50-21-11, 111 pts / 278 GF(1st)/229 GA(17th)
Cap room (Per CapFriendly as of 8/15/17): $3.2 million - 22/23 NHL contracts
- 7/30/17 Conor Sheary - 3 yr / $9 mil
- 7/24/17 Brian Dumoulin - 6 yr / $24.6 mil
- 7/1/17 Justin Schultz - 3 yr / $16.5 mil
- 7/1/17 Antti Niemi - 1 yr / $700k
- 7/1/17 Matt Hunwick - 3 yr / $6.75 mil
- 6/22/17 Chad Ruhwedel - 2 yr / $650k
- 7/12/17 Derrick Pouliot - 1 yr / $800k
- 7/1/17 Casey DeSmith - 2 yr / $1.3 mil
- 7/1/17 Frank Corrado - 1 yr / $650k
- 7/1/17 Tom Sestito - 1 yr / $650k
- 7/1/17 Jarred Tinordi (D) - 1 yr / $650k
- 7/1/17 Chris Summers (D) - 2 yr / $1.3 mil
- 7/1/17 Greg McKegg (C) - 1 yr / $1.3 mil
- Marc-Andre Fleury - Expansion Draft
- Nick Bonino - NSH, 4 yr / $16.4 mil
- Trevor Daley - DET, 3 yr / $9.5 mil
- Ron Hainsey - TOR, 2 yr / $6 mil
- Chris Kunitz - TBL, 1 yr / $2 mil
- Mark Streit - MON, 1 yr / $1 mil
Conor Sheary - Sidney Crosby - Patric Hornqvist
Jake Guentzel - Evgeni Malkin - Phil Kessel
Carl Hagelin - (Bryan Rust*) - Daniel Sprong
Scott Wilson - (Carter Rowney) - Ryan Reaves
(Zach Aston-Reese - Greg McKegg -Tom Kuhnhackl)
*I know Rust is not a center, which is why his name is in parenthesis. The logjam at RW is the reason I have this line-up, which the Pens have never really used before.
Olli Maatta - Kris Letang
Brian Dumoulin - Justin Schultz
Matt Hunwick - Ian Cole
(Derrick Pouliot - Chad Ruhwedel)
The Penguins lost two-thirds of a very solid third line with Chris Kunitz and Nick Bonino’s departures. Both of them averaged nearly .5 ppg, which is above average for third line forwards productivity. Replacing them will not be easy.
Scott Wilson put up 28 points in 78 games, despite averaging just under 11 minutes per game last year. He put up another 3 goals and 3 assists in 20 playoff games as well. Those aren’t great numbers, but it’s far more than Hagelin put up in the playoffs (15 gp, 2g, 0a; empty net in G6 SCF) and regular season. If Wilson finds himself with more minutes, he could put up some pretty decent numbers. He’s shown nothing but improvement since joining WBS in 2014. He was taken 3rd from last in the 2011 draft, and I was quick to think he’d be the best pick in that round, but taken right before Wilson was Ondrej Palat. Palat is having himself quite a career as well. Scott Wilson’s name is on the Cup however, and he may be ready for the next step forward now that he’s worked his way to get this far, so why stop now?
The Penguins best prospect at forward, and likeliest player to get significant playing time is Daniel Sprong. He was injured at the beginning of last year until January, and was returned to juniors, where he absolutely tore it up with Charlottetown of the QMJHL. He scored 32 goals in 31 games. The Dutch forward looks to be the best candidate to fill in a scoring role in the top-9, something that wasn’t likely possible without the loss of Kunitz and Bonino. Now is his time to shine.
The other prized forward for the Penguins is recent NCAA free agent, Zach Aston-Reese out of Northeastern University. He scored 8 points, 3 goals and 5 assists, in a 10 game stint with WBS at the end of last year. He could possibly make the team in camp, or will most likely be the first call-up(other than 4th liners) from the AHL, similar to how Guentzel was handled last year. ZAR isn’t likely to have the similar impact that Guentzel did, but should be one of the better Penguin forward prospects in a long time. With the Penguins history with injuries, it’s only a matter of time before he’s wearing a Pittsburgh Penguin jersey.
Too Early Expectations:
The Penguins lost quite a lot to replace this summer, but also did a fine job replacing them in a fiscally impressive way. The biggest loss will be the Penguins franchise net minder, Marc-Andre Fleury. His loss will not be measured by the games he’s played, or by the new guy in net, but instead the level of joy he brought to the team. Whenever you hear about how great someone is from every single person he’s met, you have to believe it. I don’t think there’s a single person that dislikes Fleury as a person. He’s been the heart and soul of this team, and his absence will definitely be felt in the room. Luckily for the Pens, they already have the next franchise net minder in place.
That man of course is back-to-back Stanley Cup winning rookie goalie: Matt Murray. His 22 Stanley Cup Playoff wins as a rookie will be a very tough feat to be broken any time soon. He also went 32-10-4 last year, improving is career record to 41-12-5 with a .925 sv% and 2.32 GAA. If he can somehow improve those numbers, the Pens may just have themselves the franchise’s first ever Vezina winner. Tom Barrasso finished 2nd in ‘93, and 3rd in ‘98, however. He’s the man between the pipes for good now, and the goalie position has never been the backbone of this franchise. It’d be a new look, and adding that element to the Crosby/Malkin era could just be why this team could be destined for even more greatness.
The forward group is still going to be an elite group with Crosby, Malkin, and Kessel still in their primes. There also looks to be more impactful rookies in Pittsburgh as well. Although Guentzel isn’t considered a rookie, this will be his first full season in the NHL, so he’s basically a rookie. There is also Daniel Sprong on the cusp who looks to be a really good sniper. Other than Malkin, Crosby, and Staal from 2004-06, when was the last time the Penguins had a high draft pick at forward come in and make an impact? The Penguins had the most goals last year by a total of 15 at the end of the year. With the influx of young talent, and if GMJR can find a 3rd line center, there’s reasons to believe the Pens can even improve on that number.
There’s good news when it comes to the defense. The best news is that Kris Letang is rumored to be ready for this season by training camp. There have been a lot of workout videos on social media involving him, and he doesn’t appear to be holding back on any of them, so that’s a good sign. Pittsburgh also brought in Matt Hunwick on a very reasonable deal. Justin Schultz has also kept trending up since the day he got traded to Pittsburgh, and he was brought back for 3 more years. Dumoulin was also resigned for 6 years at a fair rate. With Maatta’s long-term deal, the Penguins have their top-4 locked up for a long time, add in Matt Hunwick and Ian Cole and you form a very solid bottom pair. The only bad news was losing Daley. He’s valuable, but was declining and not worth it for Pittsburgh to pay the money Detroit did to sign him. He was a great addition, and I’m glad he was here to celebrate two Stanley Cups, but I think the team will be fine without his talents. Pouliot and Ruhwedel should round out a decent #7 and 8 d-men.
Which brings me to the most valid points why the Penguins can #3PEAT. They just won back-to-back Cups, which has been proven to be extremely difficult to do. They managed to do that with a rookie goaltender(TWICE!) and minus one of the best defenseman in the entire league for half the regular season and entire playoffs. The rest of the Eastern Conference either stayed relatively the same, or at least lost something of value for nothing due to the Expansion Draft. This team is built like a Championship team, and with Mike Sullivan getting the troops ready to play, he’s not going to settle for any off-nights. The Pens look to be a heavy favorite again for Lord Stanley’s Mug.
The Penguins, and the rest of the Metropolitan Division, should be just as impressive next year despite the loss of significant players from each team in the top half of the division. It’d be hard to come true two years in a row, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see 3 or more 50 win teams coming out of the Metro again next year. I guess we will just have to wait and see.
How many wins will the Penguins finish with?
This poll is closed
39 or less
50+ (Last years total)
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