The 2017/18 season was poor compared to the prior two seasons for the club. In 2016 and 2017 they captured the Stanley Cup and were on top of the hockey universe. They beat the Philadelphia Flyers in the opening round but fell to the eventual champions Washington in round 2.
They lost in overtime after a goal by Evgeny Kuznetsov and the season ended in disappointment. They finished second in the Metropolitan Division during the regular season behind Washington.
General manager Jim Rutherford did not make wholesale changes to the roster. He traded Conor Sheary and Matt Hunwick to the Buffalo Sabres for a conditional fourth-round pick.
Sheary was a serviceable player and had 18 goals last season but was sliding down the depth chart. The acquisition of Derrick Brassard at the trade deadline and the emergence of Dominik Simon made him expendable.
Hunwick was a 2017 off-season addition, but did not play well and only dressed for 42 games. The move opened up cap space and gave the Penguins some options.
They signed defenseman Jack Johnson to a five-year contract on July 1 for $16.25 million. He gives them another offensive option on the back end and has extensive experience.
They also brought back Matt Cullen. He won two Cups with the Penguins and departed after the 2017 season for the Minnesota Wild. He gives them more center depth and is a good leader in the locker room.
Jake Guentzel-Sidney Crosby-Dominik Simon
Bryan Rust-Evgeni Malkin-Patric Hornqvist
Carl Hagelin-Derrick Brassard-Phil Kessel
Matt Cullen-Riley Sheahan- Daniel Sprong
Extra forward: Zach Aston-Reese
Brian Dumoulin-Kris Letang
Jack Johnson-Justin Schultz
Olli Maatta-Jamie Oleksiak
Seventh defenseman: Chad Ruhwedel
Best case scenario
-Sidney Crosby is top five in points this season. Evgeni Malkin finished fourth in scoring last season, while Crosby was 10th.
-Jack Johnson can score 35- 40 points and anchor the second power-play unit for Pittsburgh.
-Daniel Sprong can be a contributor and play with Sidney Crosby as the season moves along. He only played in 8 games last season.
-Matt Murray can have a healthy season and emerge as one of the best goaltenders in hockey.
Worst case scenario
-Father time begins to hit Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin and their production decreases.
-Matt Murray will continue to be hampered by injuries and they have to rely on two unproven backup goaltenders Casey DeSmith and Tristan Jarry.
Phil Kessel and head coach Mike Sullivan continue to bicker and it festers into the locker room and affects the team as a whole.
The Penguins are a playoff team and have all the pieces to make another deep run in the playoffs. All four lines are strong and their center ice position is one of the best in hockey.
The off-season addition of Jack Johnson helps the back end and will make the life of Kris Letang easier down the stretch. The Penguins and Chicago Blackhawks have played the most playoff games in the last decade and wear and tear may be in play.
At the end of the day, they are still one of the best teams in hockey and have two of the best players. The Toronto Maple Leafs, Tampa Bay Lightning have improved, but Pittsburgh is still in the thick of it.
Pittsburgh is a favorite and if they do not win the Stanley Cup then the season will be a disappointment.
How do you think the Pittsburgh Penguins will do in 2018-19? Let us know in the comment section below and be sure to give us a follow on Twitter by searching (@VAVELNHL_ENG).