The Penguins still have no plans to send Daniel Sprong back to junior, according to a report in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
The newspaper cited a club official “speaking on the condition of anonymity” for that tidbit.
Of course, GM Jim Rutherford said pretty much the same thing last week, that Sprong, 18, had done enough to stick with the Pens past the nine-game mark.
The difference between now and last week is that Sprong, the youngest player in the NHL, is coming off a healthy scratching Saturday in Toronto, and he could be in the press box again tonight in Vancouver.
Sprong has played eight games in total. He has one goal and no assists, and his average ice time is 10:04.
Which is to say, he hasn’t been all that vital to his team.
Granted, what he has given the Penguins is a cap hit of just $692,500. And that’s important, because the Pens don’t have much cap space to work with.
Not to imply that Sprong is only being kept up for salary-cap reasons; however, it’s worth noting that Rutherford admitted in April that Beau Bennett was rushed into the NHL.
“We made a mistake on Beau Bennett as far as development-wise,” Rutherford said. “I’ll take the responsibility for that. When it was getting closer for him to become a waivered player, I felt we should have sent him to Wilkes-Barre and let him play a lot.”
Sprong is not eligible to go to the AHL, only back to junior, where he’s already proven he can score. So perhaps Rutherford feels Sprong has a better opportunity to grow in the NHL, even if it means playing limited minutes.
The key question, though, is whether Rutherford still believes that Sprong “can help our team.”
Based on today’s report, he still does. But until Sprong plays his 10th game, Rutherford will maintain the option to change his mind.
Related: Blame the Canadian dollar for ‘cap squeeze’