That is the total number of draft picks the Pittsburgh Penguins hold in this June’s draft, in the 1st 3 rounds combined. One. They would currently own the 46th pick if the season ended today. In a draft as deep as this one, to only have 1 pick in the 1st 91, says a lot about how the organization has tried to operate.
With star players such as Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, the mindset in Pittsburgh is simple. You must win now. They are not going to be around forever. If it means trading a high draft pick to someone in the hopes you get a player that helps you win now, you take that chance. But as with anything, there comes a point where enough is enough.
Let’s look back at earlier this season, the Penguins acquired David Perron from the Edmonton Oilers for Rob Klinkhammer AND a 2015 1st round pick. That pick could be as high as 16th overall if the Penguins get eliminated by the Rangers. Was that worth it? Was trading your 1st rounder in a year where it’s a deep draft a sound move?
At first, the move looked good. Perron seemed to fit nicely on Crosby’s wing. The Penguins were on cruise control for most of the season. Then their world almost came crashing down on them. It took a win on the final night against the Buffalo Sabres just to make the playoffs. Perron hasn’t played his best hockey during this stretch.
Regardless of how the Penguins season finishes, there is a much bigger problem that they are facing, that could affect them for many years to come if they don’t address it appropriately. Other teams, especially those in their division, namely Columbus and Philadelphia, are stockpiling talent. Columbus has 6 draft picks in the 1st 69 picks overall, including the 8th overall pick. Philadelphia has 5 picks, including 2 1st rounders. Their biggest rivals are replenishing their stock. The Penguins have made a habit of giving theirs away.
Recent Penguins Trades
Think back to some of their recent trades. Jarome Iginla was acquired for 2 players and a 2013 1st round pick. A lot of good talent was available in that draft as it turns out. The Penguins don’t have anything to show for it now, with Iginla leaving for Boston that offseason.
Remember the Douglas Murray trade? The Penguins had to give up 2 2nd round picks, one in 2013, and another in 2014 since they made the conference finals that season. Again, another opportunity to stock pile the minors slipped away. Thanks to multiple trades, the 2013 2nd rounder eventually went to Detroit. They drafted Tyler Bertuzzi with the pick. Some return the Penguins got on this one too (none).
This is the developing problem with the Penguins. They have tried using trades and free agency to fill in the gaps around their stars Crosby and Malkin. If that meant winning more Cups, then good on them, it was worth it. The reality of the situation is that they haven’t won Cups. They have 1 win to show for it. They’ve spent assets that they could desperately use now.
What Does Their Future Hold?
Crosby and Malkin are not getting any younger. Teams around the Penguins are building up and will soon surpass them. If the Penguins are smart, they should stop disregarding their future and start protecting what assets they do have. They need to start rebuilding the team, before it’s too late.
Need proof? Just look at the way the Penguins played out the end of this season. Thanks to injuries, and the salary cap, they had to play with 5 defensemen for many of the games. That is unacceptable. It’s another season of Crosby and Malkin down the drain.
Granted, they could come back and beat the Rangers. But given the way the series has gone, that outcome is not likely. Once eliminated, unless they trade, they have 1 pick upcoming in the draft. If I was a Penguins fan, I’d be worried. If this keeps up, in 5-10 years, the Penguins could be at the bottom of the standings, just like they were before Crosby arrived.
We’ll see where this ultimately goes. But if the Penguins hope to turn their misfortunes around, they better consider a rebuild right now. Not doing so could have bad consequences. And as Mike Colligan recently wrote, we may have to ask ourselves, what is the future of the Pittsburgh Penguins?
I am a fully credentialed writer who covers the Columbus Blue Jackets, Cleveland Monsters and Erie Otters as well as the Ontario Hockey League and NHL Draft. The 2022-23 season will mark nine seasons with the Hockey Writers. I am also the site’s Credentials Manager. Please take note of the updated Twitter handle: @mark_scheig.