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Shifting star power in Eastern Conference a growing concern for Penguins

July 6, 2018, 1:24 PM ET [93 Comments]
Ryan Wilson
Pittsburgh Penguins Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
There is not a lot going on with the Penguins at the moment as far as roster moves. The biggest news on that front is that defenseman Jamie Oleksiak filed for arbitration. This is standard procedure for the player and chances are it will not reach a hearing. From all accounts the Penguins have interest in keeping him around.

The bigger news is what is happening around the Eastern Conference. The Toronto Maple Leafs are not playing around. They aren't going to screw up the player personnel choices around the edges like they used to. The Matt Martin and Roman Polak experiments are long gone along with Lou Lamoriello. Getting John Tavares was an obvious game changing acquisition for the Leafs. Some folks in the media are already concocting stories that Dubas won't be able to keep William Nylander and Mitch Marner with Auston Matthews and John Tavares on the team. This isn't true. He will, he said as much the other day. The key to managing that situation is how you fill out the rest of the team. Today they signed Tyler Ennis to a league minimum contract.

Ennis who is 28, has some injury problems, but also had some offensive success in the league. This is a great fourth line option. The kind that Pittsburgh needs to get on board with as their core pieces continue to age.

The 2018-19 version of Matt Cullen is not the 2015-16 version. Anthony Duclair, who Pittsburgh was rumored to have interest in, also signed a one-year 650k contract like Ennis. Duclair will be with the Columbus Blue Jackets now.

These choices are usually met with a laissez faire attitude because of the roles they are perceived to be in. However, if you are gunning for a title these decisions matter. You have to squeeze the most out of the roster. Jack Johnson and Matt Cullen aren't squeezing the most out of your cap space. There's no need to pour all of your resources into a 31 year old project like Johnson. If Gonchar and Sullivan are magic with coaching and deployment why not use that magic on a better bet that costs way less and isn't for as long?

I haven't even mentioned Tampa Bay yet. We are still in an Erik Karlsson holding pattern as we wait to find out where he is going to land. The information so far is that the Rangers are going to inexplicitly help out the Lightning by taking back Ryan Callahan's contract. What is with the fetish those two teams have for one another? Anyways, if Karlsson lands in Tampa Bay they are going to wipe the table with most teams. I don't think we've seen two defensemen as good as Karlsson and Victor Hedman on the same team since the days of Chris Pronger and Scott Niedermayer in Anaheim. How are they going to make the money work? The same way Toronto will. Pay your stars and value shop and home grow the rest. The Karlsson deal isn't official so this is mere speculation, but with Toronto legitimately on the rise as a contender and Tampa skewering the earth for any all star defensemen they can get their hands on things are a lot more difficult for the Penguins getting out of the Eastern Conference.

I think the current NHL playoff format is stupid, but it might be what gets the Penguins into round two the next few years instead of going head to head with a couple of buzz saws that are Toronto and Tampa Bay.

Thanks for reading!
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