Yohi: More details on Kyle Dubas’ plan for Penguins as NHL free agency opens

It’s becoming clear that Kyle Dubas values ​​future assets above everything else these days.

However, the Pittsburgh Penguins are still spending up to the salary cap. They’re almost there, anyway.

A plan has emerged for the opening days of the NHL free agency period.

Dubas is very keen to find a left winger for Sidney Crosby. The Penguins are quite good on the right side with wingers Brian Rust – Crosby’s favorite right winger – and Rickard Rakell, who the Penguins hope will bounce back from a disappointing season.

But the left side is different.

Michael Ponting showed immediate chemistry with Evgeni Malkin after being traded to the Penguins in March. The plan is for Ponting to resume his duties on Malkin’s line when next season begins.

While Crosby was very effective late last season while playing up front with Rust and Drew O’Connor, the Penguins would prefer an upgrade on the left side. They like O’Connor a lot, and there’s no doubt he deserves a job as a top-nine forward as the Penguins move forward.

However, sources in the Penguins organization have confirmed that Dubas, despite his limited money, is keen on finding a left winger for Crosby. The sources have been granted anonymity because they are not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.

The Penguins have about $7 million in cap space this summer after signing goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic to a two-year deal and trading forward Kevin Hayes.

Dubas said Friday at Sphere in Las Vegas that he will not waive any long-term contracts when the free agency period begins. And by all accounts, he will stick to that philosophy, believing the last thing the Penguins need is another long-term contract on their already crowded books.

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Instead, the plan is simply this:

• Identify a left winger who could work with Crosby.

• Sign this player to a short-term deal to “prove it.”

• Be patient on July 1st and wait for the right player for a few days if necessary.

Another factor has emerged that could theoretically free up cap space for Dubas.

Penguins sources say there has been some interest in left winger Reilly Smith and that a trade is possible this summer. Smith, who has one year left on his contract and a $5 million cap hit, didn’t fit in with the Penguins last season. Dubas is fine with bringing Smith back next season, but he’s the player most likely to be traded in a deal that would open up a lot of cap space and give the Penguins a future asset, something they’re currently craving.

It is believed that Dubas will lead the Penguins into a complete rebuild starting this summer, but because of Crosby’s presence, the Penguins’ President of Hockey Operations/General Manager believes it is important for the team to put together a competitive squad. What makes it even more interesting is that Crosby only has one year left on his contract.

The Penguins front office has no interest in completing a deal for Crosby. Crosby has no intention of skating a minute for another NHL team. However, the front office doesn’t want Crosby to be surrounded by a terrible team in his final seasons.

While Crosby is expected to sign a new contract with the Penguins, Dubas still wants to treat his captain right and give the Penguins a competitive team that will spend up to the salary cap, even if securing talent and draft picks is a priority at this point. It’s a tough position for Dubas, to say the least. Many in the organization believe he would have blown up this Penguins roster if it weren’t for his respect for Crosby.

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The decision to trade Jake Guentzel in March didn’t sit well with Crosby, who enjoyed some of his greatest success playing alongside Guentzel. While the Penguins are highly unlikely to find anyone on the free-agent market who can perform at Guentzel’s level, Dubas is eager to find a legitimate answer among the bottom six, even though headliners like Jake DeBrusk aren’t particularly in the mix due to the money and length of time they’ll command.

Although the focus is largely on finding a left winger for Crosby when free agency begins, the Penguins also have an issue on their blue line.

Surprisingly, Joseph, who finished as a top-four player on the Penguins last season alongside Kris Letang, did not receive a qualifying offer from the Penguins. That doesn’t necessarily mean Joseph won’t be back next season, as the Penguins are willing to discuss a new contract with him.

However, a team source said Dubas spent most of Sunday considering replacements for Joseph. So, he is unlikely to bring it back.

(Photo by Kyle Dubas and Jason Spezza: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

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