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PHN Mailbag: Mike Sullivan, Evgeni Malkin, & Penguins Future

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Pittsburgh Penguins, PHN Mailbag

In the words of Steve, who hosted Blues Clues for years, “We’ve got MAIL!” In decades past, sports fans would sit down at the kitchen table, write letters on paper, and mail them to a newspaper. Then the usage email arrived, and yelling at your local sportswriters became a lot easier. Now, I can drop a Tweet or re-tweet, and questions about the Pittsburgh Penguins magically arrive.

We have some interesting questions about head coach Mike Sullivan’s future, Jim Rutherford trading draft picks, would Evgeni Malkin have been superior to Sidney Crosby in a different era, and more…

Here we go:

Well…this was the last offseason in which GM Jim Rutherford could sacrifice the future. The Penguins only have a few draft picks in 2021, the highest two being in the second and fifth rounds.

There’s no more future to trade away unless Rutherford deals Sam Poulin or P-O Joseph. And there isn’t a known circumstance which would make either plausible.

Numero Dos:

I almost answered yes, but after sitting with your question David, the answer is a firm, “NO.” In the clutch and grab era, mental toughness, and the desire to keep moving your feet were paramount. The defensemen were hulking pillars or pylons.

As one Penguins organization sage told me during the pandemic, “Sidney Crosby would be great during any era.”

Malkin would have battled the clutch and grab era well, much as Jaromir Jagr did. However, Crosby could have handled it, too, and he could skate around the defensemen. And, Crosby would have kept driving until he was free.

Number 3:

I know a lot of you want to compare this to the end of the Bylsma era, in which playoff failures were a reason to jettison the head coach. However, a playoff appearance this season might be a great coaching job.

Look at this current Pittsburgh Penguins roster. Upfront, it’s dotted with minimum wage gambles, and on the blue line, there’s a pair of reclamation projects.

The Penguins are not a contender, as they sit today. Not close, really. They have enough talent to be a good regular season team, but they’re not a good postseason team unless those gambles pay off.

Unless Mike Sullivan loses the room spectacularly, a Round One loss wouldn’t mean the end.

They would also owe him a lot of money.

Uno, Dos, One, Two, Tres, Quatro:

Logan, I’m glad you specified the $10 million must go to the current roster. Otherwise, I’d spend $3 million and abscond with the rest.

The first signing would be easy. Erik Haula. Let’s assume $3.2 per year for a few years gets it done. Perhaps the next chunk of change would be on Michael Granlund to be the RW on the third line.

That would just about do it.

Two out of the box suggestions:

Sign Mike Hoffman to a one-year, $6 million deal, then trade him with a $2 million salary holdback to net a first-round pick in return. Then, I’d try a similar trick with Sami Vatanen and pocket the draft picks and remaining cash.

I’d love to say I’d offer a big RFA offer sheet, but the Penguins don’t have their first-round pick. Or their second-rounder. Or their third-rounder.

Finally:

A successful third line should produce about 40-45 goals but allow much fewer. The line should be able to control the puck in the defensive zone, advance to neutral ice or the offensive zone more often than not, and get off the ice.

Boiled down to simplest terms, that’s what a team needs. However, the Pittsburgh Penguins’ current third line would be lucky to get 30, at least based on last season totals.

The condensed season hurts the Penguins. The team lacks depth both on the NHL roster and in the minors. Injuries will be a common theme for all teams, and if the Penguins older stars are banged up, the playoffs are in jeopardy.

Trick or treat!

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Pittsburgh Hockey Now owner, formerly 93.7 The Fan, Sportsnet Hockey Tonight. Catch Dan tweeting @theDanKingerski and the official @pghhockeynow account.

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