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Team Reset

Penguins turn to Galchenyuk after Kessel trade, sign Tanev for depth

Significant changes made at forward following early playoff exit

by Wes Crosby / Correspondent

After the NHL Draft, free agency and other offseason moves, is taking a look at where each team stands. Today, the Pittsburgh Penguins:

The Pittsburgh Penguins made one of the biggest moves of the NHL offseason, trading forward Phil Kessel to the Arizona Coyotes for forward Alex Galchenyuk and defenseman prospect Pierre-Olivier Joseph on June 29.

Galchenyuk could have a role similar to the one Kessel played throughout his four seasons in Pittsburgh, likely skating on one of the two top lines with either Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin. It's also possible the Penguins have Galchenyuk replace Kessel on the top power-play unit.

But the trade wasn't only designed to acquire Galchenyuk, whom the Penguins expect to progress offensively; it created enough NHL salary cap space for Pittsburgh to be active when free agency opened July 1. Forward Brandon Tanev signed a six-year contract, restoring some of the depth the Penguins lost since winning the Stanley Cup in 2016 and 2017.


[RELATED: Complete Team Reset coverage]


Even with Kessel elsewhere, Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said he doesn't expect their offense to decline much. In fact, he said they will be more committed to winning a championship than they have been since 2017.

"I'm excited about the group of players that we have," Sullivan said. "We believe we have a group that has the potential to be a very competitive hockey team. Now the challenge is, for all of us that are part of it, to come together and bring that to fruition."

Video: Analyzing what Penguins still need this offseason

Here is what the Penguins look like today:


Key arrivals

Alex Galchenyuk, F: The 25-year-old had 41 points (19 goals, 22 assists) for Arizona last season and averaged 43 points over his first six NHL seasons with the Montreal Canadiens. He can play either center or wing. ... Brandon Tanev, F: Had an NHL career-high 14 goals and 29 points in 80 games with the Winnipeg Jets last season. The 27-year-old has 51 points (24 goals, 27 assists) in 195 NHL games, all with Winnipeg. ... Dominik Kahun, F: The 24-year-old was acquired in a trade with the Chicago Blackhawks for defenseman Olli Maatta on June 15. Kahun had 37 points (13 goals, 24 assists) as a rookie for Chicago last season.

Video: Top five plays of 2018-19: Galchenyuk


Key departures

Phil Kessel, F: The 31-year-old won two championships in four seasons and had 303 points (110 goals, 193 assists) in 328 games for Pittsburgh. ... Matt Cullen, F: The 42-year-old announced his retirement July 10 after playing 21 NHL seasons. He won the Stanley Cup three times, once with the Carolina Hurricanes (2006) and twice with the Penguins (2016 and 2017). He had 731 points (266 goals, 465 assists) in 1,516 games. ... Olli Maatta, D: After tying his NHL career-high of 29 points (seven goals, 22 assists) in 2017-18, the 24-year-old had 14 points (one goal, 13 assists) last season. He has 21 points (two goals, 19 assists) in 69 playoff games.


On the cusp

Teddy Blueger, F: Six years after the Penguins chose him in the second round (No. 52) of the 2012 NHL Draft, the 24-year-old made his NHL debut last season and had 10 points (six goals, four assists) in 28 games. He's likely to move into Cullen's role as the fourth-line center. ... Juuso Riikola, D: The 25-year-old had five points (two goals, three assists) in 37 games as a rookie last season after an impressive training camp. But Riikola found it difficult to crack the lineup and played three games from Feb. 26 until he was reassigned to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League on March 20. He could find more consistent ice time with Maatta elsewhere.

Video: PIT@NYR: Blueger pots backhand for shorthanded goal


What they still need

A potential trade to ensure they start the season under the salary cap. After signing restricted free agent forward Zach Aston-Reese to a two-year contract on July 22, and with RFA defenseman Marcus Pettersson still needing a contract, the Penguins haven't left themselves much room to sign any additional free agents. General manager Jim Rutherford said July 1 that the Penguins would likely trade another player after signing Tanev. Forwards Bryan Rust and Nick Bjugstad, or defenseman Jack Johnson, are candidates.


Fantasy focus

Kessel's departure leaves a spot up for grabs on the top power-play unit. Forward Jake Guentzel, who scored an NHL career-high 40 goals last season, is likely to fill that role, bringing exposure to elite forwards Crosby, Malkin and defenseman Kris Letang. This expanded role solidifies Guentzel's floor as a 70-point forward this season and beyond, making him worth reaching for inside the top 50. -- Rob Reese


Projected lineup

Jared McCann -- Sidney Crosby -- Jake Guentzel

Alex Galchenyuk -- Evgeni Malkin -- Patric Hornqvist

Dominik Kahun -- Nick Bjugstad -- Bryan Rust

Brandon Tanev -- Teddy Blueger -- Dominik Simon

Brian Dumoulin -- Kris Letang

Marcus Pettersson -- Justin Schultz

Jack Johnson -- Erik Gudbranson

Matt Murray

Casey DeSmith


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