For the last few years, I’ve never seen a team continue to keep making competitive rosters when things look bleak like the Pittsburgh Penguins have. A lot of big departures from their last cup in 2017 when they were repeat cup champions, but this team has continued to retool correctly bringing them to the playoffs again and again, A streak lasting from 2007. This year brought this a 1st round exit to a battle tested Islanders team.
So what can the Pens look back on with kind eyes this season? Well, I’ll be honest. There isn’t much. Sidney Crosby is up for another Ted Lindsey award, the MVP as voted by the players. Youngster Jake Guentzel had another solid season for the Pens, tallying 57 points and a 20-goal season. Cody Ceci seemed to step into the Pens Top-4 well, and Kasperi Kapanen seemed to play well in the top-6 spot next to Evgeni Malkin.
Which leads me to this, I won’t lie, it was kind of difficult to find positives to this squad barring what is looming. Looking ahead, you’ve got one season left of Malkin, two seasons of Jason Zucker, two of Bryan Rust and two of mentioned Kasperi Kapanen. Not to mention, one more of blueliner staple Kris Letang. Now, I’m no GM, but I don’t see scenario where the Pens hang on to all of those players. Likely a scenario of an extending Malkin and Letang could come at the extent of most of the listed forwards. Kapanen is a coming RFA, I think the Pens will find a way to keep him with Malkin. Now, looking at Malkin, the 34 year old center will likely finish his career in the organization. Comments made by Hextall leads me to believe these two will be on the roster in the future. But this might come at the cost of one Rust, Kapanen, or Zucker.
The biggest question mark might be the play in net. After dealing Matt Murray before the season, the Penguins decided to go fourth with Tristian Jarry. In his first season, Jarry had a SV% .909, but his GAA was almost a 3, sitting at 2.75. Now it’s hard to decide the young goalies fate now off one season of being a starter, but I definitely think he is a step down from Murray. Pens Fans are all over the idea of a possible blockbuster for Anaheim’s John Gibson, which would bring Gibson home to where he was born and raised. But, in no timeline do I see that move becoming real. Though, there is a possibility of Jarry not being protected with the coming expansion draft, but I believe the net is the weak point of this team.
As we say goodbye to the 2020-2021 Penguins who ended up winning the East Division, we should smile. This might be the last run of these Pens that we know and love (to hate). This season we thank you for highlight real Crosby goals. The emergence of Bryan Rust, the possibility of a solid line-mate for Evgeni Malkin, and of course, another season of seeing the Pens getting knocked out in the playoffs. R.I.P to the 2020-2021 Pittsburgh Penguins.
Written by @TheFrostback