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Preparing for and predicting a potential Penguins lineup

The Pens’ season opener is going to be here before we know it.

Arizona Coyotes v Pittsburgh Penguins Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images

The Penguins’ lineup when they take the ice to open the 2022-23 campaign will look like a lot of the same — but will also look a lot different, in many ways.

Thanks to contract extensions for Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang, Bryan Rust, Kasperi Kapanen, and Rickard Rakell, and Casey DeSmith, the Pens will have a lot of their core back for next season.

But they also have made a lot of changes. Out went John Marino and Mike Matheson, in came Ty Smith and Jeff Petry.

Jan Rutta has entered the mix as a free agent and P.O. Joseph could become a mainstay at the NHL level.

So, what do things potentially look like for the Pens next season?

Sidney Crosby flanked by Jake Guentzel and Bryan Rust is a no-brainer, and Evgeni Malkin on a line with Jason Zucker and Rickard Rakell makes a lot of sense for it to be the first attempt at a 2nd line.

After that, things fall off of a cliff a little bit, with Jeff Carter, Brock McGinn, and Kasperi Kapanen potentially filling out a third line, and then you have a number of forwards who just feel like 4th liners — players like Teddy Blueger, Ryan Poehling, Drew O’Connor, and Josh Archibald.

Injuries are inevitable, so you wonder who the first call-up could be. You have players like Sam Poulin, Filip Hallander, Nathan Legare, and who all could make a name for themselves in the NHL.

On the new-look blue line, I would expect to see the mainstay of Kris Letang and Brian Dumoulin, but after that, we’re going to see a lot of new and unknown.

What combination of defensive pairings would you try?

Marcus Petterson and Jeff Petry makes sense to me, with some combination of Ty Smith, Jan Rutta, and Chad Ruhwedel making up the third pairing.

The Pens do need to make at least one move to become cap compliant. According to CapFriendly, the team is projected to be just under $500,000 over the salary cap without any moves.

Where do you think the biggest weakness in the Pens lineup is as of right now? I think it’s pretty clear it’s the bottom six forward depth, but I’m not sure how that can be improved? Perhaps some call-ups with more talent and playing a younger game will help.

Time will tell.