Pittsburgh Penguins Offseason Thoughts: Free Agency, Mike Reilly, Buyouts, and More


It’s all said and done, and congrats to the Chicago Blackhawks for winning yet another Stanley Cup. The Pittsburgh Penguins were projected to be a dynasty after two consecutive Stanley Cup Final appearances in 2008 and 2009, but due to bad team management and injuries that clearly didn’t happen.

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The conclusion of the playoffs finally brings us to the official start of the NHL offseason. The Pittsburgh Penguins and GM Jim Rutherford will have a lot of decisions to make with little room for mistakes. While Rutherford has been candid so far and impressive in his plan for this summer, he took a step back in a recent interview with Seth Rorabaugh in my opinion. Rutherford was asked the following…

“The window for teams to use buyouts starts two days after the last game of the Stanley Cup Final, is that anything you are considering?”

Rutherford answered by saying “No, we don’t have any plans to buy guys out.”.  

Does that open the door to a possible return of Rob Scuderi if a trade partner isn’t found? I sure hope that’s simply a smoke screen, as their offseason plan will go up in flames if number 4 is seeing minutes over younger, more talented legs next season. I wrote that Rutherford could use Ray Shero’s obsession with drafting defensemen to his advantage, but keeping Scuderi around is doing exactly opposite of that.

Rutherford was also asked about highly sought after college free agent Mike Reilly, and he stated that there was good communication over the weekend. Rumors have been running rampant on Reilly’s final list of teams and some have said that the Pittsburgh Penguins are one of his top choices. I personally believe he’ll end up in Chicago, because why wouldn’t he pick a Stanley Cup winner that will be unloading veteran’s to clear cap space and giving way to youth? The Pens may be doing the same thing, but aren’t nearly as appealing at this time. I agree with Alan Saunders…

There are a lot of fans and media members that believe the Pittsburgh Penguins need to add a top-four defenseman this summer, as Ian Cole is no sure thing in that role. I don’t necessarily agree considering that there will be plenty of time to address that via trade next season if things aren’t working out. The problem with chasing defensemen in free agency is that names like Cody Franson will likely be out of Pittsburgh’s price range.

If you aren’t getting true top-four talent, why count out Ian Cole before he can prove himself? Other possibilities include Andrej Sekera and Johnny Oduya, but how much of an upgrade over Cole are those guys? Oduya played well for the Blackhawks, but he was paired with Niklas Hjalmarsson. When separated from Hjalmarsson there was a big drop off in his underlying possession numbers. Let’s see where this young crew can take us and address issues as needed.

The Pittsburgh Penguins began building their defensive depth by signing Swedish defenseman Niclas Andersen. Rutherford reinforced my initial report on the big-bodied swede and stated that he’s a defensive-minded player that was added for depth. He also said that Andersen will likely start out in Wilkes-Barre and earn his chance to play at the NHL level. Keep in mind, Andersen did break out a bit last season in the SHL offensively with 22 points in 54 games, his highest career total. He could be a very good addition to this blue line.

It’s time to buckle up and prepare for what could be a crazy offseason. The buyout period starts in a little more than 24 hours and player movement should begin ramping up. Keep it here and follow me on Twitter at @Michael29Angelo to keep the conversation going!

Next: Blackhawks Prove the Importance of Depth - A Model the Pens Need to Follow

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