In order for Pittsburgh to get back to the Stanley Cup Finals, they need their captain, Sidney Crosby, firing on all cylinders.
Recording a mere nine points (2G, 7A) in 13 playoff tilts, Crosby received harsh criticism for his lack of goal scoring, but really struggled in generating any quality scoring chances, specifically via five-on-five play.
Everyone was quick to single Crosby out, but what about Chris Kunitz? Ever since Kunitz left Sochi, Russia, following the Winter Games, he just didn’t look as effective as he was before. It became extremely apparent in the playoffs.
Recording just one goal in the entire quarterfinals series with the New York Rangers, Kunitz registered just eight points (3G, 5A) in their 13 total postseason contests. Because Kunitz will be 35-years-old in September, the slip in production from February to the playoffs may carry over into next season, suggesting it would be a good idea to deliberate taking him off the top-line.
Pittsburgh doesn’t have that much cap space – $15,980,833, per Cap Geek – but due to a number of players set to become unrestricted free agents, the Pens have some room to maneuver. You’d like to see Pittsburgh add players who would boost the secondary scoring, but how about improving the first-line?
This is perhaps wishful thinking, but two names come to mind that could help Crosby tremendously: Mike Cammalleri and Marian Gaborik.
Both Cammalleri and Gaborik are set to become unrestricted free agents, and each would slot at the wing on Crosby’s line. Cammalleri would be the left winger, and Gaborik the right. Of course, depending on how much money they’d demand would be the determining factor on if Pittsburgh would pitch. However, the experience and skill they both bring could be that much more colossal when paired with Crosby.
Cammalleri has a proven track record in the playoffs, and Pittsburgh knows he does.
Back in 2010, Pittsburgh battled the Montreal Canadiens, to whom Cammalleri was rostered with. In the seven games the two franchise’s tussled in, Cammalleri compiled eight points (7G, 1A) and scored the game-winning goal in Montreal’s Game 7 romp over the Pens. For the entire ’10 playoffs, Cammalleri averaged a point-per-game, and stockpiled 19 points (13G, 6A), which is prolific stuff. And in Montreal’s seven-game series with Boston the year after – their one and only series – Cammalleri registered 10 points (3G, 7A).
So, the man certainly knows how to perform come playoff time, and adding him would do wonders for the Pens’ proficiency in life after the regular-season.
Same goes for Gaborik.
Although there’s a strong feeling Gaborik will be offered a lucrative contract from Los Angeles following the postseason – due to his phenomenal play during the current playoffs – the Kings have less money to spend than Pittsburgh. Nearly $3 million less than the Pens. And with their captain Anze Kopitar’s contract expiring in a couple seasons, he’s going to want a significant payday, to which L.A. will oblige.
While I’m not suggesting Pittsburgh overspend to acquire Gaborik’s services, making a persistent effort to bring him on board for next season isn’t a bad idea. I could honestly see Gaborik being the type of player Marian Hossa was.
Signing both Cammalleri and Gaborik will also be a huge statement made by Ray Shero’s successor, in that it’s time to make major adjustments.
And if you’re wondering where Kunitz factors into all this hoopla, I could envision him being reunited with Evgeni Malkin. People forget that when Malkin won the MVP, Kunitz was paired up with him. Either that, or Kunitz would be a great winger for Brandon Sutter.
Ultimately, it’ll come down to price. Each of them are coming off hefty deals, yet both have been injury riddled. So it may be a case of them asking for a lot, but settling for less.
If they’ll take less, Pens should swoop in.
Tags: Pittsburgh Penguins