The Pittsburgh Penguins haven’t had that much time to look at what to do next in the past two years. Most of their summer was spent on celebrating the two consecutive Stanley Cups, but now, general manager Jim Rutherford is already looking at solutions to make significant changes in the offseason.
In his post-elimination press conference, Rutherford was open about what might be coming to Pittsburgh, without revealing too much. However, he made one thing quite clear: young promising winger Daniel Sprong will be an active part of the Pens’ lineup next season.
"It's fair to say that this will be a different looking team by the time we open next season. It doesn't mean there will be drastic changes, but there will be changes in the areas that will become necessary."
“Daniel Sprong will be a regular on our team next year.”
However, in order for Sprong to become a regular member of the Penguins' roster next season, some other players will have to be let go in order to make some room for the talented 21-year-old forward. Sprong played parts of four seasons with the Charlottetown Islanders in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League after being drafted 13th overall in the 2013 draft. The Penguins then selected him in the second round, 46th overall, in the 2015 NHL draft.
Jason Mackay of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette speculates Carl Hagelin or Conor Sheary are the most likely trade candidates to be moved out to make room for the youngster. Hagelin has a year left on his current deal at a cap hit of $4 million, while Sheary is signed through 2019-20 at an annual average value of $3 million.
There were also some rumors of veteran Phil Kessel being on the block, despite a tremendous season, but Mackey considers moving him a less likely option. The Penguins are expected to keep Kessel in the fold, especially if they are gearing up for another long run at a Stanley Cup.
The Penguins also have to consider that by adding in Sprong to the right side, they face a situation where they have too many top-nine wingers and will need to upgrade the blue line...