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Looking at the Penguins moving forward

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The Penguins are not in salary cap hell. They have some moves to make in order to be a contender for the Stanley Cup again. Here, we take a look at where the Penguins stand right now.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Looking at where the Penguins stand right now, in terms of roster composition and salary cap implications, things aren't great, but they aren't dreadful either.

They are in a position where further re-tooling can take place, primarily through free agents leaving, without needing to blow up the team.

Daniel Winnik, Maxim Lapierre, Blake Comeau, Craig Adams, Christian Ehrhoff, Paul Martin, and Steve Downie are all unrestricted free agents that could be coming off the books for the Penguins. The only two restricted free agents are Beau Bennett and Ian Cole.  They are both making minimal dollars and their qualifying offers will come in low as well.

Let's take a look at how the current roster is constructed, in terms of a usage chart from War on Ice

Pens Offseason Usage Chart

More good than bad to focus on here. If the Penguins buyout Rob Scuderi, as Jim Rutherford expressed he had the authority from ownership to do, the Penguins back-end on defense is in a good situation. Raw, green, young, or whatever else you want to call it, but good, young, and skilled, it definitely would be.

Nick Spaling and Brandon Sutter stand out in these situations from their poor possession numbers. If management can replace Blake Comeau and Daniel Winnik with affordable free agents and/or implement Kasperi Kapanen, Oskar Sundqvist, Scott Wilson, etc from Wilkes-Barre, it would do more of the same on defense, adding speed and youth.

When Rutherford spoke yesterday, he said that management would be limiting the number of one-way and NHL-only contracts being given out, to keep from blocking the path to the NHL for prospects like Kapanen and Sundqvist. They will be given their fair chance to make the team in training camp.

We're potentially looking at a forward composition of

  • David Perron, Sidney Crosby, Patric Hornqvist
  • Chris Kunitz, Evgeni Malkin, Kasperi Kapanen
  • Pascal Dupuis, Brandon Sutter, Beau Bennett
  • Nick Spaling, Oskar Sundqvist
That is pending the health of Pascal Dupuis, and the two prospects making the team. The Penguins aren't in an awful position for a team that wants to get younger and faster.

I know trading Brandon Sutter is something a lot of people want. But I wouldn't expect it. I think management loves Sutter. I would not expect them to trade a player who scored 20 goals on a team that couldn't find the back of the net for 6 weeks.

Whether the Penguins bring back Lapierre, Comeau, Winnik, etc will give a lot of insight into the picture of what the forward composition is going to look like.

On the back end, I would expect things to look much differently. I believe Paul Martin and Christian Ehrhoff will hit the free agent market and be paid well. I don't know if the Penguins will buy out Scuderi, but they should. Another alternative there, as one of our commenters suggested, would be to dump him in a trade for a pick, and retain salary for two years, instead of paying the buyout money on the cap for four years.

With Scuderi still a part of the picture, the defensive roster composition looks as follows:
  • Kris Letang, Olli Maatta
  • Derrick Pouliot, Ian Cole
  • Ben Lovejoy, Rob Scuderi
  • Brian Dumoulin, Scott Harrington
As it stands today, the Penguins have 13 players signed (not including Bennett, Cole, Kapanen, or Sundqvist) totaling $57 million and change on the cap. adding those 4 players for minimal salaries and ELC's would bring that total to 17 players for about $62 million.  I suggest letting Matt Murray backup Fleury, bringing the total to 18 players, simply needing to spend wisely to fill in depth, and have moderate cap space available to do so.

I know 'doom and gloom' is the popular way to look at the Penguins nowadays, but I don't see it that way. I think they're in a good place to make some changes towards having a roster fit to play Mike Johnston's style.

I'm already excited to see what this team looks like in October.