When July 1 came around, Penguins general manager Ray Shero had one thing in mind—he had to keep the core of the team together.
With a Stanley Cup loss, Shero wants nothing more than to go back next year and fly home with the Cup in his lap. However, the Penguins off-season was a bumpy road.
Before leaving Pittsburgh, Shero and the Pens offered all-star winger Marian Hossa a $7 million per year contract.
Apparently, "the Burgh" wasn't where Hossa wanted to be.
Hossa signed a one-year, $7.45 million contract, leaving the Pens for Stanley Cup winners Detroit.
Losing an All-Star is bad enough, but the downhill spiral continued. Wingers Ryan Malone, Georges LaRaque, Gary Roberts, and even Jarkko Ruutu left, leaving the Stanley Cup-contestant Pens a shell of what they once were, and crushing Shero's credit.
However, the Penguins will once more be atop the Atlantic Division next season. With all of the ex-Penguins leaving, Shero and Lemieux found themselves sitting upon a pile of money to put wherever they want.
With the core in mind, Shero put All-Star Russian center Evgeni Malkin under a contract very similar to that of whom many believe is the best player in the world, Sidney Crosby (worth $8.75 million a year).
Still thinking core, the Pens re-signed bruiser and bully Brooks Orpik, who had the most hits in the playoffs last year.
Finally, the Pens re-signed goalie and former first-overall pick Marc-Andre Fluery—who had a breakout season last year—to a seven-year contract.
With this core intact, the Penguins had to find players to patch the holes created by those who left.
The Pens quickly inked wingers Miroslav Satan and Ruslan Fedotenko to one-year deals.
Any player in the league would look good beside Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin, but with his blisterning shot, Satan could have an amazing season, similar to what Petr Sykora had with Malkin last year.
Despite his lack of points last season—only 44, compared to the high 60s that he is used to—Satan could really turn it up this year.
Ruslan Fedotenko's muscles could add a strong punch to that line. Fedotenko has grits that were similar to Ruutu, but has a better shot.
Finally, the Pens added Matt Cooke and Eric Godard. Godard was Calgary's bruiser, and could add a hard hit to the checking line. Ex-Capital Cooke would fill the hole of Jordan Staal if the Pens decide to move him up to play along side Evgeni Malkin.
Staal is much like Mark Messier, and his play could set off a huge explosion of goals from Malkin and Sykora.
The Penguins aren't stopping there. GM Shero is closing a contract with Finland's top scorer, Janne Pesonen.
Last year with Karpat in Finland's SM-Liga, Pesonen had 78 points and 34 goals. He is known for his great skill and speed. His play will be welcomed in Pittsburgh.
The 2008-09 season is one to look forward to, and the Penguins season will be completely different, even if the results are the same.
The Penguins will be a different team than they were last year. The young players are starting to bloom into crafty, experienced players. The Penguins still have a bright future.