Sports

/

ArcaMax

Sidney Crosby has wrist surgery, expected to miss season opener

Mike DeFabo, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on

Published in Hockey

As it currently stands, 36-year-old Jeff Carter would be the top line center on opening night and Teddy Blueger would center the second line. Even with those two forwards in expanded roles, the Penguins will still need to find two more centers to play in the middle of the third and fourth lines. Hextall mentioned, by name, Evan Rodrigues, Radim Zohorna, Dominic Simon, Michael Chaput and Brian Boyle as options. Sam Lafferty might figure into that conversation, too, as a natural center who has played the position in the past.

Rodrigues and Zohorna are likely atop the list of candidates. Rodrigues’ positional flexibility was one of the reasons the Penguins re-signed him this offseason to another one-year contract. He has centered lines at numerous points in his NHL career.

The Penguins also have been intrigued by the potential of Zohorna, a 6-foot-6 forward affectionately nicknamed “Big Z.” He flashed some playmaking on the wing last season and the club has noted on several instances that he’s a natural center who could eventually slide over to the middle.

As for the others in contention, Boyle signed a professional tryout contract with the Penguins last week. The 36-year-old forward carved out a niche in 12-plus NHL seasons as a bottom-six grinder. However, he did not play during the 2020-21 season. His chances of making the squad suddenly have improved. Chaput, meanwhile, mostly manned the taxi squad last season, appearing in 13 NHL games with Arizona.

If the Penguins choose to place either of their centers on long-term injured reserve to start the year, they would be permitted to temporarily exceed the salary cap. However, Hextall expressed his reservations when asked about taking that approach to add a player.

 

“The problem is, if you use it, you’ve got to go back and get cap compliant when Sid and Geno come back,” Hextall said. “It’s not as easy as it looks.”

Crosby, 34, netted 62 points (24 goals, 38 assists) in 55 games last season. This is not the first time he has gone under the knife in recent seasons. During the 2019-20 season, his season was shortened to 41 games after undergoing midseason core muscle surgery.

The Penguins pulled together in his absence that season to post the NHL’s best record during the stretch in which they were without one of the NHL's best players. Now, with two centers missing, they’ll try to weather another injury storm.

“This is going to be a group effort to make up for the deficit that we have right now,” Hextall said. “There’s no use crying about it. Every team goes through it.”

©2021 PG Publishing Co. Visit at post-gazette.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.