The Penguins’ break up day comes with a bit more somber of a tone than the previous two season after their second round loss to the Washington Capitals. The previous couple seasons were more cheerful and celebrating. This season had the disappointment and a few interesting quotes from the legendary Jim Rutherford. Let’s delve in and see what we can take away heading into next season.
Rutherford did note the team will look “different” next season
This could mean a lot of things. Each season the Penguins have played since 2015-16′, they had added new ancillary players and seemingly changed the dynamic of the team. This could also mean that one or two major shakeups could occur.
The trade Kris Letang crowd has grown even louder this offseason but it’s unlikely the Penguins would move on from a franchise defenseman after one down season. The Phil Kessel trade talk will likely emerge again in the offseason. I would say these two should be safe.
I think there are a few candidates that could be moved before the season begins. Conor Sheary comes to mind. Carl Hagelin‘s name will get some mention. I think even Tristan Jarry and Riley Sheahan‘s name comes up. The first three significantly dropped in production for stretches this season. Sheahan may end up providing to be all too valuable for the Penguins’ fourth line after a career season and moved in spite of the fact of being the team’s fourth center.
I will agree the Penguins may have a couple new names on their roster next season whether from outside the organization through trade and free agency or through a new wave of Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s Baby Penguins. The Penguins will make a couple moves and it’ll be a fun offseason.
Daniel Sprong will be a full-timer next season
I left this out of the above topic because I wanted to talk about it separately.
This seemed like a formality after his treatment the past two seasons. He played sparingly in year one after the coaching change. He played eight games and only recorded points, albeit three, in one of them.
Sprong has never been given a real chance but after dominating the AHL in scoring this season, he pretty much left the Penguins with no choice as he has nothing left to prove. He has lethal scoring ability and reportedly played a more improved defensive game in the minor leagues this past season.
It should be noted that I’m not all that high on Sprong. Am I excited to see if he can prove me wrong? Absolutely, and I hope he does. But he hasn’t really scored a ton in his short NHL time. Maybe that has something to do with the uncomfortable feeling of knowing you don’t have a solidified spot on the NHL roster. Hopefully, he will loosen up a bit for next season after this endorsement from Rutherford.
Despite his pedigree, he will be low man on totem pole. Will he step right back into the right wing on Sidney Crosby‘s line? Eh, probably not. That likely will go to Patric Hornqvist. Could he play second or third line minutes? Yeah.
Derick Brassard gets a clean slate in 2018-19′
No, I’m not under the impression the Penguins will flip Brassard for more assets before the season opens next year. In fact, I’m going to act as if this mini-disaster didn’t happen.
Brassard will play for the Penguins next season and some of his salary will be paid by Vegas. So even if the Penguins don’t get the total package out of him, they aren’t paying him much. But I still believe he’s exactly what the Penguins need.
He isn’t a high-flying player. But Brassard does everything well. He’s as complete a third line center as the Penguins could’ve acquired. And looking beyond Brassard, none of the Penguins’s depth forwards did much of anything. He doesn’t necessarily get a free pass but he isn’t getting all the blame either.
Brassard will have a 20 goal, 45+ point season in a Penguins uniform next year. He also discussed playing some top-six wing with head coach Mike Sullivan. He is as versatile as they come whether he’s going to be flanking Evgeni Malkin or centering the third line.
I’ll be on his train next year as you all should be.
The goaltending situation seems set
This isn’t really something that came out of “break-up” day, I think it’s just a formality.
Matt Murray is the guy and I’m willing to bet that he’s in the Vezina conversation this year. He prove he doesn’t take well to losing. He had to deal with multiple injuries and the death of his father. Next year, I expect him to have the best season he ever has. He’ll start and he’ll lead the Penguins to whatever they do next season.
Quite frankly, it seems Casey DeSmith has locked up the backup position. He isn’t a threat to Murray but he’s an adequately solid goaltender that can play 15-20 games and win you at least half.
This will be the offseason the Penguins rid of Jarry. He’s got the pedigree to be an NHL starter at worst but he continues to be outplayed by DeSmith at every level of competition and has led me to believe the Penguins will free him to go elsewhere. The Penguins do an awesome job of developing goaltending so they’ll draft another one in a year or two that they believe could eventually push Murray down the road.
This will be a different offseason
No, the Penguins don’t have the afforded cap space they did when they acquired Kessel a few years ago. They won’t be able to acquire another such player without trading a player of that quality.
But the Penguins will be players in the depth department on both offense and defense.
They have to resign Jamie Oleksiak, which I personally wouldn’t do but that is another issue. Bryan Rust will need a new paycheck. They could even look to lock up Jake Guentzel before he gets too expensive but his contract doesn’t expire until next season.
They will need help on defense but only have the capital to sure it up with another Matt Hunwick type signing, except one that actually fits the scheme the Penguins want to play. They could opt to sign a goalie to compete with DeSmith and provide depth if they do in fact trade Jarry, which is pure speculation at this point.
The Penguins have a few needs to fill this time around, so we’ll see what happens. It’ll be a fun one for sure.