This time next week, the Pittsburgh Penguins will have already made some tough decisions. With the Seattle Kraken entering the league, one player from the Penguins will be packing their bags and heading west. It would make the most sense for Pittsburgh to protect seven forwards, three defenseman and one goalie. This is the final prediction of the Pittsburgh Penguins’ protection list.
The Seven Forwards
There are some clear and obvious players that are going to be protected. Two forwards that will be protected are superstars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. They have no-movement clauses on their contracts, but it doesn’t matter. Even if they didn’t, the Penguins would never in a million years expose them to the expansion draft.
Jake Guentzel, Bryan Rust and Kasperi Kapanen are some more obvious choices. Guentzel and Rust perform beautifully when they are on Crosby’s line. With Guentzel scoring the goals and the tandem of Crosby and Rust setting him up, the first line needs to stick together. Kapanen has also been great with the Penguins with his speed and playmaking. Because of this, Pittsburgh will stick with him.
Now there are only two more slots with three more main players. The three choices are Brandon Tanev, Teddy Blueger and Jared McCann. It is tough to say who’s going to be protected out of the three. Blueger plays great on the defensive end, Tanev provides physicality and McCann excels on the powerplay. Blueger’s new contract may be an indication of a long future with the organization and Tanev quickly became a fan favorite. For these reasons, the last two players that may be protected are Blueger and Tanev.
The Three Defensemen
Like Crosby and Malkin, defenseman Kris Letang has a no-movement clause. Even then, he would never be exposed to Seattle. He excels in an offensive capacity and even plays solid in the defensive end of the ice. Not only will he stay with the Penguins, he will likely spend the rest of his career with the organization.
Brian Dumoulin will also be protected. He is arguably the most defensively sound out of all the defensemen on the Penguins roster. Granted, he doesn’t put up the points, but he makes up for it by preventing shots and therefore preventing goals. It would genuinely be a shocker if the Penguins decided to expose Dumoulin, and then an even bigger shock if Seattle didn’t take him if he were available.
The Penguins would then have to choose between Mike Matheson and Marcus Pettersson. The choice seems like a no-brainer as out of the two: Matheson should and likely would be protected. His style of play is a mesh between Dumoulin and Letang as he likes to contribute offensively but is also a solid defender. Pettersson underwhelmed seemingly everyone this year and certainly isn’t living up to the expectations of his contract. Because of that, he may be left exposed.
The One Goalie
This one is also an absolute no-brainer as the Penguins will protect Tristan Jarry. Sure, he did have a pretty subpar performance in the postseason. However, he is still young and can absolutely learn from this experience. He will only get better in the future, and the Penguins will absolutely need him in the coming years.
That doesn’t mean that fellow goaltender Casey DeSmith isn’t good. In fact, he put up a better save percentage than Jarry. However, it would make the most sense to protect Jarry and therefore exposing DeSmith to Seattle. Even then, the likelihood of the Kraken selecting DeSmith is low when the other goaltenders available are considered.
The final prediction for Pittsburgh’s list of protected players are Crosby, Malkin, Rust, Guentzel, Kapanen, Tanev, Blueger, Letang, Matheson, Dumoulin and Jarry. There is a chance that Blueger and McCann could be swapped out, but the current prediction seems the most sensible for the Penguins. Only time will tell, and who knows? Pittsburgh could throw a curveball.
Go to our NHL page for more updates!