Penguins News & Rumors: Carter, Malkin & Letang Extensions, Next Trade

Welcome to Pittsburgh Penguins News & Rumors, where we cover all the hot topics about the club and dive into more than just box scores. Get ready for some rapid-fire headlines that will run us through all the noise surrounding Pittsburgh’s beloved Penguins.

Penguins Lock Up Veteran Forward

On Wednesday the Penguins announced forward Jeff Carter has signed a two-year extension with the hockey club for $3.12 million per season. The contract includes a full no-movement clause and keeps “Big Jeff” in Pittsburgh until he’s 39 years old. General manager (GM) Ron Hextall is certainly showing his loyalty to Carter as the team has a number of extensions to worry about and the newest Penguin of the bunch ended up getting extended first.

Hextall: “I initially reached out to his agent a couple months ago and said talk to Jeff and see what his thoughts are, we’d like to keep him in PIT. He came back about a month ago saying Jeff wanted to stay. Probably about a week ago talks got serious. We’re happy to have him.”

With the team now getting healthier, there should be some consistency with the lines, allowing for the veteran center to build some more chemistry with the likes of Evan Rodrigues and Brock McGinn. While Carter has been solid since his arrival in Pittsburgh, you can see from the image below, he started off like a house on fire last season as a Penguin and has taken a small step back in his production since:

Jeff Carter, signed to a 2x$3.125M extension, is a middle six scoring forward who takes a lot of penalties and has stepped back a bit after an insanely hot start to his tenure with the Penguins. #LetsGoPens https://t.co/Q4I99MSkLq
Regardless, his 37 points in 50 games since the trade has been a very positive sign. There’s certainly a level of concern over the extension just due to Carter’s age but overall it seems like the extension was well received by the fan base. He gives the team a ton of depth at the third center spot and a little bit of protection should talks go sour with Evgeni Malkin.

Hextall Choose to Get Carter’s Contract Done First

There are many around the hockey world, including myself, who wonder why sign Carter now? With the team having limited cap space for next season and a number of pending free agents including Kris Letang, Malkin and Bryan Rust, is Carter the priority? The Penguins GM was asked about the others and had this to say:

Hextall on Malkin and Letang contract talks: “We’ve had discussions with both guys. Certainly they’re a top priority for us. We have a limited amount of cap space to squeeze everybody in, but that’s certainly our goal. Negotiations have been fine, and we’ll continue on.”

If they are top priority, why is Carter signed first? Where’s Rust fit in all of this? It is great to hear negotiations with the two Penguins legends have been “fine” considering both players have their own agendas. Reports surfaced earlier this week stating Letang is looking for a raise on his $7.25-million salary in any new deal, meanwhile Malkin, the “rich guy,” is open to taking a hometown discount to stay with the only franchise he’s known (from ‘Yohe: What Jeff Carter’s new contract means for Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang and the Penguins’, The Athletic, 1/26/22).

Kris Letang #58, Sidney Crosby #87 and Evgeni Malkin #71
The trio of Penguins’ legends want to retire together in Pittsburgh (Photo by Brian Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)

While I don’t feel these ongoing talks will be a distraction based on the leadership of the group, I am curious to know how those guys are top priority but Carter gets done first.

Trade Market Heating Up, Penguins Won’t Sell the Farm

As president of hockey operations, Brian Burke indicated a couple of weeks ago, the big-time assets for the Penguins are likely staying put this time around. There’s been prospects and draft picks flying out of Pittsburgh these past several seasons as ex-GM Jim Rutherford loved to go all-in each and every year. This time around it will be a more calculated approach but that’s not to say if something interesting comes across Burke and Hextall’s desks they won’t consider it.

Related: Penguins’ 2022 Trade Targets on the Vancouver Canucks

The Penguins face off against the Seattle Kraken on Thursday night and this will be a great chance for management to take a look at some of the Kraken’s potential rentals. I wrote a piece recently focused on some trade targets from the Kraken, and it appears they emerge as a trade partner for Pittsburgh. Keep an eye on forwards Calle Jarnkrok, Mason Appleton and defenseman Mark Giordano. All three players would be great additions for the Penguins.

Newest Penguin Turning Heads in Minors

Alex Nylander was acquired a few weeks ago from the Chicago Blackhawks and has been playing great since joining the organization. He’s recorded six goals and 10 points in 11 games in the American Hockey League and the 23-year-old could get a look with the big club in the very near future. With the recent long-term injury to Teddy Blueger and with ongoing issues with Jason Zucker and Drew O’Connor you would think a callup would be on the horizon. The issue is Nylander is best suited to play right-wing and right now that’s a tough side of the lineup to crack. It will interesting to see if the young forward gives management no choice but to make room for him down the stretch.

That does it for another episode of Penguins news and rumors. Carter is staying put and looks to be ending his career as a Penguin, Malkin and Letang now wait their turn and somewhere Rust wonders if there’s going to be enough money left over. The trade market is heating up and the Penguins are expected to be involved for a backup goalie and depth on the blue line. Enjoy Thursday’s matchup against the Kraken and keep an eye on some of their pending free agents, they could end up in Pittsburgh before late March.

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