On Monday, Sept. 12, former Pittsburgh Penguins forward Evan Rodrigues signed a one-year, $2 million contract with the Colorado Avalanche. This loss will leave a hole in the Penguins’ depth, and the team knows all too well the importance of a strong bottom six. Have they done enough in the offseason to replace him?
Penguins Depth Players
Rodrigues played in all 82 regular season games last year and had a total of 43 points including 19 goals. During the Penguins’ seven-game playoff series against the New York Rangers, he scored three goals and had a total of five points. He is a very effective, versatile player and his numbers last season speak for themselves. While he was on the ice the Penguins had 57 percent of the shot attempts, 57 percent of the scoring chances and 56 percent of the high danger chances.
Now with Rodrigues gone, the Penguins must figure out who is going to fill his shoes. One player who they will more than likely depend on to pick up where he left off is Jeff Carter. Carter played in 76 regular season games last year and had a total of 45 points, including 19 goals. He ended the year with decent numbers, however, his game seemed to begin to stall in the middle of the season. If he wasn’t scoring goals, there was not much else he was contributing. It got to a point towards the end of the regular season where the pace of the game seemed to be too much for him, and his whole line was a drag on the offense. At age 37, there are some doubts about just how productive he will be moving forward.
Danton Heinen is another forward who the Penguins will lean on to be a solid depth player without the services of Rodrigues. He played in 76 regular season games last year and had a total of 33 points, including 18 goals. He started last season strong, however, his biggest struggle was staying consistent. He definitely showed potential and there is no reason he couldn’t be a 40-point player next season if given the right linemates.
The other four players who round out the Penguins’ bottom six are Kasperi Kapanen, Teddy Blueger, Brock McGinn, and possibly Drew O’Connor. Kapanen had his fair share of struggles last season, and it remains to be seen whether or not Pittsburgh made the right move in re-signing him.
Blueger is great on the penalty kill and has really become a reliable forward. He suffered an injury to his jaw last year which threw a monkey wrench in his season, however, he showed he is capable of more offensive output which is exactly what the Penguins will need from him without Rodrigues.
In his first season with the Penguins, McGinn played in 64 games and had a total of 22 points which included 12 goals. He started the season out strong, however, hit a slump around mid-January. He showed promise on the penalty kill and proved to be a hard-working player, so the Penguins will be looking for him to contribute a bit more this season.
The final spot in the bottom six is still up for grabs, however, Drew O’Connor seems to be the favored pick. He played in 22 games last year and scored three goals and two assists. He is a physical player and could be the perfect fit to round out the Penguins’ bottom six.
Will Rodrigues Be Missed?
Only time will tell if the Penguins got their depth moves right during the offseason. Did they make the right decision in signing McGinn and Kapanen for a combined $6 million and letting Rodrigues walk away in free agency? With the regular season kicking off in October, the Penguins’ new and possibly improved bottom six will soon be on full display.
My name is Sylvie McCarthy and I am a graduate of the University of North Florida. I have spent time as a sports writer for the Casper Star Tribune in Casper, Wyoming and the Picayune Item in Picayune, Mississippi. Sports is my passion, and I am so excited to be writing for The Hockey Writers where I will be covering the Pittsburgh Penguins.