Biggest modifications: How can a team shed a caked Stanley Cup-winning goalie (Marc-Andre Fleury), a trio of clutch playoff forward (Chris Kunitz, Nick Bonino and Matt Cullen) and also three reputable defensemen (Trevor Daley, Ron Hainsey and Mark Streit) and still have a shot at becoming the first team to three-peat as Stanley Cup champs because the New York Islanders won four in a row from 1980 to 1983? Coach Mike Sullivan is going to discover. The Penguins watched their thickness stripped to the center on the summer and have little to show in substitute value. Goaltender Antti Niemi, that headed the Chicago Blackhawks into the Stanley Cup in 2010, signed up a yearlong, $700,000 contract with the Penguins, his fourth NHL team in seven decades. Niemi’s stock has dropped in the past few decades, and he replaces the popular and dependable Fleury, who helped capture the Penguins to the conference finals until Matt Murray returned from injury to acquire two more rounds along with his second Stanley Cup in as many seasons. Up front, the Pens are expecting the heavy-hitting Ryan Reaves (27 targets, 695 penalty minutes in seven seasons with an St. Louis Blues) supplies physicality after coming in a transaction and that Jake Guentzel provides exactly the identical type of crime he delivered as a rookie last year (16 goals in 40 games; 13 targets in 25 playoff games). On the rear end, sure-handed free-agent acquisition Matt Hunwick is expected to help facilitate the departures of both Daley, Hainsey and Streit, but it will not be simple as the Penguins rely more heavily on Justin Schultz, Ian Cole and Brian Dumoulin.
Case for: Any lineup having a healthy Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin is capable of winning a Stanley Cup, but this one will Require a Wholesome Kris Letang to take a break in a third consecutive Cup. Following season-ending throat operation, Letang spent the summer working out with former NFL wide receiver Terrell Owens, and all reports state Letang is prepared to take the load onto the blue line. Together with Crosby (44 goals), Malkin (33), Phil Kessel (23), Conor Sheary (23) and Patric Hornqvist (21) leading the charge, the Penguins scored more goals (278) than any team in the NHL last year. The departures of Bonino (18 goals), Cullen (13) and Kunitz (9) will damage the odds of their Pens outscoring teams how they did last year, however if thickness forwards Carter Rowney, Greg McKegg and Scott Wilson can lead offensively, and Olli Maatta rebounds by a shaky period, the Pens are going to be a force come playoff time.
Case contrary: as well as shedding seven important players from last year’s championship team, the Penguins dropped a cap-crunching assistant general director when Jason Botterill was hired as general director of their Buffalo Sabres along with a tough-talking assistant trainer when Rick Tocchet took the head job with the Arizona Coyotes. Tocchet was able to get the most out of Kessel, along with also his reassuring presence behind the seat is going to be overlooked. Tocchet’s replacement, Hall of Famer Mark Recchi, has lots of expertise to discuss and ought to incorporate a creative flair into the power play, which ended tied for third in the NHL last year. Murray hasn’t faced the rigors of being a No. 1 goalie for an whole NHL season, as well as Fleury gone, this is his first chance to take the load. The 23-year-old watched a career-high 49 matches last season and may see that number rise substantially this year. There’s also the dilemma of team exhaustion. No team in the NHL has played in more games (213) compared to Penguins the previous two seasons, even though the league’s choice to not take part in the 2018 Winter Olympics ought to keep Crosby and Malkin fresh down the stretch.
Trade lure: The Penguins can not afford to eliminate anybody away their roster, but watch on Maatta, who overlooked 104 matches to harm in his previous few seasons. Maatta could start the year on a leading unit alongside Letang, but when he struggles with all the heavy moments, he could turn into an attractive commerce piece. Winger Carl Hagelin has two decades and $8 million remaining on his contract and may also be dealt with if the Pens feel the necessity to add depth at forward or about the blue line.
Goalie-situation evaluation: 9. Murray has lived a charmed life in the NHL, taking the Penguins to successive Cups in his first two seasons while submitting a regular-season listing of 41-12-5 using a 2.32 goals-against typical along with a playoff record of 22-9 with a 1.95 GAA. The scrawny 6-foot-4 native of Thunder Bay, Ontario, no longer has the luxury of sharing the internet with Fleury. Niemi, 34, will look to rebound from a set of rocky seasons in Dallas, where he failed to win more matches than he lost (12-12-4) for the first time since his rookie season of 2008-09. In case Niemi struggles, do not be shocked if newcomer Tristan Jarryplays a couple of NHL games this year.
Scout’s take: “They are the early favorites are the best team from the league due to their depth and also the high-end ability they possess in their heart using Crosby, Malkin, Letang plus a goaltender who is already won two Stanley Cups. They’ve a wonderful basis for success, and they know how to win. I also enjoy their head trainer’s swagger and his strategy with his or her players. He is honest and direct, and they play hard for him. They are in the top at this time, and I hope they will remain there.”