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Pittsburgh Penguins Defenseman Ryan Graves playing in a game against his former team the New Jersey Devils on 3/19/24
Photo credit: NHL - Pittsburgh Penguins

Struggling Defenseman Handcuffing Penguins With Large Cap Hit

Published March 21, 2024 at 12:26
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Rob A.
March 21, 2024  (12:26)
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Ryan Graves huge salary cap hit is holding the Penguins back from moving forward with rebuilding the team. He is struggling to find his place on the Penguins and his cap hit nearly makes him unmovable.



Say what you will about Kyle Dubas, but his first year as the Penguins GM, he made a bunch of moves that on paper looked like it would be very beneficial to the team. He was able to secure Erik Karlsson while sending out large contracts like Jeff Petry, Jan Rutta, and Mikael Granlund.

He was also able to resign Tristian Jarry for what is a below market value price tag.


Some decisions were not fan favorites, like trading Jake Guentzel. And some were a bit confusing, like giving aging forwards well over 30, multi-year contracts.

One of the big deals in the offseason was the signing to a six-year deal defenseman Ryan Graves. Graves was brought to Pittsburgh to play with one of the big two right-handed defenseman. But as the season comes to a close, it is clear that he does not fit with either Letang or Karlsson.

Graves Is A Solid Puck Carrying Defenseman Without A Fit In Pittsburgh



Before coming to Pittsburgh, Graves was on a line with former Penguin John Marino. The two complimented each other well, even though 55% of their time was in the defensive zone. Graves managed 8 goals and 26 points last year while accumulating 200 minutes of penalty kill time.

Graves is usually the main puck carrier on defensive pairing, so lining him up on the blue line with Karlsson and Letang just does not work. When playing with freewheeling Letang, Graves was out of sync. With Karlsson he became the defensive anchor, a job he was not used to.

As a capable defenseman, he was forced into a role as the shutdown defender, which is not something he is known for.

Moving Graves Can Be A Problem With His Large Salary And Cap Hit



Trying to deal Ryan Graves elsewhere is another issue. This is the first of his six-year deal with an annual average of $4.5 million. That does not include the $12 million in guaranteed signing bonuses.

That makes his contract hard to move. He is the third highest paid defenseman on the team and has a limited no trade clause to 12 teams. This will reduce to 8 for the final three years of his deal. But that does not help trying to move him now.

The hopes were to mold Graves into a Pettersson, there was a time when Pettersson was struggling and is now the best defensive player on the team. There was even speculation at one point before the deadline, that Pettersson could be traded to help with a rebuild.

With the Penguins looking to move towards youth, they will need to find a way to move on from Ryan Graves.

As Read On: The Hockey News - Penguins Must Move on From Struggling Defenseman
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March 21   |   204 answers
Struggling Defenseman Handcuffing Penguins With Large Cap Hit

With Ryan Graves struggling on the Penguins, do you think he should be traded?

Yes16078.4 %
No4421.6 %
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