The Pittsburgh Penguins had a shockingly good season despite losing Sidney Crosby to a concussion and Evgeni Malkin to injury as well, and so don’t expect GM Ray Shero to absolutely dismantle his team this offseason. The biggest additions to this team will be (hopefully) the return of their 2 superstars in top form.
The Penguins are set in goal with “Flower in the cage” and quality backup Brent Johnson. When healthy, the Penguins boast a deep and talented group of defensemen, headlined by emerging superstar Kris Letang. On forward, coach Dan Bylsma is hoping to try Jordan Staal as the #2 center with Malkin on his right and potentially Chris Kunitz on his left. James Neal struggled since coming over in a trade with Dallas, but in his defense, he has yet to play alongside #87, which is specifically why he was brought in. Mark Letestu is expected to be the team’s #3 center, with rookie Eric Tangradi expected to crack the roster as well. With a lot of players re-signed over the past few days (Dupuis, Adams, Asham), only 2 holes remain at the forward position.
Pittsburgh has just over $5.5M in cap space to add a RW to play on their top 3 lines, and a #4 center. It is expected that Jaromir Jagr will be returning to the Penguins to finish his career, but if he changes his mind, they could look to Tyler Kennedy to fill that spot. Both could conceivably be brought back, but that would likely mean Tangradi will be spending another year in the AHL. With the departure of Mike Rupp, a fourth line center who can win faceoffs and kill penalties is needed. A guy like Zenon Kenopka could fill that void, although he may be a bit pricey. If they want some more cap space, the Pens could always trade Matt Niskanen to make room for top prospect Simon Despres, who was fantastic in the Memorial Cup and appears to be NHL ready.
PITTSBURGH PENGUINS 2011-12 ROSTER (using CAPGEEK CAP CALCULATOR)
James Neal ($2.875m) / Sidney Crosby ($8.700m) / Pascal Dupuis ($1.500m)
Chris Kunitz ($3.725m) / Jordan Staal ($4.000m) / Evgeni Malkin ($8.700m)
Eric Tangradi ($0.845m) / Mark Letestu ($0.625m) / TOP 9 RW ($0.000m)
Matt Cooke ($1.800m) / 4TH LINE C ($0.000m) / Craig Adams ($0.675m)
Arron Asham ($0.775m)
Paul Martin ($5.000m) / Zbynek Michalek ($4.000m)
Brooks Orpik ($3.750m) / Kristopher Letang ($3.500m)
Deryk Engelland ($0.566m) / Matt Niskanen ($1.500m)
Ben Lovejoy ($0.525m)
Marc-Andre Fleury ($5.000m) / Brent Johnson ($0.600m)
SALARY CAP: $64,300,000
CAP PAYROLL: $58,662,500
CAP SPACE: $5,637,500
Assuming Jagr and/or Kenndy signs with the Penguins, and assuming Crosby and Malkin are 100% in terms of health, this could be the deepest and most dangerous group of forwards Pittsburgh has boasted in a long time. Factor in a reliable and consistent top 4 D and a top 10 NHL goalie, and you have the makings of something very special in 2011-12. Penguins fans might be in for a real treat this year!
About the Author
Written by Corey Krakower
I am the Director of NHL Content & Habs writer for ProSportsBlogging.com; I have spent 8 seasons behind the bench as a minor hockey coach; and I am the future GM of the Montreal Canadiens (according to my mom). I spend my days managing the Harrow Sports brand in my hometown of Montreal and I moonlight as a Hockey Advisor for Pi Athlete Management. Most importantly, I'll throw anyone under the bus for a laugh.