Countdown to camp: Alex Galchenyuk, new faces give Penguins depth chart a boost
As the Pittsburgh Penguins prepare to open training camp on the heels of back-to-back unsuccessful playoff campaigns, the team is looking to recapture the magic it found while winning consecutive Stanley Cup championships in 2016-17.
Defining that magic is the tricky part.
Was it an emphasis on speed on the forecheck that led the team to championship glory?
Was it an emphasis on skating on the blue line that snapped a six-year title drought?
Was it the way players embraced Mike Sullivan’s directive to “just play” when faced with adversity?
It’s probably a combination of those things, but as he shaped his roster over the summer, another memory from those salad days popped into the head of general manager Jim Rutherford.
“Get back to where we were in ‘16-17, where the coach can roll those lines and maybe play the lines more even minutes,” Rutherford said as the free-agent signing period opened July 1.
If forward depth is one of the most important missing pieces of the puzzle, the Penguins should be in better position to contend for a championship this season.
Rutherford’s offseason moves netted the team scoring winger Alex Galchenyuk, bruising energy line standout Brandon Tanev and promising, versatile forward Dominik Kahun.
Before that, a February trade brought in Jared McCann and Nick Bjugstad, and Teddy Blueger finally finished his AHL apprenticeship.
Barring a training-camp trade, Sullivan will have more capable forwards than he’ll have jerseys on opening night.
With three days left until training camp opens, here’s a closer look at the three new forwards on the Penguins roster.
Given the circumstances — Phil Kessel had a restrictive no-trade clause and wasn’t afraid to use it — the Penguins probably couldn’t have expected to net much more in return than they got in Galchenyuk. He’s a 6-foot-1, 207-pound 25-year-old who can skate and shoot.
If the Penguins ask Galchenyuk to find chemistry with Evgeni Malkin and show a little less carelessness with the puck and defensive indifference than Kessel did, they should be pleased. If they ask Galchenyuk to be a superstar, they could be disappointed. His career per-season averages are 18 goals and 42 points.
Considering the six-year, $21 million contract Rutherford gave Tanev on July 1, putting the Penguins in difficult salary cap straits, the general manager must really think the 27-year-old winger can change the club’s fortunes moving forward.
Why does Rutherford think that? Tanev is a rare breed of player who can skate, hit, defend and kill penalties while still carrying a modicum of offensive ability.
The June 15 move that saw the Penguins send defenseman Olli Maatta to Chicago for Kahun was, at its core, a salary cap dump. Maatta had slipped to seventh on the team’s defensive depth chart in the playoffs, and $4 million was too much to pay a player in that position.
Kahun, though, looks like a lot more than a throw-in. The 24-year-old scored 13 goals as a rookie last year with impressive hand-eye coordination and an ability to mesh with high-end linemates such as Jonathan Toews and Alex DeBrincat.
Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review assistant sports editor. You can contact Jonathan by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .