With two generational players moving towards the end of their careers, Pittsburgh Penguins fans are beginning to wonder if their final years are being squandered. Pittsburgh has won the Stanley Cup three times in the Sidney Crosby–Evgeni Malkin era, but the last few seasons have been filled with disappointment as the team has failed to live up to even modest expectations.
In 2020 they were bounced out in the qualifying round by the Montreal Canadians, a team with a losing record who only made the postseason because of the pandemic. This season they entered the playoffs as a top seed and lost in the first round to a New York Islander team that simply wanted it more.
In February, Brian Burke and Ron Hextall were named organization heads by co-owners Mario Lemieux and Ron Burkle after Jim Rutherford unexpectedly resigned midseason. They inherited a team that was built to compete now, but also a team that will need to make some difficult decisions at the end of the coming season with Evgeni Malkin, Chris Letang, Jeff Carter, Casey DeSmith, and Bryan Rust all impending UFAs.
The only pending UFAs who were regulars come playoff time this off-season was Frederick Gaudreau and Cody Ceci. The Minnesota Wild signed the 28-year-old Gaudreau and Ceci ended up with a long-term deal offered up by the Edmonton Oilers. While the loss of Ceci stings, the first real question mark for the Pittsburgh Penguins this season is goaltending.
Penguins Will Struggle in Net: Tristan Jarry and Casey DeSmith were anything but amazing last season, and the team lost their third option Maxime Legace to the Tampa Bay Lightning. General manager Ron Hextall, a goalie in his NHL career looked to boost depth by signing Louis Domingue to a one-year, two-way deal.
Domingue spent all of last season with the Calgary Flames organization but played in just one NHL game. It’s expected that Domingue will be the Penguins’ reserve goalie behind Jarry and DeSmith, playing mostly with college free agent Filip Lindberg and Alex D’Orio at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.
There really is no Plan-B here when it comes to goalies so the Penguins will enter the season with what they have.
Penguins Will Start Slow: The Pittsburgh Penguins announced on Wednesday that their captain Sidney Crosby had undergone wrist surgery and is out for at least six weeks.
Penguins captain Sidney Crosby underwent a successful wrist procedure today.
Crosby will miss the start of training camp and is expected to be sidelined for a minimum of six weeks.
Full details: https://t.co/Vi8y0UWzQF pic.twitter.com/rT2emh9pE4
— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) September 8, 2021
With Evgeni Malkin already ruled out for training camp while recovering from right knee surgery in June, the team will be without their two best players to start the season. Hextall has repeatedly declined to give an update on Malkin’s status, saying the team will have a better idea once training camp starts, but all signs point to an extended absence that should play out until at least mid-November.
Pittsburgh Will Be Alright: Last season the Penguins found their legs in midseason, finished 8-2 down, and captured the Eastern Division title leap-frogging both the Washington Capitals and Boston Bruins down the stretch. Head coach Mike Sullivan is one of the best in the business at getting production out of his team, and when Crosby and Malkin return the Penguins boast a lot of talent.
Even factoring in a quiet free agency over the summer and injuries to start the season, bookmakers have the Penguins at +350 to win the Metropolitan Division this season, just off the favorite New York Islanders who are +330.