For general manager Ron Hextall and It was a mostly successful season. Pittsburgh Penguins.
He managed to get Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang, Bryan Rust and Rickard Rakell all re-signed for decent salary cap numbers. The defense (in this view) has been improved by Jeff Petry (and wild card Ty Smith). They also managed to bring in Danton Hayne on a competitive deal after a really successful first season with the team.
However, the work is not done as some questions still remain with more than a month to go before the opening of the training camps.
Is the bottom-six enough?
With Malkin, Rust, and Rakell all back in the mix, and Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel still in place, the top-six looks mostly composed. And very good. Although the second line is a question mark next to Malkin and Rakell, a healthy Jason Zucker or (hopefully) resurgent Kasperi Kapanen could fill that spot well enough.
The bottom-six is a small question.
Jeff Carter has definitely stepped in on the third line, and as he finished last season and has been around for over a year, I’m not sure how much he has left in the tank to be an impact player at that position. . The remaining five spots will be filled by a combination of Kapanen, Haynes, Zucker, (at least two of whom are not on the second line), Ryan Poehling, Teddy Blueger, Brook McGinn, Josh Archibald and Drew O’. Connor.
On the one hand, the Penguins’ bottom-six performed better than it was given credit for a year ago.
When neither Crosby nor Malkin were on the ice last season at 5-on-5, the Penguins outscored those teams 102-90 and held more than 53 percent of total shot attempts, field goals and field goals. Overall good numbers.
Those numbers stayed strong for most of the season, but started to tail off a bit in the final 15 games of the regular season. Carter started to slow down, Zach Aston-Reese and Dominic Simmons were gone, and they just weren’t effective as a team.
Is this the best of the current crop of players? Poehling has potential, but hasn’t proven it consistently. My expectations from Archibald are minimal at best, and anyone who thinks they know what to expect from Kapanen or Zucker is kidding themselves.
I think Ruta’s signing and the offseason for Kapane’s contract are weak links. That would be an additional $6 million in salary cap space to help address those spots, and that doesn’t even take into account the $2 million going to Brock McGinn. I’ve been thinking about Nino Niederreiter signing for $4 million per season and how someone like that might look in a Penguins uniform this season.
The Penguins are still over $1 million over cap space and need to not only meet the cap charge, but also shed some salary on themselves at the trade deadline or off-season.
Is there a replacement for Zucker’s contract?
Does that make Capane’s contract salable?
Or do they make another move on defense with someone like Marcus Pietersen or Brian Dumoulin?
As likely as it makes sense to deal Dumoulin, that still seems unlikely to happen since he still plays next to Kris Letang and the Penguins still value him highly and hope he comes back.
Trading Peterson would certainly result in a significant overhaul of the defense that saw Mike Matheson and John Marino exit and Jeff Petry, Ty Smith and Jan Ruta enter.
The goalkeeper’s question again
It’s no secret that scoring has been the Penguins’ biggest Achilles heel in the playoffs over the past two seasons.
That makes the decision to bring back exactly the same goalie duo an interesting choice.
On the one hand, Jerry has earned the right to remain a starter. He bounced back significantly during the regular season and played as a legitimate No. 1 starter. He was accidentally injured in the game.
Bringing in Casey DeSmitt as the top backup is an even more curious decision. Not only has he had an inconsistent and long stretch of poor play over the last two seasons, he has also been hurt in the last two playoff games. Bad luck? for sure. But presence is important, especially at this position, and DeSmith hasn’t consistently delivered that or strong play.
I think if there is any criticism of the finale it has to rest here or on the handling of the bottom six. At the end of the Ray Shero/Dan Bylsma era, we saw top-heavy Penguins teams struggle in the playoffs with weak bottom-six teams because they lacked the depth necessary to compete or win going forward. Stanley Cup. We’ve seen the impact scoring can have over the last couple of years. These are areas where major issues may arise. one more time.