Before the season, as usual, I analyze the teams’ off-season, evaluate their prospects, and today we will analyze the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Signed: g. Alex Nedeljkovic (Detroit), g. Magnus Hellberg (Detroit), d. Erik Karlsson (San Jose), d. Ryan Graves (New Jersey), d. Libor Hayek(Rangers), d. Mark Pysyk(Detroit), f. Reilly Smith (Vegas), f. Lars Eller (Colorado), f. Rem Pitlick (Montreal), f. Noel Acciari (Toronto), f. Matt Nieto (Colorado), f. Radim Zogorna (Toronto), f. Vinnie Hinostroza (Buffalo), f. Andreas Jonsson (San Jose), f. Colin White*(Florida).
Left: g. Casey Desmith (Vancouver), g. Dustin Tokarski (Buffalo), d. Brian Dumoulin (Seattle), d. Jeff Petry (Detroit), d. Jan Rutta (San Jose), d. Dmitry Kulikov (Florida), f. Mikael Granlund (San Jose), f. Jason Zucker (Arizona), f. Nick Bonino (Rangers), f. Ryne Pehling (Philadelphia), f. Denton Heinen (Boston), f. Josh Archibald (free agent).
📌 Last season: broke a record 16-year streak of making the playoffs, the rest is details (9th place in the conference).
📌 Changes over the summer: maxed out with a change in general manager, a high-profile Karlsson trade, signing Smith to a top-6 offense and other numerous lineup shuffles.
Over the past offseason, it was Pittsburgh who were the main newsmakers and regular purveyors of high-profile headlines. The club has changed a lot of things, from the general manager to the many significant roster changes, led by the acquisition of Erik Karlsson.
New GM Kyle Dubas got right to work and tried to live up to his reputation. It was spectacular.
Among the work done, you can count quite a few controversial contracts made by Dubas over the summer. For example, the terms of an extension for injured goaltender Tristan Jarry (5 years, $5.35 million), who now has a highly questionable backup in the form of signed Alex Nedeljkovic, who never really found himself in Detroit.
On the plus side, the signing of 28-year-old defenseman Ryan Graves (6 years, $4.5 million), who had one of the best utility stats in the league at +34 last season, is worth noting.
Now let’s get to the main story…
Of course, the key event and decision was the three-way deal that resulted in the Penguins getting the reigning Norris Trophy winner. Will the invitation of 33-year-old Erik Karlsson prove to be mutually beneficial? Can the team survive having Letang and Karlsson on defense without finally falling into the minus side, even compared to the previous bad season?
These are minor issues right now, but they will definitely come up during the regular season. Before the start of the season it was more important for Kyle Dubas to make some noise, remind the entire league of himself in his new place, make the “major trade” of the offseason at any cost, and he succeeded, leaving all future nuances to coach Mike Sullivan and the fans.
The upcoming season for Pittsburgh certainly doesn’t promise to be boring, but will it turn out to be successful in the end? It is extremely difficult to answer, and even more difficult to list and put together all the influential factors.
📌 Goal for the season: get back to the playoffs.
📌 Status in the league today: star veterans gathered for the “final journey”.
📌 Prediction: fighting for the playoffs.
Certainly, the current Pittsburgh is part of a vast pool of contenders for the top eight and the competition within the Eastern Conference will once again be prohibitive.
Another question is, how will the Penguins end their long 82-match marathon? Will cup experience win out over ambitious youth?
📌 Bold prediction: not making the playoffs.
I’m going to assume Pittsburgh will clinch a playoff spot, but it’s going to be a lot harder to hold on than it has been in the past. All the likely and very real cons outweigh the optimistic scenario.
Perhaps, in this case, I would be happy to be wrong and see Crosby and Malkin in playoff games again, competing for the Stanley Cup. If you can imagine, how many of those opportunities are left for NHL fans in the near future, and are there any left at all? Is the era passing or has it already gone and we haven’t noticed yet. We’ll check back at the end of the season!