So…What Now? 2017 Offseason Preview

In case you didn’t hear, the Penguins won their second consecutive Stanley Cup.That’s pretty fucking awesome if you ask me, and we’re going to have that forever.  Tomorrow there’ll be a parade in Pittsburgh, and Penguins fans will get to officially celebrate.  Then, nine days later, the 2017 offseason will officially begin with the Expansion Draft.  Two days later is the Entry Draft.  Free agency begins a week after that.  (I guess forever is a really brief time.)

Unlike last offseason when the Penguins waved goodbye to just two NHL players (Ben Lovejoy and Jeff Zatkoff), this year the Penguins are faced with twenty-two expiring contracts:

  • NHL UFAs: C Nick Bonino, C Matt Cullen, D Trevor Daley, D Ron Hainsey, W Chris Kunitz, D Chad Ruhwedel, D Mark Streit
  • NHL RFAs: W Josh Archibald, D Brian Dumoulin, D Justin Schultz, W Conor Sheary, C Oskar Sundqvist
  • AHL UFAs: D Cameron Gaunce, C Kevin Porter, W Tom Sestito, D David Warsofsky, W Garrett Wilson
  • AHL RFAs: D Frank Corrado, C Jean-Sebastien Dea, D Tim Erixon, D Stuart Percy, D Derrick Pouliot

Cullen is likely retiring, Streit may as well, Kunitz is turning 38 in September, Hainsey will be 37 next March and Daley will be 34 in October. Of those guys, Kunitz is the most likely to return, probably on a one-year deal, maybe with an option for a second.  Daley was still quite effective but unless he’s willing to take a discount (his cap hit last season was $3.3M) he’ll possibly find himself elsewhere as the Penguins have a number of AHL RFAs to choose from to fill his void.  The priority of course will be to re-sign Dumoulin, Schultz, and Sheary as they have been the biggest contributors of the expiring RFAs.  As such, and with ~$13M in cap room, it’s hard to imagine the Penguins will be making any big splashes in free agency.  Add to that the inevitable poaching of one NHL player by the Vegas Golden Knights (and every sign points to that player being Marc-Andre Fleury), and the Penguins figure to look pretty different with at least one forward line, one defensive pairing, and a backup goaltender moving on.

We’ve also already seen some moves in the front office with Jason Botterill becoming Buffalo’s GM and possibly Rick Tocchet or Jacques Martin joining him to replace Dan Bylsma.  For years we had been hearing about how Jim Rutherford had intended to step aside from the GM role; if that is going to happen this year, you would think it would happen prior to (or perhaps just after) the Entry Draft.  Speaking of which, the Penguins have six picks in the Draft, the highest of which is the 31st overall.

The big picture for Pittsburgh this offseason is that the old is making way for the new.  This is without considering any possible free agent acquisitions, but there are plenty of young guys in the Penguins’ farm system that can and will step into bigger roles.  Guys like Zach Aston-Reese, Lukas Bengtsson, Teddy Blueger, Thomas DiPauli, Sean Maguire, Ethan Prow, Dominik Simon, and Daniel Sprong (yesssss) will continue to climb the depth chart and possibly find themselves in Pittsburgh next season.  It’s also possible there could be some trades that see these or other guys heading elsewhere.  It’s an exciting time to be a Penguins fan because they’re playing with house money with two straight Cups in their trophy case.

Speaking on behalf of my fellow Pens.Hockey contributors (blog-czar Brendan, Dr. Rad, SouthSideGeno, j-b0t, Jovi, Jason Irving, PensPointsYourMom, and Midnight Rider; apologies to those I overlooked), I want to thank all of our readers and commenters for making our first season a memorable one! Summer is usually a slow time for any hockey blog, but we hope to keep the content flowing.  We’re already starting to work on some 2017-18 player previews which we’ll start dropping after the Entry Draft, and with all the goings-on with the expansion draft and free agency there’s going to be a lot to talk about for the next three months before the 2017-18 preseason begins.  We hope you will stick with us through the offseason as we all starting planning for a third straight Cup parade in 2018! (As if that’s even possible!…)