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Penguins Address, but Not Improve Bottom Six

The Pittsburgh Penguins made changes to their forward core, but not the right changes
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Aside from re-signing core guys like Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang, the Pittsburgh Penguins main focus for the offseason was to improve the bottom half of the forward core.

Now that both Malkin and Letang have been given new contracts and free agency has opened, the Penguins are yet to make major waves in the bottom six.

That’s not to say Ron Hextall and company haven’t made moves for guys that will be in the bottom six, they just don’t move the needle or spring optimism.

Jeff Carter and Teddy Blueger are the third and fourth line centers and that can be survived; Carter is a veteran player with many doubters to prove wrong and Blueger is primed to have a breakout offensive season.

But what about their wingers? Brock McGinn is still there and needs to bounce back from a lack luster 2021-22.

Kasperi Kapanen is awaiting an arbitration hearing regarding a new contract, but he’s coming off of a pretty bad year.

Drew O’Connor has been spoken highly of by management and may fight for a spot in the lineup, but has yet to find good NHL footing.

Then there’s the new arrivals; Drake Caggiula from the Buffalo Sabres, Ryan Poehling from the Montreal Canadiens, and the return of Josh Archibald from the Edmonton Oilers.

There has definitely been an attempt to revamp the Pens’ bottom six, but just not enough to make a difference.

Penguins general manager Ron Hextall has backed up his group of forwards and cited Archibald by name when discussing the new hires.

“I like our forward group,” Hextall told 93.7 the Fan’s Morning Show. “I think Josh Archibald is a penalty killer and energy guy who is the type of player we’ve been looking for.”

Hextall stated that the focus was to find size and grit for the bottom six rather than depth scoring.

“We’ve transformed our group a little bit up front,” Hextall said. “We did want to get little bit bigger… grittier.”

It’s great that everyone can kill penalties, but some of the Penguins biggest downfalls of the 2021-22 season was the lack of depth scoring.

Of the new acquisitions, none of them scored over 10 goals last season; to be fair only one of them (Poeling) played north of 20 games.

There is no doubt Hextall made changes to the Penguins forward core, but the changes didn’t address the problems.

There is still plenty of time for something else to move and the depth to be improved, but for now it’s not pretty.

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