It’s not likely the Pittsburgh Penguins look at trading forward Bryan Rust, even though the organization is keenly aware they could lose the player for nothing in free agency this offseason. Rust is playing in the final season of a $3.5 million per year contract and will be a UFA this summer. The Penguins have learned that Rust’s plan is to test free agency.
This poses a problem for Pittsburgh. First, they can’t afford to move someone like Rust who is performing well this season with 17 goals and 37 points in 29 games. They also can’t really afford to re-sign him if the rumored ask of about $6 million per season is accurate. The Penguins have a number of contracts that need extending, including Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang.
The only hope the Penguins have is that Rust doesn’t think about money first, but comfort and his desire to stick with the Penguins. That the player is wanting to test free agency doesn’t bode well for GM Ron Hextall if he’s banking on Rust’s loyalty to the franchise.
Hextall said, “… We’d like to sign some of our (UFAs). Certain players, if they want the most money, they’re probably going to go elsewhere.” It’s not clear if he was speaking about Rust, but that’s the impression. The two sides have not had serious conversations about an extension, but Hextall maintains publicly that there have been talks and the sense is he feels optimistic that something could get worked out.
Is Rust This Season’s Zach Hyman?
There’s a bit of a feeling that Bryan Rust is a lot like Zach Hyman was last season coming out of Toronto. He’s looking to capitalize on his strong production, and there will be teams that waive big contracts in front of him. But, some believe the right analytical decision would be to move him and try to find a less expensive replacement.
The question will be, can the Penguins find themselves a Michael Bunting? While Hyman has proved he was a good bet by the Edmonton Oilers, Bunting has come in with the Maple Leafs and lessened the sting of losing Hyman in free agency. And, if they can’t find someone to replace Rust, who else is going to offer the Penguins the production Rust is?
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