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

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Jan 27, 2015; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins right wing Beau Bennett (19) skates with the puck against the Winnipeg Jets during the first period at the CONSOL Energy Center. The Penguins won 5-3. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

1. Beau Bennett

Beau Bennett has been a rollercoaster of emotions for the Penguins.

The young winger has at times seemed to be the future of the organization, while at others has seemed simply too fragile to be relied upon at the NHL level.

Bennett has come upon some horrid luck during his tenure in Pittsburgh thus far, dealing with lengthy injuries quite often, and thus never playing more than 50 games in any of his first three NHL seasons.

His production has never been astounding either (his career high is 14 points) though this is to be expected, considering his extensive injury history.

Beyond the numbers, however, is a player that clearly has potential.

Drafted 20th overall in 2010, some have already labeled Bennett a draft bust. But at only 23 years old, the opportunity to put it all together and break out is certainly still there. He has the skill to do it it, and while his durability and effort level have at times been questioned, his skill level has always been respected.

Given a clean bill of health and a stable spot in the team’s lineup, Bennett could truly thrive and become a solid top-six NHL forward, and thus, they’ll almost certainly look to bring him back – which, as in the case of Cole, shouldn’t be too much of an issue as Bennett is an RFA.

Rutherford could go in another direction, however. He may simply choose to move on from Beau.

The team has definitely learned to live without him, as they’ve often had to, and with Pens so hard-pressed against the salary cap this season that they spent a matter of games playing with only five defenseman, Rutherford may not be willing to dish out nearly $1 million (Bennett made $900,000 last season, so his qualifying offer must be at least 105% of that – i.e. $945,00) for a player that may rarely actually be in the lineup.

Giving up on a player with Bennett’s raw skill would be a foolish decision, especially with other members of the top-six climbing in age (Chris Kunitz), but the team’s salary cap situation may force their hand.

It remains to be seen whether the Pens choose to move on from Bennett or gamble on him once again, but they’ll have to decide sooner rather than later as they begin to re-tool an offense that has now nosedived come playoff time for the past three seasons.

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