The Pittsburgh Penguins are running out of patience.
After losing four straight and sitting outside of a wild card spot in the Eastern Conference, the Penguins front office is desperate to shake things up and kick in his back to his team.
On Friday, head coach Mike Sullivan was asked why forward Kasperi Kapanen was absent from practice. Sullivan was clear and honest in his response.
“[Ron Hextall] informed me before training that [Kapanen] was retained because he will make a waiver this afternoon.”
“When a team fails to meet expectations, change is inevitable – that’s part of it,” Sullivan said. said. “Kappy is a really talented player. To some extent, that’s on all of us because we haven’t found a way to maximize his potential.”
The move will allow Pittsburgh to activate defenseman Jan Rutta off injured reserve as he prepares to return to action after missing 15 games with an upper-body injury.
Kapanen has seven goals and 13 assists, and a minus-8 rating in 43 games so far this season. The 26-year-old averages just over 12 minutes of ice time per game, his lowest since the 2017-18 season.
Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported on the 32 Thoughts podcast on Friday that at least one Eastern Conference team expressed interest in trading for Kapanen earlier this season, but Hextall preferred not to deal the striker with that team.
Kapanen is in the first year of a two-year, $6.4 million contract he signed in July 2022. The Penguins are expected to save $1.125 million in cap if the Finnish winger agrees to the waivers.
One of Pittsburgh’s biggest problems this season — and a recurring weakness since back-to-back Stanley Cups — is scoring depth. As expected, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin lead the team with 69 and 58 points respectively. Jake Guentzel is close behind with 51 points, and Rickard Rakell, Bryan Rust and Jason Zucker all have over 30 points. The bottom falls past the top six, however, with only one other striker scoring at least 10 goals.
Jeff Carter, fresh off a new two-year deal and a 45-point season, struggled to keep up at 38, scoring just eight goals and recording 20 points in 54 games in 2022-23. Brock McGinn and Danton Heinen were limited to just 15 points each.
The last time the Penguins missed the playoffs was in 2005-06, Crosby’s rookie season. There are reasons to fear that their streak will be cut short this season.
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