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Let's take a look at the Penguins depth chart

July 25, 2022, 5:23 PM ET [209 Comments]
Ryan Wilson
Pittsburgh Penguins Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
Things have been quiet since the flurry of trades the Penguins made last weekend and the, sigh, Kasperi Kapanen contract extension. So how do things stand at the moment? What does the depth chart look like? Does it appear to be a team looking to make some noise?

We are still a few months away from the start of the season so there could still be moves made. Currently, the team is technically over the salary cap. It would have to be a situation where they move salary out to bring salary in. The candidates to move out don’t exactly have a lot of value so we might be looking at close to what the roster is going to look like. I’ve broken up the depth chart into three colors: green, yellow, and red.

Green are players I think make sense at their price piont and what the roster needs given where they are in their franchise arc.

Yellow players have some questions and arguments could go either way.

Red are players I perceive not to be necessary to the current task at hand of trying to win the Stanley Cup or at least have the ability to make a respectable run.

I’m going to take a look at the forwards first.

There are 15 forwards listed. These are the 15 most likely to see ice time at some point this year. We have a lot of green on the top end of the roster. Less so near the bottom. This isn’t out of the ordinary for every team. The amount of red is still concerning.

Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Jake Guentzel, Bryan Rust, and Rickard Rakell are all top six players. I understand why they are there and why they are being paid what they are. The term on some of these players isn’t where you want to be with Rust and Rakell and less so with Malkin. These guys are going to drive the bus. They are strengths for 2022-23.

Jason Zucker is yellow because his cap hit and cost to acquire hasn’t been great for what the Penguins have gotten out of him. He was doing a Beau Bennett impression last year with the injuries. When he was able to play he was unable to score goals. I think he is due for a bounceback season on the goal scoring front. The team does not have respectable depth among forwards so what are you going to do? His trade value isn’t great and you won’t get anything in return worth what Zucker is to the Penguins at the moment. This is a situation where you have to roll the dice and hope for the best. If he can stay on the ice I think he’ll be a functional member.

This hypothetical third line is all red. Horrible value here. Jeff Carter looked washed and he stil has one year left. Brock McGinn is an overpaid depth player who looks like he might have to play on the third line. Not a great situation. Kasperi Kapanen? Ugh, still can’t believe they gave him two years at the same rate he was making. He did literally nothing to deserve that commitment. Watching Nino Niederreiter sign his two-year 8M deal was tough to see. How much better does the lineup look with Niederreiter instead of Kapanen? Instead we have an all red third line at the moment.

Fourth line has a very good center. Teddy Blueger is a perfect fourth line center for me. Ryan Poehling is one of those change of sceneries situations. Former first round pick yada yada yada. He’s at 750k so the cap hit is fine. He’s in yellow because I have no expectations. Josh Archibald is a whatever retread I don’t have any interest in seeing him on the NHL roster.

The extras are seemingly blocked at the moment. I gave Drew O’Connor a green mark because i thought there was some promise with him last year. Seems like a player who we don’t quite know about, but showed at the NHL level last year he wasn’t out of place. I would bet he gets a good look to see if he can stick at some point. Radim Zohorna has had some NHL time with the team so far. I’m not as bullish on him as O’Connor, but I’m fine with attempting to see what a guy like he has rather than Drake Caggiula who is in red. He and Josh Archibald should take a back seat to O’Connor and Zohorna.

I am very disappointed in the construction of the third and fourth line.

Here is the defense

We’ve got some more green. Kris Letang being and obvious candidate. Jeff Petry is green right behind him. Penguins have a really solid one-two punch on the right side. A lot of teams would like to have just one of them.

Brian Dumoulin is in red because he was such an obvious candidate to move for cap space yet they value him like he’s still the player he used to be. He will be 31 in a couple of months, coming off multiple injuries the past few years, and also coming off a stretch of some of the worst hockey in his career. You might ask the obvious question of how can you say this and still in the same breath say he should be traded? It is easy. NHL general managers can’t help themselves than be attracted to guys like Dumoulin who are two-time Stanley Cup champions with a history of success. We see it all the time. Somebody would have bit.

Jan Rutta is something I still don’t understand. What more does Chad Ruhwedel have to do to hold down a third pairing role on this team. He’s been perfectly fine! He makes very little. This is the spot on the depth chart you save on. The Penguins continue to spend more than they need to on the margins and thus they run out of money to make real changes. I hate the Rutta signing both at the time and especially in hindsight with Petry on the roster.

Marcus Pettersson is in yellow because his cap hit is high for what he is, but what are you going to do? With Mike Matheson out the door and the team keeping Brian Dumoulin I don’t know how you could feel comfortable dealing a steady player like Pettersson. He may be unremarkable. He is defensively effective and is a set and forget kind of player. Before the Matheson deal the team tried their best to move Pettersson and nobody bit. Thai means you aren’t going to get much for him. Pettersson’s cap hit would be useful in trying to improve the forwards, but at what cost to the defense at this point?

Pierre-Olivier Joseph is on an ELC and can likely play a bottom pairing role. This is the price point you want to be at on the bottom pairing. If Jan Rutta is going to eat up the cap space he is he needs to be able to function with someone like Joseph on a bottom pairing.

Chad Ruhwedel and Mark Friedman are green because they are exactly at the price point you want them to be at. The problem now is they are very much blocked by the others on the lineup. I wouldn’t be surprised if the team moved to Ruhwedel. I think it would be a mistake.

Edit: I unintentionally left off Ty Smith. He is in yellow category for me. I think he was in tough situation in New Jersey. He has a very good prospect profile combined with horrible 2021-22 NHL season. It would really help if this player can find himself in a new situation.

So this roster has too much red on it. The red on it was avoidable. I think Ron Hextall did a really nice job with the top end of the lineup and “keeping the band together”. He has whiffed so far in providing those players support, specifically at the forward positon.

Given the cap situation I wouldn’t be bullish on other moves to improve the roster at this point. I’d very much like to be proven wrong on this prediction.

Thanks for reading!
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