Apr 26, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins right wing Beau Bennett (19) skates with the puck against the Columbus Blue Jackets during the third period in game five of the first round of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs at the CONSOL Energy Center. The Penguins won 3-1. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Beau Bennett is Big Question Mark for Penguins


The Pittsburgh Penguins have a lot of uncertainties with their wingers.

Beau Bennett is at the top of the list.

Of course, Pascal Dupuis’ season-ending injury casts a cloud over his effectiveness next season, and Chris Kunitz’s weak production following the Winter Games this past February was alarming, but Bennett’s future is utterly perplexing.

Injury riddled in his short time with the team, Bennett’s brittleness is something Pittsburgh doesn’t need at all, considering their whopping 529 man-games lost last season. Yet, the fact he’s still young puts the Pens in a slight pickle. Bennett’s potential is definitely promising, there’s no doubt about that; however, for the imminent future, he’s a large question mark.

Replacing Dupuis at right wing on the top-line, Bennett never truly cemented his spot along Sidney Crosby and Kunitz, in part due to his absence from the lineup. And the confusion as to where he lined up became apparent in the playoffs, because he was shifted throughout the top-3 pairings a ton. Therefore, there’s just no idea as to where he excels best.

Yes, the possible departure of Jussi Jokinen to free agency would give Bennett a strong chance of taking his slot, but that would entail him going to left wing, whereas he’s listed as a right. It’s obvious Bennett would thrive with Evgeni Malkin, however, he showcased plenty of inconsistent performances last season. You have to hope it was just a ‘sophomore slump,’ right? Or it had to do with him being out of the lineup, yeah?

Bennett is one of the few bright young talents Pittsburgh has at the forward position, which makes his situation so fickle. Do you deal him before he never pans out? Or do you hold on to him banking that he’ll eventually blossom? Pittsburgh doesn’t have much to work with at forward in the farm system, so whatever they decide to do with Bennett will have a huge impact either way.

One thing is certain: Bennett must add mass.

Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York – they all have sizable squads, and that’s what’s hurt Pittsburgh over recent playoff flame-outs, besides the frustration, poor goaltending, and abysmal defense, of course. The lack of towering, physical players is stagnating the Penguins. And Bennett’s lanky, scrawny build is not only going to marry him to the injured reserve, but it will hinder Pittsburgh’s odds of beating those bigger opponents because its clearly been demoralizing them.

Bennett’s entry-level deal is set to expire following next season, Pittsburgh doesn’t have sufficient funds, and Olli Maatta is ultimately going to get paid when his entry-level concludes. What does the franchise do with Bennett? On one hand, you see the obvious skill and exciting future, but on the other, you understand his injury history and recognize the fogginess as to where he fits in the lineup. And, of course, his impending new deal.

Bennett could possibly fetch some much needed help on the forward front, and especially a few diligent secondary scorers in a package for his services. But you want to make sure you’re receiving the best possible return for Bennett if they do lean towards shipping him.

Point is, Bennett’s status is like you’re sitting down at a fancy restaurant and you’re deliberating either soup or salad for an appetizer. You see the appeal in both, but you still just can’t make an ultimatum.

What to do, what to do with Beau.

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