The Pittsburgh Penguins choked away a 3-1 series lead against the New York Rangers and lost the series 4-3, and also Game 7 by the same score in overtime. This is the fourth consecutive season that Pittsburgh has lost in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Penguins’ last series win was in the 2018 first round against the Philadelphia Flyers and it feels like an eternity ago. With four straight first-round exits, changes must be made.
There is something broken with this franchise. New ownership is in town and it is possible that Brian Burke is not back in the front office next season as the President of Hockey Operations. That means that general manager Ron Hextall’s job might not be safe and new ownership might fire him. The multi-million dollar question is will they keep or fire head coach Mike Sullivan?
Sullivan has lost five consecutive playoff series despite the Pittsburgh Penguins making it 16 years in a row to the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Fenway Sports Group loves Mike Sullivan, but they may need to rethink things before committing to him as the head coach in 2022-2023. They are not in the business of tanking for Conor Bedard in 2023. That is good news on the forefront.
However, the Pittsburgh Penguins blew leads in Games 5 and 6, had 2-0 leads in those games, and blew a 3-2 lead in Game 7. That is all on coaching, but it can also be on the personnel that they have also. Game 7 should be the last time Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Kris Letang are all in Pittsburgh Penguins uniforms together.
Malkin and Letang are free agents. Some of the free agents on this roster are Rickard Rakell, Kasperi Kapanen, Brian Boyle, Evan Rodrigues, Danton Heinen, and Bryan Rust. They should let all of them walk except for maybe Rickard Rakell and Kris Letang.
Evgeni Malkin is washed up and 35 years old. He doesn’t have it anymore. Malkin should go retire and be with his girlfriend and his kid. Kris Letang is also 35 years old and he is going to want to chase money.
Bryan Rust is 30 years old and he is going to want $7-$8 million a season on the open market and the Pittsburgh Penguins should not even think about paying him that money. Kasperi Kapanen and Evan Rodrigues also have to go.
The only players that should stay for 2022-2023 are Sidney Crosby, Jake Guentzel, and Tristan Jarry. Teddy Blueger should also be on the roster next season.
Players that could potentially be traded this offseason: Jason Zucker ($5.5 million, one-year remaining on contract), Jeff Carter ($3.125, two years remaining on contract), John Marino ($4.4 million contract thru 2026-2027), Brian Dumoulin ($4.1 million, one-year remaining on contract), and Marcus Pettersson ($4.025 million, three years remaining on contract).
Jason Zucker, Brian Dumoulin, and Marcus Pettersson will be the most likely guys to be shopped this offseason.
Casey DeSmith is also a free agent and he should walk.
Prospects that can make the roster next year: Valtteri Puustinen, Sam Poulin, Drew O’Connor, and Pierre-Olivier Joseph.
Potential Free Agents to Watch Elsewhere: Patrice Bergeron, Johnny Gaudreau, Filip Forsberg, Ondrej Palat, Andrei Burakvosky, Vincent Trocheck. Justin Schultz, and Branden Holtby.
The Pittsburgh Penguins could also have $40 million in cap space. They are currently around $28 million right now. Pittsburgh can also make some trades and one player to maybe watch for in trade talks this offseason is William Nylander with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Nylander could use a change of scenery.
There are going to be a lot of new faces on this roster come 2022-2023. It should be the case because massive changes are needed for this franchise. If they fire Mike Sullivan they should go after Barry Trotz, Mike Babcock, or John Tortorella. We will see what route the Pittsburgh Penguins go in this offseason because this is inexcusable.