What Should the Pittsburgh Penguins Do This Offseason?
The Pittsburgh Penguins were swept from the 2018-2019 playoffs against the New York Islanders. Pittsburgh didn’t want a short-lived postseason and now they face an uncertain future ahead. There is no doubt there will be a ton of roster changes next season.
Sidney Crosby, Jake Guentzel, Evgeni Malkin, Justin Schultz, Brian Dumoulin, Jared McCann, Nick Bjugstad, and Matt Murray are some of the key players that shouldn’t be traded this offseason. Everybody else on the roster is fair game including defenseman Kris Letang and winger Phil Kessel.
Letang has three more years left on his contract. The Penguins will pay $7.5 million for the next three seasons. Kris Letang is 31 years old and at some point, they need to trade him before he loses his value entirely. Letang has disappeared in the playoffs the last two seasons and they won the Stanley Cup in 2017 without him playing one playoff game due to injury.
Kessel is also 31 years old. He also has three years remaining on his contract. However, the team owes him $6.8 million each year for the next three seasons. I don’t think The Pens should trade Phil Kessel because he has been one of their better offensive players. Nonetheless, Kessel will probably be traded because they will probably get some very good players in return for him and maybe even a draft pick or two.
It honestly wouldn’t be a surprise to see him reunite with Rick Tocchet in Arizona because Tocchet was the assistant coach with the Penguins when they won back-to-back cups in 2016 and 2017.
Patric Hornqvist is 32 years old and he is another player that is expendable. Hornqvist still has four more years remaining on his contract. A contract that pays $5.3 million each season. His production dropped during the regular season and he played on the third line for part of the season. Patric Hornqvist didn’t excel much.
Olli Maatta is only 24 years old, but he is a very slow skater and they need to move on from him. Maatta isn’t worth $4 million a year over the next three seasons. There was a reason why he was scratched for Jack Johnson in the playoffs. Johnson didn’t play much better than him, but it didn’t stop Head Coach Mike Sullivan from keeping him in the press box.
Bryan Rust is 26 years old and he is very versatile. However, his production this season proved Rust isn’t worth $3.5 million. Nevertheless, they might hang on to him anyways.
Matt Murray, Tristan Jarry, and Casey DeSmith will all be on one-way deals next season. They can’t keep three goalies on the roster. Murray and Jarry are both restricted free agents next summer. DeSmith’s new contract comes into effect next season.
I think they will trade Tristan Jarry in the offseason. He could start for some teams in the NHL. I am sure the Buffalo Sabres or the Detroit Red Wings will give Pittsburgh a call. The Pittsburgh Penguins will find a way to give goalie Matt Murray a contract extension.
Speaking of goalies, I think they need to move on from goaltender coach Mike Buckley. He doesn’t seem to coach the same technique as Mike Bales did when he was with Pittsburgh a couple of years ago and it could be a huge reason why Matt Murray is inconsistent and gives up bad goals at the wrong time.
The one assistant coach that must go in the offseason is Mark Recchi. He doesn’t seem to have a very good connection with the players like Rick Tocchet did a couple of years ago. Recchi didn’t seem to do a very good job with the power play. It showed in the playoff series against New York.
Jacques Martin’s contract is up. It is very possible he will not come back behind the bench as an assistant coach next season. Martin is more responsible for the defensive unit and it wouldn’t be a bad thing to have a different assistant coach that worked with the defense. Sergei Gonchar could take over that role, but it is very possible they could also find somebody else.
The Penguins need to fix the defense in a big way this offseason. They need more speed on the back-end, but it is also important to have some grit as well.
The offense sputtered in the first-round and the Pittsburgh Penguins are known for scoring goals. They only scored six in the entire postseason. Pittsburgh also isn’t known for playing well against teams that play a trap defense.
Sullivan’s and General Manager Jim Rutherford‘s job will be safe heading into next season, but they both could be on the hot seat if things don’t fond well early next season.
There is no doubt this is the most critical offseason in the Crosby/Malkin era. Management needs to find a way to fix the roster. They need to get rid of some big contracts without having to go into full rebuild mode. Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are still good enough. Especially if they get the proper pieces around them. Thus, this team could win another Stanley Cup title or two before they both head into the sunset.
What do you feel the Penguins need to do heading into the offseason? Leave a comment below.
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