Jun 3, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Boston Bruins left wing Milan Lucic (17) and Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Deryk Engelland (5) collide during the second period in game two of the Eastern Conference finals of the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs at the CONSOL Energy Center. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

How Will The Pens Starting Defense Shake Out?

 

With the Pittsburgh Penguins entering the upcoming 2013-14 campaign having more than six quality defenseman, how will their starting lineup shake out?

The organization is still over the cap by $1,098,333, so there’s a chance they could move one of them before the summer concludes.

But should they look elsewhere on meeting the payroll limit, they’ll choose between eight blueliners to fill their starting slots.

Robert Bortuzzo, Simon Despres, Deryk Engelland, Kris Letang, Paul Martin, Matt Niskanen, Brooks Orpik and Rob Scuderi are the group of players they’ll decide from.

We know that Letang, Martin, Orpik and Scuderi will all be penciled in, but the real question surrounds the last pair of defenseman.

Niskanen is a mystery.

His contract is over $2 million, and there’s been speculation that he’d be traded to meet the salary cap, but yet he’s still currently on the active roster.

If he isn’t moved, Niskanen without a doubt is going to get one of those last slots.

So now it comes down to Bortuzzo, Despres, and Engelland for the final defensive spot.

Despres seems to be the likely candidate to skate alongside Letang, considering he saw most of his playing time last season paired up with the Norris finalist.

Both of them are French-Canadian, and because Despres is a former first-round draft pick, chances are the organization will want to give him more action this upcoming year to further his NHL experience.

Still, Despres was also thought to see a good amount of ice-time last season, yet the team scratched him on multiple occasions — due to his constant turnovers and mental errors.

Bortuzzo could get the call, but he was also left out of the lineup more often than not last season.

The tall 24-year-old blueliner just signed a two-year extension this summer, so the Pens obviously have plans for him, and it could be a starting gig with them.

Engelland has been a bruiser for the squad his entire stay in Pittsburgh.

Unfortunately for him, his playing time almost will certainly be reduced because of how well he matches up with the other Pens defensemen.

If Niskanen is moved — which it seems to be just rumors at this point — then we’ll have a bigger question mark as to who the Pens will use in that final pairing.

But until then, here’s my call as to how the defensive lineup with be:

  1. Kris Letang — Simon Despres
  2. Paul Martin — Brooks Orpik
  3. Rob Scuderi — Matt Niskanen

 

And here’s my pairings should Niskanen eventually be moved:

  1. Kris Letang — Simon Despres
  2. Paul Martin — Brooks Orpik
  3. Rob Scuderi — Robert Bortuzzo/Deryk Engelland

 

All of these combinations are hypothetical as of right now; however, you can count on the top-two defensive lines panning out when the season commences.

Stay tuned for more on how the Pens defense will break down.

 

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