General Manager Jim Rutherford’s patience paid off. Heading to July 1st there were rumors and talk about Pittsburgh making a BIG splash for a top six winger. Some believed it would have happened during the NHL Draft, while some believed Pittsburgh would wait it out as long as they could. Wait they did and now the dynamic of the team has changed drastically because of one acquisition.
By trading for Phil Kessel the Penguins have gone from having no real scoring threat, besides Sid and Malkin on their top two lines to having a Top goal scorer in the league.
This is what the teams Four Lines looks like as of right now.
Perron – Crosby – Kessel
Plotnikov – Malkin – Hornqvist
Kunitz – Sutter – Dupuis
??? – Sundqvist? – ???
I have Kessel along side Crosby as I believe that he will thrive better in that role. Hornqvist was phenomenal with Malkin last season and with the addition of comrade Plotnikov Evgeni looks to be getting everything he wanted.
Perron is still a bit of a mystery to me, he has the potential to score 30-40 goals in a season along with bringing an impressive skill set for play making, but he struggled the last 15-20 games last year.
As for the Penguins third line, Its hard to imagine Dupuis playing top six minutes over Kessel or Hornqvist and the same can be said for Kunitz with Plonikov and Perron. Of course Plotnikov is unproven in the NHL, but he is touted as a Top six player and would not have been signed if they didn’t believe he could make the team.
That leaves a fourth line that, at this point, has no real direction. Sundqvist could make the jump to the NHL as the fourth line center this year, but GMJR stated he was looking for one in Free Agency earlier in the day. There are players like Dea, Bennett and Rust who could fill out the fourth line, but there may be other options in Free Agency the Penguins may turn to.
As for the defense it currently looks like this.
Letang – Maatta
Pouliot – Cole
Love-Joy – Dumoulin
Scuderi – Oleksy
In all honesty the Defense looks pretty good, I would like to see another veteran presence there like a Sergei Gonchar if not only to help anchor that Power Play and help mold Derrick Pouliot into a real threat in the NHL. I also wouldn’t be against Scuderi or Love-joy being moved, but can’t always get what you want I suppose.
So as we sit here now the Penguins have roughly $6 million dollars to not just fill out the rest of the bottom six, but also add some additional depth in that position and possibly add one more blue-liner to the mix.
I will say this, the way GMJR is building this team, the other teams in the East better get ready for an impressive season by the Penguins.
– Robert Slavinsky