With the Penguins out of the playoffs and straight into bankruptcy court, Pittsburgh fans are left wondering if there will be another season of NHL hockey in Pittsburgh. Will they be moved to another city, disbanded by the league, or will they come through this for the second time in team history. With a court date not scheduled until June 24th, the Penguins future may not be known until the draft is right upon us. But, if they do survive to play another season, look for some salary cutting to occur.
The draft will be the first offseason test for the Penguins, as they will not be doing much in the way of trades and signing until the bankruptcy situation is settled. As with any team, the Penguins will probably pick the best player available with their first few picks. The speculation always seems to be that they will go to Europe, most likely the Czech Republic, with their first pick. But, I wouldn’t count on that happening. At the 18th spot, there will likely be better talent than another Czech player. Three players who should be given a serious look by the Penguins are Barrett Heisten, Jeff Jillson, and Alexander Buturlin, all three should be available at the 18th pick and are solid picks. Jillson and Heisten are both aggressive and could privide some much needed toughness, Buturlin is creative and highly skilled. The Penguins could definitely use some depth atleft wing as well as some size on the blueline.
If one of the top twogoaltenders is available, the Penguins should jump on that opportunity. With Craig Hillier, who was once thought to be the future number one goaltender for the Penguins, coming off a terribly disappointing season, drafting a top-ranked goalie could put some pressure on him as well as give them added depth between the pipes. In the middle and late rounds, the Penguins might look for some size up front, in the power forward mold. They don’t have anyone at the moment who capably fits that role. However, with no pick in the second round, there is little chance at filling their needs early on. They’ll likely have to go to the college ranks or to Europe to find a diamond in the rough. Another thing that might need to be addressed is that Kevin Hatcher only has one year left in his contract and he will be too expensive for the Penguins in all likelyhood. The Penguins don’t have anyone in their system who looks to have the offensive skills to take over as powerplay quarterback. Look for them to possibly draft an offensive defensemen, possibly in the middle rounds.