Do The Penguins Have a Ryan Graves Problem? "There's No Pity Party"

When new GM Kyle Dubas took over the reins of the Pittsburgh Penguins this past summer he made plenty of splashy moves, not the least of which was signing defenceman Ryan Graves to a six-year free agent contract with a $4.5 million AAV. 

Now, less than half a season in, Graves was demoted to the third defensive pairing after a particularly rough stretch, highlighted by his being on the ice for three of the four Washington Capitals goals in a 4-3 Penguins loss Tuesday night. “It’s been a bit of a struggle for him,” head coach Mike Sullivan said. “We’re trying to find ways to get him going. He’s obviously a quality defenseman.” 

Graves is trying not to get too down on himself. 

“There’s no pity parties going on here,” Graves said. “You don’t want to say ‘it’s a bad bounce that shouldn’t happen. Poor me.’ It’s hockey, it happens. It’s a game of mistakes. You need to find ways to stay in games.” 

“I think he can use his body a little bit more than he’s doing right now,” Sullivan said. “That’s something that we’ve talked to him about.” The coach added that they certainly haven’t given up on Graves just yet, and will continue to work with him. 

Perhaps sticking with the lower-pressure third pairing with the steady, always-in-position Chad Ruhwedel, can help in the short term.

But with another 5 1/2 seasons to run on his massive contract, there's likely no trade forthcoming, and the Pens have to hope that Graves will settle in and find his place in the top four.

“ I think sometimes when a player comes to a new team, there’s an adjustment process. Some guys handle it better than others,” said Sullivan. 

“We’re going to rely on him moving forward. We’re going to work with him and try to see what we can do to keep his game simple. I think that’s when he’s at his best.”

Photo: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports