HockeyBuzz.com – Ryan Wilson – Bringing back Bryan Rust is a must
The star break is here, which means the season is a little over halfway, even if it feels like it’s been going on for longer. This also means that the trade deadline is approaching. The Penguins have proven to the front office that they are still very competitive and that it is not yet time to separate the group.
A big decision to come, besides Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang, is the Bryan Rust situation. There are three options in play. Trade him because you don’t want to lose him for nothing and you don’t think you can re-sign him. Keep it this year and watch it work. Keep it and re-sign it for the long term.
The first option is ridiculous. It’s a non-starter and literally makes no sense. It’s either you’re all-in or you’re not. You can’t trade one of the most productive wingers that Sidney Crosby likes to play with because they might walk. This is the cost of being in a winning window now.
The second option is more palatable. It shows restraint and an understanding that Bryan Rust’s next contract is going to get ugly at some point down the road. My personal estimate is that negotiations for the Penguins should start somewhere around six years for 6M per season. Depending on how Rust wants to max out, that might not be enough, but I think you’re in the ballpark if you’re the Penguins.
The third option is the one I would go with. I would re-sign Bryan Rust knowing the contract is going to be bad at some point, but whatever. Who cares honestly four or five years from now? I said it once and I’ll say it again, you only get Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin once. Keep pushing the chips towards the middle and delaying the inevitable. When Rutherford gutted the farm system and draft picks, that was the only way to go. Take the path and do the best you can. Deal with fallout later.
Fresh off the presses (released yesterday), here’s a look at who Bryan Rust is as he heads into his 30-year-old season
If the Penguins are serious about continuing to pretend you don’t replace that. They have no assets to trade to acquire someone of this caliber. If they want to win in free agency, regardless of the target with those impacts, it will most likely cost more than Rust would likely accept from the Penguins. Rust won’t have some sort of hometown discount, but you might not have to pay the full retail price either.
Aging curves are one thing and that’s why Rust’s contract ending, wherever he signs, is going to be pretty bad. Unfortunately, the way the NHL has set things up in free agency right now, it’s a problem every team faces. By design, you are paying for past performance as the player declines due to age. Until they change the RFA ages or remove the RFA status altogether after the original rookie contract, this will continue to be an issue.
Bryan Rust is currently at 109 points this season. He has 32 points in 24 games. In the last three seasons, he is 16th overall with a goals-per-game ratio of 0.47. Jake Guentzel is the only Penguins with a better number than Rust and he’s only slightly better at 0.49. Jake Guentzel is a goal-scoring machine, so I guess that makes one for Rust too.
Signing is obviously not without risk. This obviously carries a high risk. Bryan Rust doesn’t exactly play full seasons and he hasn’t even turned 30 yet.
Since becoming a full-time NHL player, he has played six seasons and 333 total games. He averages 55.5 games per season. I don’t like that sound either. But I also don’t think there’s another clear way to keep this kind of production in the lineup. Either you go or you don’t. A move like this is part of re-signing Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang, which is also imperative. Finding an impact right wing to replace Rust will be next to impossible. Unless you think Claude Giroux is going bad and joining his former teammate Jeff Carter…
The Penguins should try to be proactive and make Rust an offer during the season. Rust can choose to test the market, and honestly it should. It’s his hard-earned right and the only real time he has the power to chart his future. Even if he chooses to test the market, he’ll know the Penguins really want him. Often players prefer not to move all of their belongings and families to another city if they don’t have to. Show him that you care as soon as possible, because when you think about which is worse, his next contract or his replacement, the latter will be much more difficult and there is no guarantee that you will ever do it.
Thanks for reading!