The Pittsburgh Penguins did not put defenseman PO Joseph on waivers on Sunday.
While inaction isn’t usually breaking news, in this case it means a surprise is coming. The Penguins have until Monday afternoon to drop below the $82.5 million salary cap and are still over the limit. And just because Joseph wasn’t waived, that doesn’t mean he’ll be on the opening night roster.
After keeping Joseph on Sunday, the only two plausible moves that could get the team under the cap are a trade to the Penguins or sending defenseman Ty Smith to the WBS Penguins. Joseph can be waived later, but he wouldn’t be cleared until Monday at 5 p.m. Thus, the Penguins would stay above the cape.
UPDATE: The Penguins announced Sunday night that they have assigned Mark Friedman and Ty Smith to the WBS Penguins.
Center Teddy Blueger progressed from an upper-body injury and went non-contact during Penguins practice at UPMC Lemieux on Sunday. It’s unlikely the Penguins can put Blueger on LTIR to buy more time.
The Penguins managed to keep Mark Friedman. The surly defender cleared waivers on Sunday. The team did not submit a claim for Radim Zohorna. Dave Molinari has the Penguins waiver report.
With Friedman in WBS, the Penguins are over the cap by about $780,000, according to CapFriendly.com.
Smith, 22, carries a cap of $863,333. His demotion to the WBS Penguins would put the Penguins under the cap but by about $80,000.
Joseph, 23, played his best pre-season game at the most important moment on Friday. The coaches paired him with Jeff Petry in the second pairing, and Joseph was great early on and steady throughout the game.
“I thought it was (Joseph’s) best game. I think when you play with a player like (Petry) it makes the game a little easier,” head coach Mike Sullivan said Friday. “But I thought it was PO’s best game for sure. And, you know, I thought he was getting better as the side went on. And it’s encouraging to see him have a game like…”
PHN rated Joseph well in the Penguins’ postgame analysis. He carries a cap of $800,000 this season.
Smith was a mixed bag on Friday; he was very good on the attacking side of the red line but was lost in transition and lost a few battles in the d zone which allowed him to score chances. The defensive zone is currently his weakness.
A week ago, Sullivan admitted that Smith had work to do.
“…On the defensive side, I think we have an opportunity to help him grow. We know he can improve that area, and I think he’s determined to make it happen,” Sullivan said after a 3-1 preseason loss at Buffalo.
Pittsburgh Penguins 2 Options
Smith was apparently the coaches’ pick to take the Penguins’ third-pairing spot. From the first days of training camp, Smith rubbed shoulders with Jan Rutta, who will be the Penguins’ third pair right-back.
Smith is waived and can be assigned immediately to the WBS Penguins. However, as of press time Sunday afternoon, the Penguins have yet to do so.
A possible trade with the Penguins is not limited to PO Joseph. However, PHN reported in June that the New York Islanders have at least some interest in the defender. Montreal was the other team we confirmed interested in Joseph, but their situation has changed significantly and an LHD is not the main need.
General manager Ron Hextall didn’t dismiss the idea of a trade, but didn’t express optimism either. Several other teams were or are looking for a partner in the NHL commercial market. However, there are very few teams with enough salary cap space to acquire more than minimal salaries.
The Pittsburgh Penguins are scheduled to practice Monday at 6:30 p.m. after the training deadline.