollar cap hit. 


Brock McGinn, Left Wing/Right Wing

Previously with the Carolina Hurricanes

Brock McGinn, who up until now had spent his entire NHL career with the Carolina Hurricanes, signed a 4-year deal worth a total of $11 million dollars, equating to a $2.5 million dollar cap hit. McGinn tallied 8 goals and 5 assists in 37 regular-season games. While those numbers might not impress many, there’s a much bigger reason why the Penguins wanted McGinn: speed, energy, grit. He is a Brandon Tanev replacement. McGinn plays a very similar style to Tanev, and he comes in 2 years younger, and his cap hit is half a million dollars less than Tanev. 

And here is something Pens fans might really love: McGinn tipped in the game-winning goal in double overtime in Game 7 to knock out the Washington Capitals in the first round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. 

Danton Heinen, Left Wing/Right Wing

Previously with the Anaheim Ducks

Heinen, coming over from Anaheim, is looking to prove himself here in Pittsburgh. His stats with the Ducks over the last two years are not all that impressive: 7 goals and 7 assists in 43 regular-season games during the 2020-2021 season, and 3 goals and 1 assist in 9 games played for Anaheim in 2019-2020. It is important to note that Heinen started the 2019-2020 season in Boston, where he experienced much more personal success. Before the trade, Heinen had 7 goals and 15 assists for 22 points in 58 games. If we take a look back a few years before that, Heinen showed great potential: tallying 11 goals and 23 assists in 77 games in 2018-19, as well as 16 goals and 31 assists in 77 games in 2017-18. 

At only 26 years old, he is definitely capable of a bounce back, and if he can see some time in the top or middle six, it is plausible Heinen can regain his form from a few years ago. 

Dominik Simon, Right Wing/Left Wing

Previously with the Calgary Flames/Stockton Heat (AHL)

He is back. Simon, now in his second stint with the Penguins, has returned on a 2-way deal, so it is likely Simon doesn’t see much time in the NHL. Similarly, he did not see much time in the NHL since leaving the Pens either, only suiting up for 11 games for the Flames last year during his one-year absence from Pittsburgh. He recorded 0 points. 

Filip Lindberg, Goaltender

Previously with the Minnesota Wild (technically)

While he was not the kind of goalie many Pens fans wanted after Tristan Jarry’s playoff performance last year, Lindberg is a very good signing. At 22 years old, he will not provide immediate help, but he is not supposed to anyways. Lindberg was a 7th round pick back in 2019 by the Minnesota Wild, but they didn’t sign him, and lost his rights, allowing Lindberg to go to free agency. Lindberg was highly coveted as a free agent, attracting interest from multiple teams before landing in Pittsburgh. 

Lindberg’s college stats are absolutely amazing. In 15 games at the University of Massachusetts last season, Lindberg recorded a 1.24 Goals Against Average and a .949 Save Percentage. While college numbers certainly do not automatically equate to NHL success, Lindberg’s play was outstanding. He joins several goalies in the Penguins system that could look promising. 

What Stayed The Same

The Goaltending: After Tristan Jarry’s disastrous first-round play in the playoffs, he was the most popular candidate to be shipped out of town. Team management though, showed they had Jarry’s back, and that they believe in him to still be the starter of this team, leaving him as the starter for the 2021-22 season.

Casey DeSmith is still on the team and continues to be the backup goaltender. Some speculated during the off-season that if the Penguins were unwilling to move Jarry, they could move DeSmith, and then bring in a veteran or more experienced goaltender to back up Jarry. However, despite the insane amount of trade talks and rumors, the Penguins’ goaltending tandem is still the same. 

The Core: While less popular among Pens fans than trading Jarry, some fans called for either the trade of Kris Letang or Evgeni Malkin-breaking up the core that has been together in Pittsburgh since 2007. Crosby would have obviously been untouchable in any potential trade of any member of the main core, but some fans were open to moving, or at the very least listening to the market for Malkin or Letang. However, Hextall did not move or even try to move, Malkin or Letang. 

Overpriced Contracts: Jason Zucker and Marcus Pettersson were also frequent targets for trade speculation. These players had the highest likelihood to have fallen out of favor with the fanbase, primarily due to their contracts. Zucker tallied 9 goals and 9 assists in 38 games during the regular season. Those numbers are not terrible until you look at Zucker’s cap hit: $5.5 million. For a team as up against the salary cap as the Penguins, $5.5 million dollars has to yield more results. Zucker’s contract expires after the conclusion of the 2022-2023 season. 

Marcus Pettersson also suffers heavy criticism stemming from his highly-priced contract: a  $4.025 million dollar cap hit for this season and 3 more beyond that. A third pairing defenseman almost never makes near that amount of money. Combine that with Pettersson’s defensive struggles during the last few seasons, and his contract looks even worse. 

It is not completely surprising to see both Zucker and Pettersson still on the team. Both contracts have a cap hit that is hard to move for their kind of play. Zucker’s could be even more tricky, seeing as how he has a 10-team no-trade list in his contract. 


On paper, this team is worse than last year. McCann, Tanev, and Ceci’s departures were not fully replaced. Heinen and McGinn are good pickups, but they are not an adequate amount of talent to replace what has left. 

The moves (and non-moves), however, do have the potential for greatness. If Heinen can find his form from a couple years ago. If McGinn can be an adequate Tanev replacement. If Zucker can turn things around, and start producing at the level of his contract. If Pettersson can improve his defensive play. If Jarry can re-prove himself to this fanbase. 

But that is a lot of ifs.