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An updated look at the Penguins’ pending free agents

Who has helped and hurt their stock the most? Nobody has done more to help their stock than forward Jason Zucker.

Winnipeg Jets v Pittsburgh Penguins Photo by Joe Sargent/NHLI via Getty Images

Back in December we looked at the Pittsburgh Penguins’ pending unrestricted free agents and who was making the best case to get a new contract with the team.

A lot can change in two months, so let’s check back in with them and see if anybody’s potential status with the team beyond this season has changed.

Tristan Jarry

Jarry’s play speaks for itself. When he has been healthy he has been outstanding, while his individual numbers compare favorably to some of the top goalies in the league. The difference in the Penguins record when he plays versus when he does not play is dramatic, and his health is going to be a major factor in what the Penguins do in the second half of the season and in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Based on that, as well as the lack of internal options and the shaky goalie market beyond him this offseason, should make him a pretty easy “re-sign option.”

They do not really have an easily accessible or identifiable backup plan outside of some sort of a trade.

The concern is going to be with his ability to stay on the ice. He has now been injured four times in the past 10 months and missed significant time as a result.

Past injury concerns is not always the best indicator of future injury concerns, but it can be a red flag and a concern.

That concern being what it is, his play when healthy and the lack of other options should still keep him in the “re-sign this guy” category. It should also be followed up with an improvement to the depth behind him to be more prepared for potential injury in the future.

Brian Dumoulin

The only change in Dumoulin’s status is that his play has only further reenforced the belief he should not be re-signed. Back in December I made the point that it might be manageable if he was brought back at a greatly reduced salary or role, but I am not even sure if that is viable. His play has simply declined so much that an argument can be made he should not even be in the lineup right now. I hate saying that because of the importance he had for some great Penguins teams, but you also have to be realistic. Definite do not re-sign under any circumstances.

Teddy Blueger

With all of the issues the Penguins are having in their bottom-six this season, Blueger has been an often times overlooked concern.

That is a disappointment given how good he has looked at times throughout his career.

Prior to this season he had consistently scored at an 11-goal, 36-point pace over 82 games, and when combined with strong defensive play and penalty kill abilities it made him an outstanding option as a bottom-six center.

But he has taken a huge step backwards this season almost across the board.

His offense has been almost non-existent (just one goal and six assists in 34 games) and his possession and defensive metrics have also dropped.

I think you can still make an argument for him as a good penalty killer, but how much can you invest in somebody to be a PK specialist if they are not going to give you anything during 5-on-5 play? He is also not exactly a young player at this point anymore, either. He will be 29 at the start of next season and this might only be the start of a further decline.

His stock has dropped significantly in my eyes. You do not need to overpay a 29-year-old fourth liner to kill penalties and do nothing else.

Josh Archibald

My opinion on Archibald remains unchanged in the sense that I am completely indifferent to him. He is fine as a 12-14th forward but also completely replaceable and interchangeable. You could probably easily do better.

Danton Heinen

Heinen might be the most disappointing of the offseason additions/re-signings because I thought he had a chance to be a lot better than he has been, while also being a pretty good value against the salary cap. They got him for nothing and I saw the chance to maybe score 20 goals this season in a secondary role. Unless he goes on an absolute shooting rager in the second half that is probably not going to happen. He will be cheap, but the Penguins can do better. The entire bottom-six needs overhauled, and that includes Heinen.

Jason Zucker

Now we get interesting.

Nobody on this list has seen their stock improve more from the start of the season than Zucker.

The narrative around him went from “how can the Penguins dump his contract and salary cap hit” to “wow this guy might be the most important player on the roster this season” in no time at all.

All it took was for him to actually be healthy and on the ice.

That really is what it all come down to, because his style of play and production has remained consistent throughout his time with the Penguins. He is one of the best forecheckers on the team, he brings an almost unmatched energy, and he has been a great fit on Evgeni Malkin’s line.

I love his game. You should love his game. The Penguins should love his game. Everybody should love his game.

I would love to see him back after this season.

But the number of questions that come with that are so significant. I honestly think the injury issues the past couple of years have been more bad luck than anything else, because he was pretty durable and consistently available throughout his time in Minnesota. But he is getting older, and sometimes that can lead to players starting to break down and slow down physically.

The biggest issues and concerns come down to age and money and the team’s ability to still add around him to correct the other issues.

He has definitely earned a new contract, and he is somebody the Penguins should want around, but it might fall into the “this is going to be really difficult to do” category.