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Penguins Q&A: Penguins Lines, D-Pairs, and…Playoffs?!

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pittsburgh penguins, nhl trade, jason zucker, marcus pettersson

Coaches have not yet publicly shared the image of their puzzle. The Pittsburgh Penguins’ corner pieces are in place. We know where Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang, and even Jeff Petry will line up. In the subsequent roster assembly, we’ll find out if head coach Mike Sullivan can see the schooner in the 3D picture.

The last line is a Kevin Smith reference in honor of Clerks III. If you don’t get it, you have homework this weekend.

Late Friday night, we put out the bat signal and immediately got the good questions (and none seemed to be fueled by alcohol). The questions surrounding the Penguins are legitimate and yet without official answers.

But Sullivan will fling open the door to training camp on Thursday and begin giving answers. More importantly, Sullivan will begin allowing the players to give him the answers.

Without further ado or discussion, if independent contracts on the Death Star deserved their fate, we present the Pittsburgh Penguins Q&A.

ANSWER: Until he proves otherwise, Brian Dumoulin plays with Letang. Full stop. From there, chemistry and balancing skills will play a role. Will P.O Joseph earn a role? What about Ty Smith, who was acquired in the John Marino trade? Mark Friedman and Chad Ruhwedel could also find themselves with a plate of press box nachos.

So, here are my pairings:

Dumoulin-Letang

Pettersson-Petry

Joseph/Friedman-Rutta

Marcus Pettersson should be a nice complement to the all-around Petry, a quick and fluid skater. Our Montreal colleagues report that Petry has excellent gap control and lateral movement. Pettersson can play to his stay-at-home self without forcing offense.

Jan Rutta will be a solid anchor on the third pairing. He, too, is an all-round defenseman but more of a defensive presence. He can skate well enough, but his forte is the defensive zone and taking care of the net-front. A skating, offensively inclined defender will pair well with him. Can that be Joseph? I think he will get a good chance to prove it. If he doesn’t show that hop through the neutral zone and into the offensive zone, Friedman has shown he can be a nice option capable of solid minutes.

Friedman has also shown he can lose his head and take dumb penalties. I think Friedman wins the battle, but I’m not betting the farm on it.

Bill! The city misses you. Anyhoo…

The player that people are overlooking is Danton Heinen. He marked 18 goals and 33 points in 76 games. His game is not overly assertive, nor is it robust. He’s a third-line scorer. Pair him with Jeff Carter and, probably, Kasperi Kapanen.

I don’t get the Josh Archibald hate. The analytics crowd has again paired with the Penguins Twitterverse to create a scarecrow believed to be bad at hockey. He’s not an All-Star, but he had value as a scrappy fourth-liner and PK guy.

I don’t need to sell you on Teddy Blueger and Brock McGinn. That’s a pretty good fourth line.

The more I hear about Ryan Poehling, the more I think 13th forward or WBS Penguins; he’s very talented but can struggle to play the game at full speed.

In blunt honesty, that answer lies solely with Kapanen. He has all of the god-given talents to be a special player. He must get his nose dirty more often, and stop, stop, stop with the half-wall pull-up. Death, taxes, and Kapanen leading the rush but stopping at the top of the circle.

I don’t know what comes next for Kapanen. He has only one 20-goal season. Given the talented teams he’s been a part of and the talented linemates he’s been given, he should have a few.

Penguins GM Ron Hextall gave Kapanen a two-year deal this summer. One would think Sullivan had some input there. I can’t fathom the second year being included if Sullivan were fed up.

So, Kapanen will get every opportunity to right the wrongs of last season, but his might be the one contract that haunts the Penguins in the short term.

Yes. Especially if they finish in the top three of the Metro.

Under. When players start to have issues, they usually don’t change course. I hope I’m very wrong for his and the Pittsburgh Penguins’ sake. He’s a good human who deserves better than the brutal luck he’s endured. Truthfully, even a bad human doesn’t deserve the luck Zucker has endured.

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Dean
Dean
13 days ago

Dan, Kapanen has 4 NHL seasons. Two of them were cut short due to covid. So that means he should have had a second last year and his first year. But to say he should have 3 which is a few is just a gross exaggeration to support your position on the Kapapen contract. I will give you the same chance I have given the fans. Find me 1 or 2 first round draft picks that have averaged .5 pts a game over a 2-4 year NHL career in their mid twenties that got paid substantially less than Kapanen. I… Read more »

Justin
Justin
13 days ago
Reply to  Dean

You are correct about Zucker but you didn’t mention in his contract year Zucker also had a 33 goal 64 point season, and hasn’t hit that plateau since signing the deal. I’m pretty sure any GM would line up to sign a 26 year old gritty goal scoring forward to that contract after having a 33 goal season.

Dean
Dean
13 days ago
Reply to  Justin

Kapanen also had 30 pts in a 40-game shortened season 2 years ago. That is a .75-point pace.

John
John
12 days ago
Reply to  Dean

Why mention Kapanen’s numbers from 2 seasons ago and not mention last year’s data? In 2021-22, he had 0.407 Points Per Game for Regular Season + Playoffs, 35 Points / 76 Games.

Last edited 12 days ago by John
Dean
Dean
12 days ago
Reply to  John

Because you look at career stats not 40 or 50 games in one season. That is a better indicator of a players performance.

John
John
12 days ago
Reply to  Dean

But my point is that you ignored Kapanen’s data from last season 0.407 Points Per Game in 86 games (Regular Season + Playoffs) while specifically mentioning his 30 Points in 40 Games from 2 seasons ago. If you’re going to advocate for Kapanen, mention his assets like his youth, energy, durability, speed, upside, untapped potential as a penalty killer, improving work ethic, his effectiveness in overtime, his puck possession %. In other words, argue that he’s better than his numbers. There’s a lot to like about Kapanen, but it is fair to question resigning him at 3.2 million for 2… Read more »

John
John
12 days ago
Reply to  Dean

I disagree. Kapanen is LESS than a half point for his career (Playoffs + Regular Season). 165 Total Points / 359 Total Games = 0.4596 Points Per Game. For his career, Kapanen is 0.474 Points Per Game for the Regular Season and 0.342 Points Per Game for the Playoffs. That being said, I hope he and the Penguins have a great season. My concern is that the Penguins are having salary cap issues and paying him $3.2 Million for his potential instead of his credentials.

Dean
Dean
12 days ago
Reply to  John

I was looking at regular season that is the 82 game comparison. Look at Zucker’s then he has .326 (15 pts in 46 post season games). That is under Kapanen’s .342.

Kapapen’s contract is not the Pens bad contract.
1. Zucker +2M overpaid based production not counting injury.
2. Pettersson +1M overpaid.
3. McGinn +1M overpaid
4. Carter’s contract has a chance to be a disaster if he shows his age.
5. Petry + 1M overpaid (I understand we swapped overpaid players)

Those are the Pens problem contracts not Kapanen’s

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[…] 18 goals. He started last season strong, however, his biggest struggle was staying consistent. He definitely showed potential and there is no reason he couldn’t be a 40-point player next season if given the right […]