For weeks we have all been talking about specific players the Penguins should acquire through trade or in Free Agency, but let us take a step back a bit and examine what the Penguins needs are. What will GM Jim Rutherford and the rest of the Management staff look to fix starting July 1st?
Everyone’s main focus, as of late, has been on acquiring Top Six depth, a Winger or Wingers for Evgeni Malkin. While the need is there for them to make a move in getting a player to fill one or all of those roles, I think one of the biggest issues with the club last season was the lack of scoring depth in the bottom six.
As of July 1st the Penguins have
Perron, Crosby, Hornqvist, Malkin,
Spaling, Dupuis(Maybe), Kunitz and Sutter. (sorry if I missed anyone)
Bennett has yet to sign a new deal, but was offered a qualifying one on June 29th.
Besides that who fits where? And besides the first four names can any of the rest be counted on for scoring whether in a top six or a bottom six role?
Unfortunately Spaling, despite being a favored line-mate of Malkin’s, isn’t built for that role. There is still a chance Dupuis doesn’t even play and then you have to ask if Kunitz can regain his form from nearly two years ago. And then what about Sutter, can he be trusted to finally progress further in his development after seven NHL seasons of being the same player he has always been?
A few of the prospects like
Kapanen, Sundqvist and Sprong could surprise everyone and take this opportunity to thrive and make the squad, but is that a chance you are willing to take with more than one hole that needs filled?
As much as we all know the Penguins need to acquire at least one top six forward it may be more important that they retool the bottom six and possibly give it a complete overhaul. Adding size, grit, young legs and scoring will go a long way in making this team a real threat in the East and more importantly the Metropolitan Division which continues to get stronger every year.
Letang, now viewed as the top defenseman on the Penguins, cannot do everything himself this year. We know Ian Cole plays a strong defensive game and is still growing. There is also Rob Scuderi who is about as useful as a bag of used jock straps laying on the ice. Ben Love-joy is a reliable defender, but not someone who can play top 4 minutes night in and night out. Harrington and Dumoulin are still young and found themselves struggling more often than not last year when called upon. We also have Pouliot who should fit in nicely in a top four role, but again its a BIG question mark. And finally we have Olli Maatta, a star in his rookie season but struggled his sophomore year because of illness and injury before being placed on LTIR.
Letang, Maatta, Love-joy, Cole, Scuderi, Pouliot, Dumoulin,
Absolutely we have decent depth, but when it comes to experience where it matters, A stay at home defender and Powerplay QB, the team is lacking.
Letang, Matta and Pouliot I see as legit top three defenders this year with Cole as a strong candidate for the fourth spot. Scuderi may not see ice time unless there is an emergency, Dumoulin, Love-joy
and Harrington will be fighting for the ice time. But we are still without a true Powerplay quarterback or even a strong stay at home defenseman.
So here we sit again with a bunch of hopefuls like maybe Pouliot can be that PP QB the team has needed since Gonchar left. And maybe Ian Cole will adjust his game to use his size to his advantage and start banging bodies away from Fleury’s crease.
I would bet the Penguins sign at the very least 1 defenseman this Free Agency.
Maybe the strongest position the Penguins have going into next season is Goaltending. Funny to think that it wasn’t even a year ago fans were calling for Fleury to be traded and a player like Ryan Miller to be brought in as his replacement.
It’s true Thomas Greiss appears to be moving on after one season with the Penguins, but Zatkoff will be suitable back-up to Fleury this season. Lets not forget that waiting for their opportunity in the system is Tristan Jarry and Matt Murray. Both strong candidates to one day take over for MAF….maybe.
So what do you think, are we as fans looking at everything like we should, should the focus be solely on Top six wingers or is the team in more need of bottom six and defensive help then we all originally believed?
Thanks for Reading and get ready for a whirlwind of a day!
– Robert Slavinsky
You can also follow Robert on Twitter @Rslavi_HTPens