Clearly, the 2020-2021 postseason didn’t go as planned for the Pittsburgh Penguins. After an astonishing regular season in which the Penguins won the MassMutual East Division, the playoffs were looking promising. This wasn’t the case. The New York Islanders defeated Pittsburgh in only six games. Because of this, Pittsburgh may have to make some changes.
In 2020, the Penguins made a fairly questionable trade. In 2020, Pittsburgh traded a 2021 first-round draft pick, defensive prospect Calen Addison and Alex Galchenyuk to the Minnesota Wild for Jason Zucker. At the time, it wasn’t too bad of a trade. After all, the Penguins needed a solid winger and Jason Zucker looked like a good option. However, it has somewhat backfired.
After a season of mediocre play followed by an underwhelming playoff performance, Zucker could be the focus of trade rumors. If there were a trade involving Zucker, the ideal return would be something the Penguins lack: draft picks. Pittsburgh is notorious for trading away their picks, so getting some back would be fantastic. Would the Penguins need to trade for a replacement winger? Not necessarily.
Pittsburgh has some prospects that have shown solid potential, like Samuel Poulin and Nathan Legare. Both Legare and Poulin have been steadily improving during their past season in the QMJHL. Giving either one of these players an opportunity to play and learn from the elite talent the Penguins have could prove to be incredibly effective. Take Jake Guentzel as an example. Playing on Sidney Crosby’s wing improved Guentzel’s offensive capabilities tenfold. This is purely speculation and no comments have been made as of this moment, but if the Penguins were to trade Zucker this could be the best route.
This could be a fairly difficult year for the Penguins in terms of resigning their talent. Some players whose contracts expire this offseason are Teddy Blueger, Cody Ceci, Zach Aston-Reese, Evan Rodrigues, Frederick Gaudreau and Mark Jankowski. Jankowski is more than likely going to be let go as he had a pretty bad year. But for the other players things get interesting.
Blueger and Aston-Reese should be prioritized most out of the aforementioned players. They add depth into the roster, but the thing is they don’t just take up space. They were vital to the fourth line as they contributed defensively. What the terms of their contracts will be, nobody knows. They could be locked up for years to come, or they could only be signed to bridge deals. What does need to happen, however, is for them to stay with Pittsburgh.
Gaudreau really broke out with the Penguins this year, so much so that he ended up taking Rodrigues’s roster spot during the playoffs. For this reason, Gaudreau is more likely to be re-signed than Rodrigues. Of course, it won’t be a hefty contract, but it is likely Penguins fans could see Gaudreau return.
Then, there’s Ceci. Ceci’s free agency signing was fairly controversial as he hasn’t had the best track record. Despite this, he did do fairly decent with Pittsburgh. His stay at home defensive style shined in the defensive zone, and he put up a respectable 17 points in the regular season. Could fans see him come back? There’s always that possibility, but everybody will have to wait and see in the case of Cody Ceci.