Dec 16, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Brian Dumoulin (8) handles the puck against the Toronto Maple Leafs during the second period at the CONSOL Energy Center. The Penguins won 3-1. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Pens Ready to Unleash Young Defensemen

All we ever hear about when it comes to the Pittsburgh Penguins’ prospect pool is how deep they are at defense.

Well, get ready, because Pittsburgh is set to utilize those young blueliners this next season.

According to Josh Yohe of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, the Penguins are going to promote a handful of their defensive prospects so that they can use the remaining limited cap space they have to acquire more forward depth.

Here’s what associate general manager Jason Botterill told Yohe:

“We’re extremely excited about these young defensemen. Brian Dumoulin. Scott Harrington. Simon Despres. It’s time for them to get an opportunity.”

As it stands, Pittsburgh has five defensemen currently on the roster, leaving just one open slot. So, because Botterill claimed they’re inclined to give their young defensemen NHL spots, does that mean the organization is going to create more available slots via trades? Who knows. But if James Neal was dealt, anything can happen.

Perhaps, the team is actively seeking to move Paul Martin, whose said to be not interested in signing an extension at this time – per Rob Rossi of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review – and has one-year remaining on his contract. Or maybe Rob Scuderi, who was anything but his Cup self last season, and is pocketing $3.375 million a season – per Cap Geek.

Nonetheless, expect there to be a youth movement on the Pens’ backend for the 2014-15 campaign.

Notable candidates were the ones Botterill mentioned, but Derrick Pouliot and Philip Samuelsson are the others he didn’t name. Pouliot, although he has a strong chance to make the roster given his ties with new coach Mike Johnston and resumé over recent seasons, he underwent shoulder surgery and has a timetable of 4-6 months for recovery. So, there’s no telling if Pouliot will be ready by the start of the season.

However, if Martin and Scuderi aren’t moved, another spot could be open regardless due to the fact Olli Maatta had the same surgery Pouliot did, and has the same timetable for rehabilitation. Either way, fans will finally get to see how the rest of Pittsburgh’s young defensemen perform, and it should be intriguing, given Maatta’s effectiveness last season.

In the long run, this is a smart decision by the Penguins. The sooner the team gets them acclimated to the NHL, the better. And some already have. Dumoulin, Despres, and Samuelsson all played for Pittsburgh last season. So, it’s not like they’re coming in unfamiliar with the system.

Only thing that worries me is if Kris Letang and Martin go down – which they’re no stranger to getting injured – the leadership will be dropped into Scuderi’s lap, and that’s quite alarming.

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