2021-22 Record: 46-25-11 (103pts)
Goal differential: 272-229 (+43)
Key Additions: D Jan Ruutta, D Jeff Petry, D Ty Smith, F Ryan Poehling
Key Subtractions: F Evan Rodrigues, D Mike Matheson, D John Marino, F Zach Ashton-Reese
The most important moves the Penguins made this offseason were done within the organization – locking up defenseman Kris Letang and center Evgeni Malkin, who were both due to hit unrestricted free agency this summer. But the club also did a nice job of quietly improving their defense corps, which should make them a harder team to play against as they eye one more run with this talented, aging core.
Up front they lose their fifth leading scorer in Rodrigues, which might sting most clubs … but they’ll be replacing him with a (hopefully) healthy Evgeni Malkin, who missed half the season due to injury. They may be long in the tooth, but their depth down the middle is still elite, rolling out Malkin, Sidney Crosby, and Jeff C***** as their centers. Jake Guentzel has emerged as one of the game’s most dangerous scoring wingers, and he’s surrounded by some other nice pieces as well.
Defensively, I like their adjustments because these changes make them a more responsible team. Ruutta has Stanley Cup pedigree and quietly, is a very good two-way defender. Petry had an poor season last year, but should bounce back with this group as a physical guy who can shut it down, but chip in some offense as well. Ty Smith has failed to find footing in the league, but was a high first draft pick who has had success at every other level. So, of course, he’ll be fantastic and probably lead them in scoring this year.
The Penguins will return both of their goaltenders from last year, Tristan Jarry and Casey deSmith, who aren’t elite, but gave them a chance to win every night. While this team will have to age out at some point, I don’t think it’s their time yet. They seem like they’ll be better this year, possibly good enough to contend one more time.