Point Park University's Student-Run Newspaper

Point Park Globe

Point Park University's Student-Run Newspaper

Point Park Globe

Point Park University's Student-Run Newspaper

Point Park Globe

A look into the Penguins preseason

As a new year approaches for the Pittsburgh Penguins, a lot has changed both on and off the ice. 


Although last year was a difficult one for the club, with the Penguins missing the playoffs for the first time in 16 years, there is a lot to be excited about for this year’s season. 


The team’s ownership group Fenway Sports Group, relieved General Manager Ron Hextall and President of Hockey Operations Brian Burke of their duties on April 14, leaving them with two major vacancies in the front office. The Penguins landed Kyle Dubas, the former General Manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs, on June 1 as the new manager of the Penguins. Dubas has the reputation of being one of the brightest minds in hockey as he is great at using advanced analytics and algorithms to improve results on the ice. 


Trying to describe this team’s offseason in one word would be a hard assignment. If there is one idea to take away from Dubas’s previous work in sports, it is to expect the unexpected. 


At the beginning of Dubas’s tenure, the Penguins made a trade with the Vegas Golden Knights, acquiring Forward Riley Smith for a 2024 third round pick, which was the same pick that the Pens received for Teddy Blueger towards the trade deadline last year. 


Essentially this was a replacement for beloved Penguin Jason Zucker, who left the team as a free agent to sign with the Arizona Coyotes. Smith had 26 goals and 30 assists in 78 games with the Golden Knights. He will play a top-six role with the Pens and will most likely be on Evgeni Malkin’s line. 


The Pens have not been past the first round of playoffs since 2018. Hopefully, adding a Stanley Cup Champion who played a pivotal role in the team’s success will change this. Even though it was tough to say goodbye to Zucker, Smith, at a cap hit of $5 million for two years, was just too good to pass up. 


One of the biggest questions surrounding this hockey team was who was going to be in the net for the start of the season. Tristan Jarry, who signed a five-year $26.875 million contract that has a cap hit of $5.375 million for the next five years, is still at the front. This is a huge gamble considering Tristan Jarry’s injury history the past two seasons. However, when healthy, Jarry is a top-10 goalie in the NHL. In 206 games played, Jarry has a 2.65 goals against average and a .914 save percentage which are very promising numbers. Jarry also had his best season last year, meaning he is not past his prime.


The team hit the reset button with their bottom six. During last season’s tight playoff race, the bottom six struggled to make a difference. In the last 19 games of the year nobody in the bottom six had more than three goals. The Pens got a new third-line center in Lars Eller and a new fourth-line center Noel Acciari from the Toronto Maple Leafs. 


The additions of Eller, who signed a two-year contract of $2.45 million per year, and Acciari, who signed a three-year $2 million contract per year, share a common theme. Both are very hard to play against for the opposing team, great defensive players, and effective on the penalty kill. These two signings prove that the bottom six will be able to hold their end of the bargain and be able to play in critical moments. They also added winger Matt Nieto on a two-year contract worth $900,000 per year. Nieto also shares the same traits as Eller and Acciari; he’s a solid depth piece who can play good defensive hockey.


 Overall, this bottom six may have trouble scoring but will not be an Achilles’ heel when on the ice. They will play lockdown defense and pose as an offensive nightmare to opposing teams. 


Saving the best for last, Pens fans got their wish this offseason. They got the best available player via trade and future Hall of Famer Erik Karlsson in a blockbuster trade that involved three teams: the Montreal Canadiens, San Jose Sharks, and Penguins. The Penguins received defenseman Erik Karlsson (San Jose retains $1.5 million of Karlssons contract), forward Rem Pitlick, forward Dillon Hamaliuk, and San Jose’s 2026 third round draft pick. 


The Sharks received the Pens’ 2024 first round draft pick (top-10 protected), forward Mikael Granlund, defenseman Jan Rutta and Canadiens forward Mike Hoffman. The Canadiens received the Pens’ 2025 second round draft pick, defenseman Jeff Petry (Pittsburgh retains 25% of his contract), goaltender Casey DeSmith and forward Nathan Legare.


There were a lot of moving parts in order to get this deal done. Some may ask why did the Sharks trade a player who just put up 100 points as a defenseman? Well, the Sharks are heading towards a rebuilding stage and, this offseason, Karlsson made it clear he wants to win. Coming to Pittsburgh should grant his wish. Before this trade was completed, the Pens were up against the cap, and adding a player who makes $11.5 million for the next four years does not make things easy. With that, Dubas knew the Pens would have to send players with high cap numbers elsewhere. 


The Pens traded away four roster players, including Jeff Petry who made $6.25 million. In order to get this deal done, he had to also part ways with Mikael Granlund who has a cap of $5 million. Dubas also shipped Jan Rutta out, though he was a solid depth defender. 


The Pens already had seven NHL defensemen so getting rid of this depth piece is no cause for concern. The Penguins backup goalie Casey DeSmith was sent to his childhood favorite team: the Montreal Canadiens. With Dubas signing goalie Alex Nedeljkovic, it would have been hard to rotate between three NHL-caliber goalies, so losing DeSmith was only a matter of time. 


After free agency started to settle down, many fans were still not satisfied with the work this team did. Dubas and ownership said that the ultimate goal is to win the Stanley Cup, but fans did not think the roster had enough firepower to be able to be the best of the best. That all changed when the Pens got Karlsson. He is the type of player that is a game changer and can make the key differences in winning and losing, coming off a career season in which he put up 25 goals and 76 assists to add up for a 101 point season on a struggling Sharks team.


 The last defenseman to put up 100 points was Brian Leetch back in the 1991-1992 season. Erik Karlsson has a reputation of being a force on the powerplay, but he was also a beast in even strength play putting up 74 points in that category, ranking him third in the NHL. With this addition, the Pens should be a top 10 power play unit in the league. There will be four future Hall of Famers on this power play with Letang, Malkin, Crosby, and Karlsson. Getting into the offensive zone this season will look flawless with Karlsson, as he is exceptionally well at passing the puck up the ice, dodging defenders and thinking quickly in the heat of the moment. 


Dubas got one of the best defensemen available on the free agent market: Ryan Graves from the New Jersey Devils. Looking at the defense now, it will most likely be Letang and Graves as the first defensive pairing, with Marcus Petterson and Karlsson on the second pair, and Pierre-Oliver Joseph and Chad Ruhwedel on the third. This was an area that the Penguins really struggled with last year, adding Graves and Karlsson should make a huge difference in the win-and-loss category this upcoming year.


The season is just around the corner and, across the city, there is a sense of excitement about the team that is different from previous years. As the illustrious careers of the Big Three come to an end, the chance to win their fourth cup is becoming slimmer every year. Adding world-class talent this offseason has given this team the belief that they can accomplish anything. The Pittsburgh Penguins are ready to make some noise this season and shock a lot of people around the league. 

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