Connect with us


So You’re Saying There’s a Chance for Penguins …



Pittsburgh Penguins, Sidney Crosby, Kris Letang, Evgeni Malkin, NHL news

It’s clear that the Pittsburgh Penguins are in seller mode as the NHL trade deadline closes in.

And while Jake Guentzel has gotten most of the attention — understandably so, since 40-goal guys don’t go on the market very often — Penguins president of hockey operations/GM Kyle Dubas is expected to pare a number of other players from the depth chart before 3 p.m. Friday.

That’s a perfectly logical move, because even the most devoted Penguins partisan likely has accepted that this group is far from being a legitimate Stanley Cup contender, which is the stated objective of ownership and management.

The first step toward chasing a Cup, of course, is qualifying for the Stanley Cup playoffs, and even if the Penguins’ roster were to remain intact, they’d be no better than a remote longshot to get into the postseason.

Mathematically, though, their challenge isn’t quite as Sisyphean as it might seem.

Awfully close, to be sure, but not quite.

There’s no guaranteed method of determining how many points will be needed to get into the playoffs, but Philadelphia and Tampa Bay have accumulated 72 points each in 63 games.

That’s significant, because the Flyers are third in the Metropolitan Division and the Lightning occupy the second wild-card berth in the Eastern Conference. Those are the two playoff spots the Pittsburgh Penguins could reasonably — OK, “reasonably” is a bit of a stretch — target between now and the end of the regular season.

If Philadelphia and Tampa Bay maintain their current paces, each would finish with 94 points.

The Penguins, meanwhile, have picked up 64 points in 60 games, which projects to 87.4 points over an 82-game season.

Without taking tiebreakers into consideration, they could finish with more points than the Flyers and Lightning by going 15-6-1 in their remaining 22 games.

That would be a pretty torrid streak for a group that’s bobbing along at barely over .500 three-quarters of the way into the season — especially after the lineup is further diluted by deadline deals — but, hey, the numbers are there.

Unfortunately for the Penguins, only four of their remaining 22 games are against teams below them in the overall standings — two vs. Columbus and one each with San Jose and Ottawa — and two are against a division rival that also has 64 points (New Jersey).

The rest include meetings with numerous clubs that sit comfortably in the top third of the league: Boston (2), New York Rangers (2), Dallas, Colorado, Edmonton and Carolina.

So, yeah, the Penguins have a chance.

About the same as the one a snowball would have of surviving a heat wave in Hades.

What would you do?

Emil Bemstrom has scored one goal in six games — none in the past five — since being acquired from Columbus, so it’s entirely possible that one provision in the trade that sent Alex Nylander to the Blue Jackets never will come into play.

As part of that deal, the Pittsburgh Penguins agreed to give Columbus a 2026 sixth-round draft choice, which would be upgraded to a third-rounder if Bemstrom scored six or more goals for the Penguins before the regular season ended.

If Bemstrom suddenly discovers his scoring chance, but the Penguins are hopelessly out of contention for a playoff spot, should Mike Sullivan limit his ice time — or even make him a healthy scratch — to avoid risking losing the higher pick?

Although NHL players and coaches are hard-wired to crave wins, and whatever it takes to earn them, relinquishing a third-round selection for no meaningful payoff seems less than prudent for a team with such a shallow prospects pool.