Pittsburgh Penguins: The Next NHL Dynasty?
In the sporting world, dynasties are somewhat of a rarity.
In the NFL, we've had the Patriots and Cowboys since the beginning of the '90s.
In baseball, we've had the dominant Yankees run of the late '90s.
Basketball saw the Lakers dynasty kick off the millennium.
In hockey, however, we haven't seen a true dynasty since the '80s, when the Oilers took the mantle from the Islanders. The two teams combined for eight Stanley Cup titles in the '80s.
Times may be changing. The Pittsburgh Penguins, assuming they defeat the Detroit Red Wings to win the Stanley Cup, have the potential to do something that the NHL hasn't seen in a long, long time.
The Pens have an important offseason to get through, however. Marian Hossa, this year's biggest trade deadline acquisition, is set to become an unrestricted free agent. Will he take a pay cut to play with Malkin and Crosby, or will he take the money and run?
Ryan Malone, Jarkko Ruutu, Gary Roberts and Ty Conklin are also pieces the Penguins will want to keep around. Marc-Andre Fleury is a restricted free agent.
Roberts may not even come back at all, but the Pens could keep him at a relatively cheap cost and with only a one-year deal.
Malone could be tricky. He's a young, budding forward and could definitely cash in on a bigger deal from a team in desperate need of scoring. It's up to him if he wants to take a fat check from another team, or hang around for slightly less and be more successful.
Conklin and Ruutu should be relatively easy to keep.
Fleury might be retained at a cost that would be deemed a bargain for him, considering his stat line isn't impressive enough to warrant a big deal, despite his sterling playoff run. I would imagine the Pens will lock him up.
After next year, it gets tricky. Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal are restricted free agents. Malkin will obviously command a deal in the neighborhood of Sidney Crosby, whom the Pens locked up long-term this past year.
Staal will obviously be due a raise from his $850k salary, but what is the right price? He's a solid defensive player with average scoring abilities, and a great penalty killer. I could see him getting bumped into the $3 million range, but I don't think he should get much more.
What is likely to happen is the Pens giving Malkin a back-loaded deal while locking Staal and Fleury down to long-term deals as well. Roberts could be back on a lower-end, one-year contract and Hossa likely will not be back in a Pens uniform.
Still, the Penguins are poised to be one of the best teams in the game for quite some time.
Led by the Messier/Gretzky of this generation, the Pens have a solid, young supporting cast. They have a good defense that will only get better with the developments of Kris Letang, Ryan Whitney, and Brooks Orpik.
Throw in a progressing 23-year-old Fleury and things are looking even better in Pittsburgh.
But the front office has to be shrewd and make smart moves or this team could very easily end up like the Lightning— with a handful of superstars and no flexibility to make the team better.
In the end, this fan of the game is hoping the Penguins can keep their core together for a long while. The game needs another epic dynasty.
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