3 Moves the Penguins Need to Make to Win the 2024 Stanley Cup


Jun 23, 2023

The Pittsburgh Penguins have grown accustomed to certain NHL luxuries under Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Consistently winning, making the playoffs, and competing for the Stanley Cup were absent from the PPG Paints Arena for many years before Sid the Kid and Gino arrived. 

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However, some of that shine has worn off over the past few seasons. Including 2020’s play-in tournament, Pittsburgh hasn’t made it out of the opening round of the playoffs since 2018. Additionally, the Penguins’ management has made several questionable decisions, impacting their on-ice competitiveness. Ron Hextall’s tenure as General Manager was punctuated by the Pens missing the postseason for the first time since 2006.

But with Hextall gone and Kyle Dubas calling the shots, it’s time to evaluate what moves would help the Penguins compete for the 2023-24 Stanley Cup.

Re-Sign Tristan Jarry

Re-upping primary netminder Tristan Jarry might seem a little obvious. But given Dubas’ track record of discount-shopping goaltenders, it’s not a move Penguins fans should take for granted. 

Jarry has emerged as an above-average netminder for the Pens. The former second-round pick has finished top-seven in Vezina Trophy voting twice and has a career 2.65 goals against average and 91.4% save percentage. Granted, Jarry is coming off a down year, but injuries may have played a role in his limited effectiveness. 

The Penguins’ goalie is due for an increase over his $3.5 million salary from last year. Thankfully, Pittsburgh has some wiggle room entering the offseason, having just over $20 million to spend and eight roster spots to fill. Jarry will be asking for a pay raise, and the Penguins would be wise to oblige. 

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Rejuvenate Their Forwards’ Corps

It’s hard to compete at an elite level throughout your career. Age hasn’t stopped Crosby and Malkin from producing at an elite level, but the same can’t be said for other forwards on the roster. Jeff Carter is due another $3 million this season, putting up a paltry 29 points in 79 contests last year. Likewise, Bryan Rust had a down year, totaling 46 points in 81 outings, and is due over $5 million for the next five seasons.

Injecting new life into an aging roster is critical for the Penguins to extend their window. Six of their eight forwards currently under contract are at least 30. Jake Guentzel and Rickard Rakell are the exceptions and, more poignantly, the reason for optimism moving forward. 

Those two skaters aren’t enough to turn the tide for the Penguins in the competitive Metropolitan Division. Consequently, Dubmust to work his magic to acquire an upstart top-six forward. Inevitably, players become available via trade, but the Pens may need to resort to an offer sheet to compel a restricted free agent to play for them.

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Get More Mobile Defensemen

As old as their forwards are, the Penguins’ blueline is in worse shape. Pittsburgh ranked 16th in scoring and high-danger chances against, putting them in the bottom half of the league in expected goals-against. Additionally, only two rearguards, Jeff Petry and Kris Letang, recorded more than 25 points last season. More concerningly, Petry and Letang are in the twilight of their careers, entering the upcoming campaign at 35 and 36 years old, respectively. Adding a primary offensive contributor is badly needed, but getting a mobile defenseman or two should be the priority.

This year’s free-agent class offers a few possible solutions for the Penguins. Recently released blueliner Oliver Ekman-Larsson would be an invaluable addition to the backend, but John Klingberg, Matt Dumba, and Shayne Gostisbehere should also be all over the Pens’ radar. With limited draft capital, Dubas’ best chance of improving the Pens’ defense comes via free agency. 

Even with sub-optimal defending, Jarry and the Penguins remained in the playoff race throughout the season. Bringing back their starting goalie and insulating him with improved defenders allows the Penguins to make the most of their current roster.

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Thumbnail photo via Kyle Ross-USA TODAY Sports

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