Pittsburgh Penguins banking on aging veterans to win one more Cup

pittsburgh penguins
Feb 14, 2020; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang (58) chases the puck against Montreal Canadiens defenseman Jeff Petry (26) during the third period at PPG PAINTS Arena. Pittsburgh won 4-1. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Penguins will be entering the season as one of the oldest teams in the NHL after trades and signings this offseason.

Faced with some difficult decisions, GM Ron Hextall has apparently chosen that the path back to winning a Stanley Cup is sticking with their veterans and adding a few more. It’s certainly an eyebrow raising decision since they haven’t won a playoff series since 2018.

At an average age of 29.42, only the Washington Capitals come in older at 29.84.

Penguins going with aging lineup

pittsburgh penguins
Feb 20, 2022; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang (58) and center Evgeni Malkin (71) present center Sidney Crosby (87) with a commemorative stick and plaque in honor of his 500th career NHL goal before the game against the Carolina Hurricanes at PPG Paints Arena. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

On Saturday, the Penguins made two trades that increased the age of the team. First they shipped defenseman John Marino to the New Jersey Devils and then acquired Jeff Petry from the Montreal Canadiens. By doing so, Pittsburgh added 9 years to the blue line since Marino was 25 and Petry is 34.

There’s no doubt that Petry is the more established defenseman, but Marino was actually $1.85 million less against the cap and on the upswing of his career.

Here a quick look at key Penguins’s transactions this off season:

  • Re-signed 30 year-old Bryan Rust (6 years at $5.125M AAV)
  • Re-signed 35 year-old Kris Letang (6 years at $6.1M AAV)
  • Re-signed 29 year-old Rickard Rakell (6 years at $5M AAV)
  • Re-signed 35 year-old Evgeni Malkin (4 years at $6.1M AAV)
  • Signed 31 year-old Jan Ruuta (3 years at $2.75M AAV)
  • Trade for 34 year-old Jeff Petry (3 years at $6.25M AAV)

After these moves, the Penguins have only $1.9 million in cap space, and still need to come to terms with RFA Kasperi Kapanen.

Regardless, they will be in a pickle come next summer. They most assuredly will be faced with losing Tristan Jarry, Brian Dumoulin, Jason Zucker, and/or Teddy Blueger to unrestricted free agency. Replacing them will be a difficult challenge with the cap not expected to go up by more than one million.

The Penguins have now become the most “win-now” team in the NHL with these contracts. All of which will become an albatross on the franchise as they age further. Of the players signed or acquired, only Jan Ruuta can be traded without having to navigate either a no-trade or no-move clause. That will further hamper their ability to stay competitive in two to three years.