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Updated Penguins Lines and Rankings After Free Agent Signings

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Pittsburgh Penguins lines, Jared McCann, Mark Jankowski, Evan Rodrigues

If Pittsburgh Penguins GM Jim Rutherford is to make more moves on the NHL free-agent market, he will first need to pull a rabbit out of his hat or find a way to clear additional salary. After Day 1 of the free-agent frenzy, we can begin to look ahead to the 2020-21 Penguins lines and get a sense of what the team may look like.

Based on the Corsica Hockey line rankings, the Penguins are a top-heavy team. Very top-heavy.

Based on the eye test, one can draw the same conclusion. On Friday, the Penguins found a couple of blue-light specials and pounced. First, Rutherford brought back scrappy forward Evan Rodrigues, 27, on a one-year, league minimum, $700,000 deal. A few minutes later, he signed former Calgary Flames center Mark Jankowski, 26, to the same deal.

“In Jankowski’s case, he’s a big center that’s good defensively,” Rutherford said. “Two years ago, he scored enough goals that we would be comfortable with him as our third-line center because of his defense, and if he can score in that range, we’d be pretty pleased with that.”

Two seasons ago, Jankowski scored 17 goals, but he scored seven points last season and just five goals in 56 games. Please read the full PHN player scouting report and breakdown here.

Rutherford did note the move will put McCann in a spot where the Penguins feel he is better suited to produce offense.

“That gives us a chance to move McCann to left-wing,” said Rutherford. “The fact of the matter is, if that’s what the line is, we’ll have three guys that can all play center and move around.”

So, here’s what the Penguins lines look like for 2020-21. Note: We still don’t think Jason Zucker and Evgeni Malkin will stick long term, but for consistency sake, we’re going to list them together. We feel Zucker and Crosby are a better match when combined with Jake Guentzel and Malkin. The team goals per 60 extrapolate to a much higher rate with Guentzel on Malkin’s line and Zucker on Crosby’s line.  We’ve done the full breakdown of the numbers and how dramatically different they are, here.

Pittsburgh Penguins Lines

Jake Guentzel – Sidney Crosby – Kasperi Kapanen

Jason Zucker – Evgeni Malkin – Bryan Rust

Jared McCann – Mark Jankowski – Evan Rodrigues

Brandon Tanev – Teddy Blueger – Colton Sceviour

Penguins Math

According to Corsica Hockey statistics, visible on Daily Faceoff, the Penguins top two lines rank in the NHL top-10. The Penguins top line projects as No. 7, overall, and the Penguins second-line ranks fourth. Those seem somewhat accurate, based on the accumulation of last year’s statistics.

However, based on previous year statistics, the Penguins bottom-six are in a bad way. The third line ranks 22nd, which seems a little generous, and the fourth line is 21st, which is about right. However, when Zach Aston-Reese is healthy, the Penguins fourth line, which was defensively dominant last season (and analytics guru Micah McCurdy of HockeyViz.com, explained why Aston-Reese had the largest defensive impact in the league) could be reunited.

Third and fourth lines which do not produce offense will get a team only so far. The Penguins will be searching for upgrades, if not now, then into the season.

We’ll see if the Penguins’ nothing-ventured strategy turns into high gains or nothing lost. PHN does not think the Penguins are done, but it will be tough sledding to add more. According to CapFriendly.com, the Penguins have about $2.5 million remaining, and that doesn’t include the short-term recall cushion teams should keep on hand to avoid playing shorthanded.

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Pittsburgh Hockey Now Editor-in-Chief, formerly 93.7 The Fan, Sportsnet Hockey Tonight, NHL Home Ice. Catch Dan tweeting @theDanKingerski and the official @pghhockeynow account.

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Dean
Dean
1 year ago

I think this is GMJR’s best year so far in retooling the team and not over spending in free agency. Every year there are medium value players at bottom basement prices and we have gone for medium or low players with penthouse deals. Both of the deals yesterday provide quality bottom 6 players with skill sets that are needed. Jankowski, depending on his play, can be slotted in at 3rd or 4th line center at the league minimum. The Pens needed a true center, not a winger who can play center. He can even be moved to the minors and… Read more »

Ricardo58
Ricardo58
1 year ago

The off-season is the time for all teams to be optimistic of their changes and predict the transactions to turn into roses rather than thorns. IMO, the best attribute about these new signings is the minimum $ dished out at 1 year intervals. History has always served as a reliable predictor, so the team certainly needs McCann to blossom on that 3rd line. I find it shocking that another team signed JJ. Especially since we know he may be the worst d-man in the NHL in quite some time. Hahahahahaha. Beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder. Go… Read more »

Rick
Rick
1 year ago

Dan, Not having cap space does not preclude GMJR from making any deals what-so-ever. He knows how to move contract out for like contract in trades, as a matter of fact he quite the master at pulling that off.

Also I was a little disappointed in the signings of Jankowski and Rodrigues. Why not take that $700K for each of those players and take a run at Kyle Turris who signed for a measly $1.6M with Edmonton. I believe that would have been money much better spent.

Jay95
Jay95
1 year ago
Reply to  Rick

Honestly, Jankowski has had more recent success than Turris. I’d rather have the speed of Rodriguez and the shot of Jankowski over Turris at this stage.

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