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So, Where are the Penguins Changes?



Pittsburgh Penguins celebrate. Pegnguins core questions. NHL trade rumors and playoff coverage

The Pittsburgh Penguins season ended 43 days ago, and we are now less than one month away from the 2024 NHL Draft and closer to the start of NHL free agency on July 1 than we are to the end of the regular season.

So, where are the Penguins’ changes?

When will president of hockey operations/GM Kyle Dubas begin to carve up the team that finished with the 30th-ranked power play, was at best detached or not present on far too many nights, and missed the playoffs for the second consecutive year?

It would seem now is not the time for a Jake and Elwood mission to get the band back together. No, getting this band back together would not be a mission from God.

Penguins winger Bryan Rust recently referred to the Penguins’ power play as “ass” during a widely viewed video game stream on Twitch. He’s not wrong.

The only change to the Penguins’ facade since the end of the regular season was relieving associate coach Todd Reirden of his duties. The move was long overdue, as the Penguins’ power play continually did the hockey equivalent of a belly flop into an empty pool going back to last season.

President of Hockey Operations/GM Kyle Dubas re-signed defenseman Jack St. Ivany to a bargain three-year deal, essentially buying his rights for the league minimum all the way to unrestricted free agency. Dubas also inked emerging prospect Jonathan Gruden to a new two-year contract.

Those were nice moves.

But those moves will hardly do anything to change the trajectory of a team that routinely fell apart, just like the Blues Mobile, until the final 14 games of the season. They will do little to correct the enormous pressure on captain Sidney Crosby’s shoulders to carry the team offensively, a blue line significant questions, a lack of middle-six scoring, and perhaps most notably, a roster with a few passengers.

Even the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton head coaching position remains open despite all but one of the NHL jobs being filled as the New Jersey Devils hired Sheldon Keefe and the Seattle Kraken brought Dan Bylsma back to the big show. With Winnipeg and LA also filling their jobs internally, only the San Jose Sharks job remains open.

The Penguins are certainly being methodical. The WBS Penguins job should be a plum AHL assignment with a handful of prospects highlighting the roster next season, including Ville Koivunen, Vasily Ponomarev, Tristan Broz, and probably 2022 first-round pick Owen Pickering.

And the NHL trade activity has already begun. Earlier this week, the New York Islanders traded down in the first round to acquire extra draft capital. You don’t think Islanders GM Lou Lamoriello made what should have been a draft-day trade one month in advance just to use those selections on prospects, do you?

In fairness, most teams haven’t started making significant changes yet. However, most teams do not face the urgency of the final seasons of Sidney Crosby and a core group of Hall of Fame players. Nor are most teams just a couple of years into a new ownership group that streamlines operations but also needs to win for revenue purposes.

If only the Pittsburgh Pirates needed to win to generate more revenue. But I digress.

The Penguins certainly need at least one top-six scorer, be it a center, winger, or player who can fill both roles. A third-liner who can chip in more than 30 points would surely help. And so, too, would a left-side defenseman capable of covering for one of Kris Letang or Erik Karlsson, unless the Penguins are content with the same troublesome blue line that eventually featured P.O Joseph on the top pair with Kris Letang, Ryan Shea on the third pair with St. Ivany, and Ryan Graves in the press box, then injured reserve.

Make no mistake, the spiking salary cap this summer is going to play like a violent game of musical chairs. There will be fierce competition for free agents, and this time, there will be money to spend. The Pittsburgh Penguins have plenty of salary cap space, they have plenty of needs.

It would seem beneficial not to wait until July 1 to continue the roster remake that supposedly began with the Erik Karlsson acquisition on August 6, just one day before Crosby’s 36th birthday.

If the Penguins are serious about making another run or at least being competitive enough to try, there could be no greater urgency-inducing fact than Crosby’s next cake will have 37 candles. There are a few teams in the league that might get desperate, but none have a generational core getting close to the end.

Reilly Smith and Ryan Graves didn’t meet expectations in their first year as Penguins. Coaching vacancies. Lineup openings and holes.

We’ve seen this methodical dance before, and it ended with the last GM getting table scraps at the NHL trade deadline, which sunk his career.

It’s Go Time.