After signing Brian Dumoulin, what’s next for Penguins?
Brian Dumoulin’s buddies figure to make him pick up the next couple bar tabs. Maybe the defenseman will splurge on some new cooking supplies, too.
For the Penguins, what happens next after signing Dumoulin to a six-year, $24.6 million contract extension isn’t short on intrigue or layers.
To start, the Penguins aren’t out of the weeds when it comes to arbitration. They have a second hearing looming: Conor Sheary Aug. 4.
Lewis Gross represents both Dumoulin and Sheary. He remains confident a deal can get done before that date.
“We’ve been working on Conor for a while,” Gross told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Monday morning. “We’ll get back at it [Tuesday]. Hopefully we’ll be able to make a deal on Conor as well.”
From the team perspective, crossing Dumoulin’s name off the list helps general manager Jim Rutherford some, but not a ton. He continues to search for a third-line center and must work within center parameters.
Previously Rutherford has said he’s planning on allocating about $2 million to that position.
That jibes with how the numbers shake out now that Dumoulin has signed. CapFriendly.com lists the Penguins having $6,280,000 in cap space. Figure $2 million in a buffer and money for a potential Matt Cullen contract and $2 million for a third-line center, and that means they’d need Sheary’s number to come back in the $2-$2.5 million range to make everything work.
None of that is nuts.
“This is where I expected to be with Brian,” Rutherford said. “It’s hard to project now because we’re still looking to add another player at center. With an open number there for Conor, it’s difficult to project. I don’t want to get into that at this point.”
If Sheary and the Penguins go to arbitration, a third party will determine Sheary’s salary; the arbiter does not have to pick one or the other.
The open-ended-ness of that means Rutherford must tread carefully.
“With an arbitration hearing coming, someone else will set that number,” Rutherford said. “We have to be aware of that as we continue to look to add another center.”
As for doing that, it’s pretty much status quo. Rutherford has heard nothing regarding Cullen’s decision for next season, and that’s not outside the norm at this point. Cullen is thinking things over at his lake house.
Rutherford also downplayed the idea that the team could use Jake Guentzel in this spot.
“Nothing’s changed,” Rutherford said. “There’s a player we could add now who would certainly be able to do the job for us. At this time, I want to be patient and see if the market opens up a little bit more.”
And about Guentzel, who produced 29 goals in 65 games (regular season and playoffs) this past season, the majority of them next to Sidney Crosby?
“With the chemistry he had with Sid, I think that probably would be a difficult move early in the season,” Rutherford said.
So playing the patient game will prevail. You have to figure, at least, there will be plenty to prep for with Sheary’s arbitration case.
Scoring 23 goals in 61 regular-season games, as Sheary did, will certainly come up. But so will the player producing just three assists in his first 15 playoff games this past season.
Not only that, but Sheary looked lost lost at times, losing his regular spot on Crosby’s wing. Sheary also responded to the tune of two goals and four points in his final seven playoff games. It’s conceivable that Sheary’s case could be more complicated than that of Dumoulin.
“Each one is so different,” Gross said of going to arbitration. “Ultimately, though, team and player would like to avoid going in that room. It’s not a pleasant experience.”
Jason Mackey: email@example.com and Twitter @JMackeyPG.