Sitting on the outside looking in on a wild-card spot, Ron Hextall has been the target of frustration from Pittsburgh Penguins fans, which the general manager understands comes with the job.
As the Penguins were coming off the ice during the second period of their game against the Edmonton Oilers Thursday evening, the team was booed as fans chanted “Fire Hextall!”
“I understand the fans’ frustrations. We have high expectations as well -and we haven’t met them so, I totally get it. When you are a GM, you know what you’re signing up for,” Hextall told reporters. “We work in the public eye and the fans pay good money to come to the rink. They certainly have the right to chant and say whatever they choose.
“It’s not going to affect anything I do or don’t do. Criticism is part of the business. You have to deal with it.”
Pittsburgh is currently one point behind the Detroit Red Wings who hold the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference. It has been a tough stretch for the Penguins who have lost their last four games.
Despite the team’s struggles, Hextall remains committed to helping the team make a run for the playoffs.
“Our intent is to continue to try and make this team better,” Hextall said. “This year and years beyond this year to stay competitive.”
Pittsburgh placed forward Kasperi Kapanen on waivers on Thursday as a way of freeing up some cap space to make some moves.
“I do believe we can make the playoffs,” Hextall said. “The prices are high (for trades), they always are at this time of year. We’ll continue to monitor the prices… we’ll try and make our team better.”
One area Hextall hopes he can improve is the team’s forward group in the bottom six.
“You look at our bottom six, for some reason pieces haven’t fit,” Hextall said. “We just try to give the coaches the options we can give them. We are in a tight cap situation, which we’re trying to rectify here.”
According to Rob Rossi of the Athletic, head coach Mike Sullivan reportedly wants Hextall to make a push to trade for Arizona Coyotes defenseman Jakob Chychrun. However, the Penguins general manager isn’t in favour of the asking price which reportedly includes their 2025 and 2026 first-round draft choices in any trade package.