Last year everything went right when it mattered for the Pittsburgh Penguins. They had two goaltenders that won them a Stanley Cup; the best player in the world, played like the best player in the world and Evgeni Malkin wasn’t a bad sidekick. With over five key players moving to other teams it will be an adjustment but one thing we have all learned about the Penguins of the past two years is you can never count them out.
A fan favorite in St. Louis, Reaves was a head scratcher of an addition for many Pittsburgh fans, but he has the chance to add some grit and some much-needed protection for the Penguins’ superstars. Although the Penguins are one of the few teams to win a Cup without a true enforcer, General Manager Jim Rutherford was adamant that the Penguins would gain from a new dimension this offseason.
He delivered on his word and got Reaves for the 31st overall pick in the draft. The Winnipeg native brings with him, nearly 700 penalty minutes and just over 400 games played.
He should fit nicely into the system if he can blend with the high-powered Penguins’ offense.
Hunwick signed a three-year deal with the Penguins this offseason and will most likely play in the top-six defenseman rotation this year. He has accumulated nearly 500 games and has also played 26 playoff games.
He will not be expected to contribute a large amount of offense but his depth will be welcomed on a blue line that has had injury issues over the years.
It is obvious Fleury will be a missed presence in the city of Pittsburgh and the dressing room but many people underestimate how skilled a goalie he is. He is still a starting goalie and the depth the Penguins had in net was unprecedented.
Matt Murray will have more pressure on him this year and Fleury as a backup plan was a luxury many teams did not have.
375 wins, is not replaceable, but if anyone can do it, it will be Murray.
A third-line center and a warrior for the Pens, Bonino will be missed in the faceoff circle and chewing up meaningful minutes to allow the stars to rest up. The 29-year-old tallied 37 points as the third line center for Pittsburgh. Another big loss in the Steel City
Another heart-and-soul player that was part of both back-to-back Cups. Daley took on a bigger role in the playoffs with Letang going down sustaining a season-ending injury. The 33-year-old played bigger minutes than what he was used to and was a big part of the chemistry of the Penguins’ locker room.
He signed with the Red Wings in the offseason.
A rental player from Carolina, Hainsey was a solid piece of the puzzle for the short time that he was in the Penguins’ locker room. He is easily replaceable, but he was still a depth piece that made last year’s Cup win possible.
Hainsey signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs in the offseason.
This loss may hurt in the dressing room just as much as Fleury’s loss. A mainstay in the Penguins’ locker room for so many years and the man who scored the goal in double overtime to send the Penguins to the Stanley Cup Finals this year, Kunitz’s shoes on the ice can be filled, but off the ice, it will be harder.
The 37-year-old veteran still has game left in him and Pittsburgh just couldn’t afford him with all the young players ready to jump into the lineup.
Kunitz takes his 800 plus games and four Stanley Cups to the Tampa Bay Lightning.
A Penguins’ fan favorite, Cullen opted to go home to Minnesota to finish his career. “Dad” was the fourth-line center that completely engulfed the perfect formula that was the Penguins last year.
He, along with Bonino played important minutes that mattered down the stretch.
What can the Pittsburgh Penguins do this season?
They can win another Stanley Cup.
It is simple as that. Until someone knocks them off the top of the mountain, everyone will be gunning for the Penguins.
The Pens will have adjusting to do with losing such a large group of players, not to mention a very prominent assistant coach. It will be interesting to see if Matt Murray can carry a full workload, and if he can’t, this could become a problem quickly.
Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin have shown zero signs of slowing down and young players will fill in many of the gaps for the Pens.
Their D will be strong with the return of Kris Letang and the recent signing of Brian Dumoulin will solidify the D core. They just need to stay healthy.
Jake Guentzel will be a player to watch to see if he can continue to turn heads.
The big questions for the Penguins this season are simple. Have they lost too many pivotal depth players? Who will play center behind Malkin and Crosby? Can Murray play a full season without a safety net?
As I said before, the Penguins have a chance to three-peat, and any team that has Crosby and Malkin on their team has a chance to win.
Once again they are the team to beat.
I think that the Washington Capitals will once again be a very strong team and will give the Pittsburgh Penguins a run for their money in the division. The Blue Jackets have the potential to be deadly as well. Tampa Bay and Carolina are also teams to keep an eye on throughout the year as teams that might be better than a lot of people give them credit for.
In the West, the Oilers, Flames, Wild, Sharks, and Predators are all considered contenders going into the season. Winnipeg is a sleeper team that has a chance to be deadly if they can get strong goaltending.
Overall the Penguins, in my opinion, will be in the top five in the league and second or third in their division. That is a testament to how strong the Metro division is. For the playoffs there is no sense in predicting how things will play out.
The Penguins will make the playoffs easily, but do not be surprised if they run into a bit of a Cup hangover or just general fatigue at some point during the year.
Can the Penguins actually three-peat? Have they lost too much of their roster from last year? Tell us in the comments below.
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