The Pittsburgh Penguins had qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs in 16 straight seasons before missing out in 2023.
Upper management has changed significantly this offseason as a result, headlined by Kyle Dubas being hired from the Toronto Maple Leafs. With core players like Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Kris Letang apparently set to return, the goal in Pittsburgh remains the same: win the Stanley Cup.
However, after missing the postseason and with new decision-makers in place, the Penguins have a lot of questions in front of them. This summer will surely be an interesting one in the Steel City, and the first set of decisions will be regarding the team’s own pending free agents.
Which pending free agent do the Penguins most need to re-sign?
According to CapFriendly, the Pens have just over $20 million in cap space with eight forwards, six defensemen, and one goaltender under contract. Among the team’s most notable free agents are forward Jason Zucker, defenseman Brian Dumoulin, and goaltender Tristan Jarry.
The player that seems to be discussed the most is Jarry and for good reason. Goaltending is one of the most important pieces when it comes to assembling a championship team, so the way in which Pittsburgh chooses to address that position this offseason will be critical.
Jarry has been great at times, but at other times, he’s been injured and not available to the Penguins. With some of the rumors going around about other starting netminders that could be made available for trade, Jarry’s status has been discussed at length.
With that said, I’d be happy to explore other options if I was Kyle Dubas. The player that I would instead focus on re-signing is Jason Zucker.
In 78 games last season, Zucker compiled 27 goals and 21 assists for 48 points, the second-highest total of his career. He often came up big for the Penguins in key moments, he was a tremendous motivator, and he was part of a top-six that led the team offensively.
It hasn’t always been smooth sailing for Zucker in Pittsburgh, but his contributions last year were undeniable. If the Pens can bring him back, their top-six will be in place and any transaction that changes it will be a luxury and not a necessity, giving them the ability to focus on depth players.
There have already been many changes in the ‘Burgh this offseason, but one thing that shouldn’t change is the logo on Jason Zucker’s jersey next season.