Pittsburgh Penguins: Top 5 Personnel Decisions Facing the Pens This Summer

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Feb 6, 2015; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Pittsburgh Penguins right wing Craig Adams (27) skates against the Calgary Flames during the first period at Scotiabank Saddledome. Pittsburgh Penguins won 4-0. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

5. The depth forwards

Pittsburgh’s depth at the forward position has long been an issue. With so much salary and offensive focus committed to Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, the club has often found it difficult to suit up an adequate bottom-six.

This season saw a notable improvement in this depth, though it still wasn’t enough to help the Pens to a better postseason result.

Thus, GM Jim Rutherford will have to assess what worked and needs re-tooling, as five of these depth forwards are now unrestricted free agents.

Each presents very different issues.

In Daniel Winnik and Maxim Lapierre, the Pens have two forwards who joined the team late but made quite an impact upon their arrival. Winnik was fairly solid throughout his tenure in Pittsburgh, most notably on the penalty kill. Lapierre was similarly reliable, especially in the faceoff circle, and he showed his mettle during the grind of the playoffs as well.

Both would be worth bringing back to Pittsburgh, but as each already makes over $1 million per season, a return would seemingly only occur if the forwards agreed to remain at similar salary levels.

Steve Downie presents an entirely different problem. The forward showed flashes of excellent play this season, chipping in with 14 goals and 28 points and plenty of feisty, physical play, but also led the league in penalty minutes with 238 (the highest total of his career). Considering the Pens had trouble limiting their penalty minutes come playoff time, there’s a good chance Downie isn’t brought back to the black and gold next season.

Another forward who has most likely seen his time in Pittsburgh come to an end is veteran forward Craig Adams. The oft-maligned winger is also an unrestricted free agent and, at the ripe old age of 38, is a long shot to return. That being said, Adams is a reliable penalty-killer and was only making $700,000 per season, so Rutherford could roll the dice on one more season with the winger.