Pittsburgh Penguins Top Line Options and Free Agency Thoughts


The Pittsburgh Penguins have obvious holes to address in their roster this summer. They need one, maybe even two top-six scoring wingers to play with either Evgeni Malkin or Sidney Crosby while they are still in their prime.

This team struggled yet again with scoring in the playoffs, having only scored one goal in four of five games against the New York Rangers.  A trend that seems all too common in post-season play, and even struck throughout the regular season beginning in mid-December.

Though, to their defense, they were facing Henrik Lunqvist in round one, arguably one of the top goaltenders in the world. Either way, there are adjustments needed for next season to right the ship.

Here is a look at a few first line combo and free agency options.

First Line Option: Kunitz-Crosby-Dupuis

Dec 19, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins right wing

Pascal Dupuis

(left) and center Sidney Crosby (middle) celebrate a goal by left wing

Chris Kunitz

(14) against the Minnesota Wild during the second period at the CONSOL Energy Center. The Penguins won 5-2. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

If management does not trade Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis is able to return, we could see this line again. This trio has always been fun to watch. The chemistry between them was something every team desires to have on their first line and their stats show that they were working well together. But, injuries struck Crosby, and then caused Pascal Dupuis to miss most of the 2014-15 season, so we haven’t seen this line together for quite some time.

Also, the chances that Pascal Dupuis comes back and plays the way he was before his injuries are very slim. The 36 year old has not played a game since November of 2014. While many said he would likely never play hockey again, Dupuis had other things to say, “I don’t care if it takes six months or six years. I will play in the National Hockey League again”.

First Line Option: Perron-Crosby-Horqvist

One of the newest Penguins this year made an instant impact. David Perron looked to be very impressive in his first few games in the black and gold. Mr. Perron registered 12 points (8G, 4A) in his first 14 games as a Penguin. His numbers then began to slump, only registering 11 points from February 7th until the end of the playoff series against the Rangers. In case you were wondering, that is over 30 games. He was bounced up and down the lineup for the rest of the season and was unable to find line mates he fit well with. Pairing him back with Crosby and Patric Hornqvist could be exactly what he needs in order to get rolling again and prove that he’s worth the first-round pick forfeited by Jim Rutherford for his services.

Of course, there’s always the possibility of a complete re-tooling of Crosby’s line.  We aren’t sure how ready Kasperi Kapanen will be, but he may be in the mix.

Free Agent Options

Matt Beleskey – An article by our very own Mike Necciai pin-pointed Matt Beleskey as a potential option for the Penguins next season. “Beleskey is one of the youngest unrestricted free agents available this year, and he’s coming off a very strong season with 32 points (22g, 10a) in 65 games played.  He is definitely going to require a raise from his current $1.35 million cap hit, but he has produced while playing second line minutes all season alongside Ryan Kesler and Kyle Palmieri and could fill the Pens’ top six void nicely.”

Justin Williams – What would “Mr. Game 7” look like in the black and gold? I could see him playing alongside Crosby or Malkin fairly well. Throughout his career, he has been viewed as a clutch player who gets a big goal when the team needs it most. In the playoffs, he is outstanding, which is something the Pittsburgh Penguins have missed since winning the cup in ’09. Justin Williams was the Conn Smythe winner of the 2014 season when his team won the Stanley Cup.

With these two options you address getting younger and faster, and the ability to score big goals.  Obviously, it isn’t likely that the Pittsburgh Penguins could sign both of them so it’s all about need.  Who would you rather see in Pittsburgh next season?

Next: An Overview and Assessment of Nick Spaling's First Season with the Pens

More from Pens Labyrinth