The Penguins roared through the eastern conference, saw Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin emerge as the NHL’s best 1-2 punch and went to the Stanley Cup finals for the first time in 16 years. So what will they do for an encore?
The Moose says they will fall, and maybe sooner than most people think.
While Detroit looks poised to be an elite team for years to come, with loads of cap room and top players in their prime, Pittsburgh has all the makings of a one-trick Penguin, following in the footsteps of so many teams that emerged from obscurity, went to the finals and then took the express train back to nowhere-ville.
Before you think the Moose has munching on too much fermented fruit, consider the challenges facing the franchise:
Pittsburgh is facing an unprecedented wave of unrestricted free agency. In all, 10 full-time Penguins are UFA’s this summer, including Ryan Malone, Marian Hossa, Jarkko Ruutu and Brooks Orpik. Given their financial squeeze, and the one to come, the Penguins may have to let most if not all of their key UFA’s walk. Which brings us to…
The Malkin Problem
Despite his poor performance in the finals, Evgeni Malkin had a breakthrough season. The trouble is, he’s a restricted free agent at the end of next season, and could be looking for a salary in the Crosby range, which is $8.7 million a year.
Given what Crosby’s getting — and the fact that NHL teams need more than three players — it’s hard to imagine how the Pens pay Crosby and Malkin that kind of money without turning themselves into the next edition of the Tampa Bay Lightning, with all their money tied up in a few stars — and no supporting cast.
There are already murmurs that the Penguins may start shopping Malkin now, when his value is at its peak — and before he flops in a series again.
The Moose doesn’t have a vendetta against Michel Therrien (although some fans in Pittsburgh would disagree), but it’s painfully obvious that he’s the wrong man to coach this franchise. It’s like having a truck driver behind the wheel of a high performance race car. There are too many good coaches available this summer for the Penguins not to at least consider a change.
The Moose has spoken.
NEWS FROM THE TRAIL
Torts Reform. With the axe now having fallen on John Tortorella in Tampa, the race for his services now begins. Look for San Jose and Toronto to make strong pitches for the Stanley Cup winner, especially the Sharks, who are in desperate need of some tough love.
Floored. The NHL’s smaller revenue teams are bracing themselves for the release of the NHL’s final revenue numbers for the year, which will likely take the salary cap north of $57 million. Of greater concern is that the minimum will be more than $40 million, which means that the floor next season will be higher than the cap was coming out of the lockout. For teams struggling to make ends meet now, that will be tough to swallow.
PHT: Sidney Crosby scored three times, surpassing 100 career playoff points, and the Penguins staved off the Senators for a win in Game 2.
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Highlights: Crosby's hat-trick leads Pens in Game 2
The Senators kept it close, but the Penguins relentless attack was just too much to handle. Sidney Crosby had a hat-trick and fueled Pittsburgh to a 4-3 win. The Pens are now up 2-0 on the Sens in their Eastern Conference semifinal series.
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