I'm not a Penguins fan, but I do like penguins. Pittsburgh's offseason is one of the more interesting ones, as they could go in a number of different directions with their roster and franchise trajectory. I decided to explore what could happen here.
The Penguins missed the playoffs for the first time in 16 years, despite healthy seasons from Crosby and Malkin. Consequently, the front office was overhauled. Right now, the Penguins have an intact, but aging core, locked up long term. The defense has some solid players but needs more to be effective, goaltending is inconsistent at best, and the forward depth needs work. Their roster was the oldest in the NHL last season. Rebuilding would be difficult due to the number of long-term contracts, and going all-in is unlikely to bear much fruit due to the lack of assets and severely hamper the team long-term anyway. With that in mind, I decided to try and keep the team competitive while making it a bit younger and maintaining as much long-term flexibility as possible.
Jake Guentzel: What the Penguins do with him will likely be the bellwether for how their future will play out. Guentzel is a very good scoring winger in his prime, and fits very well with Crosby. However, he's on an expiring contract, and his next deal will take him into his mid-30s at least. In my mind there are two options: extend him or trade him. If Pittsburgh extends him, they commit to going all-in for the next few years, at the cost of being hamstrung when the rebuild inevitably comes. If Pittsburgh trades him, it signals the beginning of a rebuild. If they don't want to commit to one path or another just yet, they could hold onto Guentzel into the season and trade him near the deadline if they can't extend him or the team falls out of contention. That's the option I went with here. Either way, this situation will be fascinating to watch.
Forwards: Pittsburgh needs forward depth in the worst way. Jason Zucker is a free agent, and a long-term commitment to yet another player in his thirties probably isn't wise for the Penguins. So he departs, replaced by Taylor Hall, another top-six forward with less term left on his deal. The bottom six was the real issue, however. Granlund never really fit with the Penguins, so he gets bought out to save salary and roster space. His cap hit is essentially split between two free agents: Ryan Donato and David Kampf. Donato is a versatile forward who can play LW or C; he's earned a pay raise and larger role, but due to Seattle's forward depth, he likely won't get those things with the Kraken. He will with the Penguins. Kampf is a reliable defensive center who Dubas brought in with the Leafs, so he may look to sign a familiar face. Lastly I had the Pens swing a trade for a defensive winger in Marcus Foligno. Perhaps this revamped third line will give more support to the top six than last year's edition did.
Defense: Pittsburgh had the oldest defense in hockey last year, and it showed. I've seen people trading POJ and/or Ty Smith, and I honestly think Pittsburgh would be best holding on to whatever youth they have. So they stick around and get full-time slots, and I paired them with two defensively responsible blue liners to help take some of the defensive pressure off them and help them develop. The new defense should be better in their own end, and is younger, if still not especially young.
Goaltending: This has been an issue for the Pens for years now. Swinging a big trade might not be the best idea for Pittsburgh given their dearth of future assets, so Jarry returns on a shorter-term deal. However, I swapped out DeSmith for Raanta to give Pittsburgh a genuine 1A/1B tandem and guard against Jarry's inconsistency.
As always, helpful feedback is welcome! I'm not too sure about the availability or trade prices for some of these guys, so any insight would be much appreciated! Cheers!
Minnesota is in a bit of a bind with their salary cap. Trading Foligno will give them an extra bit of flexibility to help retain their younger RFAs such as Gustavsson and Addison. Pittsburgh meanwhile adds a quality defensive winger to help reinvigorate the bottom six.
Ceci was a bit overmatched in a top pairing role, but in a second or third pairing could provide some defense for Pittsburgh, an area that was lacking last season. Edmonton gains a draft pick and helps clear salary cap space to extend their RFAs Bouchard and McLeod.
Disclaimer: these two don't have to be traded to Detroit specifically, or even together. However, Detroit may fit the bill as a team that could use a solid if aging RD and a decent if unspectacular backup goalie.