After the NHL Draft, free agency and other offseason moves, NHL.com is examining where each team stands in preparation for the 2020-21 regular season, which is targeted to start Jan. 1. Today, the Pittsburgh Penguins:
The Pittsburgh Penguins made a number of lineup changes after their second straight early exit from the postseason.
The Penguins finished 40-23-6 (.623 points percentage) last season but lost in four games to the Montreal Canadiens in the best-of-5 Stanley Cup Qualifiers. In 2018-19, Pittsburgh was swept in four games by the New York Islanders in the best-of-7 Eastern Conference First Round.
Forward Kasperi Kapanen was acquired in a six-player trade from the Toronto Maple Leafs on Aug. 25, and forward Colton Sceviour and defenseman Mike Matheson were acquired in a trade from the Florida Panthers for forward Patric Hornqvist on Sept. 24.
“[Kapanen] is a good, young player that brings speed to our lineup and plays the way we want to play,” general manager Jim Rutherford said. “[Matheson’s] got a good shot. He can skate. I feel that he’ll fit into our system very nicely.”
Forward Evan Rodrigues, who was acquired by Toronto in the trade for Kapanen, returned to Pittsburgh by agreeing to a one-year contract Oct. 9. Forward Mark Jankowski agreed to a one-year contract the same day, and defenseman Cody Ceci agreed to a one-year contract Oct. 17.
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Tristan Jarry is expected to be the No. 1 goalie after Matt Murray was traded to the Ottawa Senators on Oct. 7 for forward Jonathan Gruden and a second-round pick in the 2020 NHL Draft, which the Penguins used to select goalie Joel Blomqvist (No. 52).
“Based on the [NHL salary] cap and what we need to do to go forward, this was the only option,” Rutherford said. “It was getting to a point where I wondered that we go through the whole process, arbitration and everything, and we may have to walk away from arbitration and not get anything in return for [Murray], which would have been unfortunate.”
Here is what the Penguins look like today:
Mike Matheson, D: The 26-year-old scored 20 points (eight goals, 12 assists) in 59 games for the Panthers last season. … Kasperi Kapanen, F: The 24-year-old, who could play with Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel on the top line, scored 36 points (13 goals, 23 assists) in 69 games. He has two seasons remaining on a three-year contract he signed with Toronto on June 28, 2019. … Mark Jankowski, F: The 26-year-old scored seven points (five goals, two assists) in 56 games for the Calgary Flames last season. … Codi Ceci, D: The 26-year-old scored eight points (one goal, seven assists) in 56 games for the Maple Leafs last season. … Colton Sceviour, F: The 31-year-old scored 16 points (six goals, 10 assists) in 69 games for the Panthers last season.
Matt Murray, G: Was 20-11-5 with a 2.87 goals-against average, an .899 save percentage and one shutout in 38 games for Pittsburgh last season. … Nick Bjugstad, F: Traded to the Minnesota Wild on Sept. 11 after scoring two points (one goal, one assist) in 13 games last season. … Patric Hornqvist, F: Scored 32 points (17 goals, 15 assists) in 52 games last season and 264 points (132 goals, 132 assists) in six seasons for the Penguins. … Jack Johnson, D: Agreed to a one-year contract with the New York Rangers on Oct. 9 after Pittsburgh bought out the remaining three seasons of his five-year contract Oct. 5. … Patrick Marleau, F: Signed a one-year contract with the San Jose Sharks on Oct. 13 after scoring 22 points (11 goals, 11 assists) in 66 games for the Penguins and Sharks last season. … Justin Schultz, D: Signed a two-year contract with the Washington Capitals on Oct. 9 after scoring 12 points (three goals, nine assists) in 46 games last season. … Conor Sheary. F: Remains an unrestricted free agent. He scored four points (one goal, three assists) in eight games for Pittsburgh after he was acquired from the Buffalo Sabres on Feb. 24.
On the cusp
Pierre-Olivier Joseph, D: The 21-year-old scored 17 points (three goals, 14 assists) in 52 games for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League last season. … Sam Poulin, F: The 19-year-old scored 77 points (32 goals, 45 assists) in 46 games for Sherbrooke of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League last season. ... Anthony Angello, F: The 24-year-old signed a two-year contract Oct. 10 after scoring one goal in eight NHL games for the Penguins last season and 25 points (16 goals, nine assists) in 48 AHL games.
What they still need
A veteran goalie. Although Jarry was 20-12-1 with a 2.43 GAA and .907 save percentage in 33 games (31 starts) last season, he has 62 games of NHL experience and has made one postseason start. His expected backup, Casey DeSmith, spent 2019-20 in the AHL and has no NHL postseason experience.
Kapanen didn’t hold a consistent top-six role with the Maple Leafs but should have an opportunity to do so with Pittsburgh with Hornqvist and Sheary gone. Kapanen’s potential exposure to Crosby and Guentzel on the top line makes him worthy of a late-round flier and could lead to a full-fledged breakout if they form chemistry. It’s also feasible that Kapanen could land a spot on the top power-play unit if forward Bryan Rust‘s role doesn’t carry over from last season. — Rob Reese
Jake Guentzel — Sidney Crosby — Kasperi Kapanen
Jason Zucker — Evgeni Malkin — Bryan Rust
Jared McCann — Mark Jankowski — Evan Rodrigues
Brandon Tanev — Teddy Blueger — Colton Sceviour
Brian Dumoulin — Kris Letang
Mike Matheson — John Marino
Marcus Pettersson — Codi Ceci