5 things on Penguins coach Mike Sullivan’s summer agenda
Signing a four-year contract extension is the one thing Pittsburgh Penguins coach Mike Sullivan will do this summer that will have the longest-lasting impact on his life and career.
He’s got plenty of other offseason irons in the fire as well, though.
Here’s a look at five things Sullivan has either checked off or begun to check off his summer to-do list.
1. Meet with Malkin
Evgeni Malkin is coming off a subpar season by his standards. His name found its way into trade rumors. It would probably behoove Sullivan to get on the same page with his Russian superstar. He believes he has already done that.
“Geno and I had a great conversation. We had lunch together,” Sullivan said. “I know Geno’s excited about coming back to training camp and helping this team win. The specifics of the conversation we’ll keep between Geno and I, but certainly we’re very much on the same page as far as how we’re going to go moving forward and how Geno can help this team win.
“He’s an elite player. He’ll continue to be an elite player in this league. He’s been one of the best players of his generation and he’ll continue to be that for us.”
2. Figure out the power play
With Phil Kessel no longer reliably stationed at the left half-wall, the Penguins will need to reconfigure a power play that has ranked in the top five in the league in each of the past three seasons.
It’s a topic Sullivan has already given considerable thought.
“I think we have a lot of options on our power play,” Sullivan said. “We certainly have capable people. You can look at our team. We had a guy like Jake Guentzel, for example, that was playing on our second power play and he was our leading goal scorer. Jake is a guy that we know can play on that first unit and can be very productive.
“We have the ability to use two defensemen if we like, with Justin Schultz and Tanger, that are two right-handed shots. Alex Galchenyuk is an interesting player that has shown an ability to score goals and can really shoot the puck. We’ve got a lot of options that we think we can try to explore and put combinations together that we think can help that first power-play unit continue to be successful.”
3. Put the pieces together
Sullivan will have to figure out exactly where trade pick-ups Alex Galchenyuk and Dominik Kahun and free-agent addition Brandon Tanev fit into his lineup. He’s excited at the possibilities.
“We’re certainly a faster team,” Sullivan said. “I think we’re harder to play against. I think the energy and enthusiasm that these guys have already shown … is contagious and that alone is going to benefit all of us when we go back to training camp.”
4. Study the league
Sullivan has always prided himself on being a coach who stays on top of strategic trends in the game and applying them to the Penguins when possible. What did the Bruins and Blues do to reach the Stanley Cup Final? Sullivan was watching.
“I believe I’ll try to continue to evolve myself as a coach and I try to challenge my coaching staff as well to evolve as a staff in more ways than one, in looking at the league and the best practices, in looking at how we play and is there anything we need to change in order to try to maximize this group of players that we have,” Sullivan said.
5. Get ready for what’s next
The Penguins have already completed the bulk of their offseason roster transformation, but a trade designed to open salary cap space continues to be an item on the agenda. Sullivan said GM Jim Rutherford always keeps an open line of communication in situations like this.
Rutherford said he still has a little more to do before training camp.
“We just keep working on some things,” Rutherford said. “We’re within the cap if we had to start today, so there’s not any pressure to do anything, but that’s something I’ll keep an eye on going forward.”
Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review assistant sports editor. You can contact Jonathan by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .