Penguins’ Niskanen knows he might be traded

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Pittsburgh Penguins GM Ray Shero has already made quite a few major moves this summer, but his work might not be done. The team is projected to start the season over the salary cap.

That’s assuming the Penguins carry 23 players, which they might not, but to do otherwise would create a different problem. They currently have seven defensemen inked to one-way contracts and that doesn’t include Simon Despres, who is likely to make the team. Unless they’re content to send Despres to the minors, they would have to expose one of their other blueliners to waivers in order to carry less than eight.

So it seems the stage is set for the Penguins to solve their issues through different means.

“I know the situation we’re in, being over the cap,” defenseman Matt Niskanen told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “It’s pretty evident that Ray [Shero, the general manager] has to make a decision. Someone who probably otherwise is a regular on our roster [will be traded].”

There’s a decent chance that someone will be Niskanen, although nothing is certain at this point. Niskanen had four goals and 14 points in 40 games last season and comes with a $2.3 million cap hit in 2013-14 before becoming an unrestricted free agent this summer.

Trading Niskanen would solve the Penguins’ defensive logjam and give them a bit of breathing room when it comes to the salary cap.

Either way, Niskanen isn’t worrying about it. He’s already been traded before and endured rougher times than this in his NHL career. For now he’s operating under the assumption that he’ll start the season with the Penguins, but he says he’ll understand if Shero decides to move him.

“Over the last year or so, you’ve kind of had that thought, ‘Well, this might not last forever,'” Niskanen said. “That’s just reality for veteran role players.”