I used to be mulling over potential modifications to the Penguins’ roster when an unsettling thought occurred to me. Did we miss our final (and greatest) alternative to recapture the Stanley Cup?
Perhaps I’m naïve for pondering so, particularly given the way in which the playoffs appear to favor heavier, extra structured groups. However I felt this bunch had a reliable probability to go all the way in which.
We received the MassMutual East and completed tied for fifth general in factors. We had the second most potent offense within the league and ranked fourth in objective differential. Sure, we had our flaws. However make no mistake…this was a very good group. Darn good.
Even with Evgeni Malkin skating on one wheel, our heart depth of Geno, Sidney Crosby, Jeff Carter and Teddy Blueger was unmatched. Boasting the likes of Jake Guentzel, Bryan Rust, Kasperi Kapanen and Jared McCann, we possessed loads of scoring on the wings. Our vitality line of Blueger, Zach Aston-Reese and Brandon Tanev rated among the many prime shutdown trios within the league.
Maybe we had been a little bit skinny defensively and in objective. However the tandem of Kris Letang and Brian Dumoulin rated as among the best within the league, and the Cody Ceci–Mike Matheson pairing was remarkably efficient throughout the common season. It’s straightforward to overlook that much-maligned Tristan Jarry completed fourth in wins.
The juxtaposition of a flat wage cap, an growth draft and a plethora of UFAs and RFAs, to not point out administration’s acknowledged need so as to add dimension and aggression, nearly assures that modifications are coming. Ones that would considerably alter the group’s chemistry, make-up…and effectiveness.
For starters, the growth Seattle Kraken are going to get an excellent participant from our Pens, be it Blueger or McCann or Tanev and even Jason Zucker. To not knock him, but when the Kraken take Zucker and his $5.5 cap hit, it’ll be a boon to our Penguins. If not…
…it’s liable to start out a domino impact that would have a huge effect on our lineup. Form of like a home of playing cards collapsing.
Even when Seattle passes on pending RFAs Blueger and Aston-Reese, there’s no assure we’ll re-sign them. Each have arbitration rights and are liable to command raises that’ll blow our tenuous wage construction sky-high.
If the Kraken choose Tanev? Nightmarish because it appears, it’s attainable a extremely efficient checking line might vanish in a single fell swoop. Leaving some vital holes to fill.
Nor does it assist that high quality depth guys like Frederick Gaudreau and Evan Rodrigues are UFAs who might probably signal elsewhere. Ditto Ceci, who did such a stable job for us this season. Even when Cody’s prepared to signal at a team-friendly fee, it’s liable to be nicely above the bargain-basement $1.25 million he earned this season. Once more, placing strain on our tight cap state of affairs.
Given Jarry’s porous postseason efficiency, GM Ron Hextall will probably be in search of an improve in objective, both within the type of a starter or a 1A man. The names most bandied about, Anaheim’s John Gibson and Toronto’s Frederik Andersen (a pending UFA), are each dear ($6.4 million and $5 million cap hits respectively).
Then there’s the not-so-small matter of attrition. Our core is getting older. Crosby and Letang might be 34 subsequent season, Malkin 35. Carter, a commerce deadline revelation, will flip 37 on New Yr’s Day. Can they proceed to be as efficient, particularly the latter?
Most likely not.
I’ll toss a remaining go surfing the hearth. If Hextall does reach bringing in greater (and, probably, slower) gamers, how will that have an effect on coach Mike Sullivan and his need to play a pace recreation? He didn’t accomplish that nicely with a hybrid squad again in 2018-19 (swept within the first spherical of the playoffs) when then-GM Jim Rutherford added massive our bodies Nick Bjugstad and Erik Gudbranson.
Publicly at the very least, the Pens’ brain-trust nonetheless sees us as viable Cup contenders. Nonetheless, until Hextall performs miracles this offseason, I see us as a group in transition. A transition that would very probably lead to a decline that paves the way in which to a much-dreaded however in the end vital rebuild.
Massive and Tall Store
Talking of larger gamers, the Pens have been linked at the very least superficially to left wing Matthew Tkachuk (Flames), proper wing Zack Kassian (Oilers) and defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen (Sabres). All giant and aggressive. All former first-round picks.
Add Colorado left wing Gabriel Landeskog to the combo. Regardless of a luminous profession, the Avalanche could expose their captain and pending UFA within the growth draft. An intriguing mix of dimension, sand and talent, the burly 6’1” 215-pounder is bound to command a sizeable elevate over the $5.57 million/season he earned on his final contract.
The 28-year-old Swede positive would look good in black and gold. A digital impossibility, little question. However a man can dream…
*You’ll want to try Rick Bukers books,
accessible at TriumphBooks.com,