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Penguins address cap concerns, trade Beau Bennett to Devils

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Many of the trades being made at the draft this year were less about hockey and more about cap flexibility. Such is the nature of a flat-cap league. 

To that end, Pittsburgh, the league's most capped-out team by a fair margin (they entered the day with some $74.4 million in cap obligations), loosened its concerns at least a little going forward by sending Beau Bennett, a pending RFA, to division rival New Jersey for the No. 77 overall pick.

While Bennett doesn't actually have a contract for next year yet, it's at least one fewer deal to sign for a team already dealing with negative cap space before July 1.

Bennett, who will be 25 at the end of November, would likely have been due a marginal raise from his one-year, $800K deal. He struggled with injuries this year and tallied 6-6-12 in just 33 games for the Cup champions. He only got into one playoff game.

This is a worthwhile gamble for the Devils because Bennett, when healthy, is a decent enough possession driver when used in the right situations. But “when healthy” is the operative term here: he's never played more than 49 games in any NHL season, and his career high is just 14 points. His most recent problems relate to a chronic injury to his right shoulder, which held him to just one game between mid-December and late March. 

But a former first-rounder who has yet to meet his realistic scoring peak is probably worth a late third-round pick from New Jersey, a team largely bereft of forward talent that's still some $10.4 million below the cap floor. They still have to re-sign Kyle Palmieri (probably due a rich deal), among others, and Bennett could be a decent depth option if nothing else.

As for the No. 77 pick, Pittsburgh used it to take defenseman Connor Hall of the Kitchener Rangers, who posted nine points in 49 games, but only turned 18 in late January. He also got an invite to play for Canada at the U-18 World Championships, where he went 1-1-2 in six games. 

As you might expect from the point total and age, Hall is a physical, big-bodied defender who really took off in the second half of the year. He projects as a potential No. 4-6 defenseman in the pros, largely in a shutdown role. 

Ryan Lambert is a Puck Daddy columnist. His email is here and his Twitter is here.

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