The Pittsburgh Penguins season is now over and thought of the roster for 2022-23 are already afoot. Artemi Panarin‘s overtime-winner sealed the Pens’ fate and forced thoughts of next year. As the season has progressed, holes have been visible down the lineup for the Penguins. What team doesn’t have holes? Okay maybe the Colorado Avalanche don’t but that’s beside the point. The Penguins have quite a few.
Mike Sullivan consistently praises the energy the Penguins bring but it really hasn’t been enough in the second half of the season. With a record of 7-9-2, they simply werenn’t been good enough, especially defensively. The Pittsburgh Penguins roster may look a whole lot different come October after another first-round exit.
First Round Exit May Lead to Big Moves From Penguins Management
Top Six Offence
The main reason the Penguin’s offence has struggled is because of the lack of depth scoring. Everyone knows that teams with depth ultimately succeed. All of the past five cup champs have had it. The biggest acquisition would be that of Valeri Nichuskin who provides the utmost versatility while being an offensive machine in the right role and a future Selke Trophy candidate.
The duo of the two Russian big boys would be dynamic as Evgeni Malkin’s ability to play defence is nonexistent. Also on that line is veteran and former Penguin David Perron who’s had a stellar season with 57 points in 67 games with the Blues. Like Nichuskin, Perron also has the two-way ability with the slight edge being in the defensive zone. Both these players not only add offence but make up for Malkin’s defensive play. The entire Pittsburgh Penguins roster would benefit from top-six acquisitions.
Bottom Six Offence
Moving down to the depth pieces the Penguins very much need. The rumours of Tyler Bertuzzi to Pittsburgh this season didn’t come true but next season they should. Bertuzzi would be a huge depth piece next to Strome and Heinen providing some scoring in the bottom six. With the first 30-goal season of his young career, Bertuzzi would be an interesting addition to the Penguin’s core. Along with Bertuzzi a change of scenery for Dylan Strome would put him in a key 3C role with the Penguins.
Strome could also add some success to the second powerplay unit. Strome has proven he’s able to put up points with 48 points while on a less than impressive Blackhawks team. And lastly, we have the fourth line grind line. As the Vegas Golden Knights look to shed cap, William Carrier would be a cheap but impactful depth add. Carrier is a big boy that puts the definition of grind to light. His ability to generate offence and ultimately score will make up for Teddy Blueger’s inability to do so at 5v5. Also on that line is Avalanche forward Logan O’Connor. O’Connor brings a lot but most notably his ability to anchor the penalty kill while providing excellent 5v5 defensive play.
Another one of the Penguin’s holes has come on the blueline. From just bad passes to no awareness, it all happened. Mike Matheson and Kris Letang have been the two top defencemen but that doesn’t mean they’ve been good defensively. They very much each need defensive defencemen as a partner. Insert Jonas Siegenthaler and Brandon Carlo. If there was an award for top defensive defenceman of the year, Jonas Siegenthaler would undoubtedly win it. He’s the whole package on the back end. Exactly what all offence no defence Kris Letang needs.
Siegenthaler excels at every aspect of defensive play but specifically in denying entries into his own zone. Siegenthaler doesn’t put up many points but being on a pairing with Letang he’s likely to get quite a few assists. The next addition to the blue line would be Brandon Carlo paired with Mike Matheson. This is the same situation as Letang-Siegenthaler. Carlo will simply add defensive insurance when Matheson goes for a skate. The third pairing of Mark Friedman and Chad Ruhwedel won’t change as Friedman adds grit and Ruhwedel plays well against opponent’s bottom six.
The Penguins have very little cap space right now. Trust me, being a general manager in the NHL is not as easy as it’s made it out to be. Hefty contracts aren’t easy to move, free agents aren’t easy to sign or re-sign, and locker room chemistry is a huge factor in success. Who knows, one of Letang or Malkin could leave this offseason. There’s also the Bryan Rust matter. All in all, these additions are cap-friendly while even leaving them quite a bit of room for flexibility. Is Ron Hextall going to sell the farm? No. Is Hextall going to make a single one of these moves?
Likely not. The point is that the Penguins can win if they go big. This is the final hurrah for this Pittsburgh Penguins roster. They can make the best of it, we’ll find out soon enough. A fourth straight first-round exit won’t likely result in complacency.