As the dust settles.....

If I know Penguins fans, it's even after the crushing blow of last night's elimination at the hands of the Montreal Canadiens, they want to know what's next.

Well, actually, they want to play the blame game, but someone else can do that.  I have no use pointing out that Marc-Andre Fleury didn't make enough stops, the defense turned too many pucks over and were out of position, and the forwards didn't score enough.  There's no singular reason, the team just didn't play well enough and didn't rise to the occasion, especially after some deep, deep playoff runs that might have left them with nothing in the tank.

So play blame game if you want, but I'm gonna look ahead and see what's next.  You're invited, after the jump.

Now that the dust is settled, here's what the Penguins look like for next season, based strictly off who has contracts (line suggestions are my own).

Chris Kunitz - Sidney Crosby - AAAAAA

Pascal Dupuis - Evgeni Malkin - BBBBBB

CCCCCC - Jordan Staal - Tyler Kennedy

Mike Rupp - Maxime Talbot - Craig Adams

Healthy scratch: Eric Godard

--That's approx. $30.425 million spent on the salary cap (about 53.5% of the expected salary cap of again $56.8 million).  And there's some major holes there.  Can Eric Tangradi transition into an NHL job, on a winning team in a Top 6 role?  What of Nick Johnson, Mark Letestu and Dustin Jeffrey, any chance they make it?  Will the team look to bring back Matt Cooke?  Most importantly: can they get some skill to play with Sid and Geno?

Brooks Orpik / Kris Letang

Alex Goligoski / DDDDDD

EEEEEE / FFFFFF

--That's $9.083 million spent, and a LOT of pieces to the puzzle to fill in there.  Will Sergei Gonchar and/or Jordan Leopold be brought back?  Is that even an economic option?  Can Ben Lovejoy slide into the NHL lineup, after now three years of being a pro?  Which free agents will Pittsburgh target here?  There's a lot of questions.

Marc-Andre Fleury

Brent Johnson

This tandem will make $6.1 million, and it's no question they'll be the guys on the roster.  The questions will be reserved for how Fleury will bounce back after a disappointing 2010 playoffs.

--

So, more or less, that's how we stand.  The questions will be the same: can the Pens find enough skill up front to surround their great centers, and can they get enough reliable bodies on defense to keep it moving the other way, and can the goaltending hold?  If Ray Shero learns from the mistakes the club on the ice made this spring, and satisfies all those questions, the Penguins should be in good shape for another deep run.

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