The Pittsburgh Penguins are not Stanley Cup favorites anymore. That much is borne out in the latest Stanley Cup futures odds at the various Pennsylvania sports betting sites, where the Penguins are +2500 pretty much across the board.
The Penguins were only a little over .500 entering mid-February and recently had a change at general manager, with Jim Rutherford abruptly resigning and later replaced by Ron Hextall (with Brian Burke added as team president).
The Penguins continue to be led by future Hall-of-Famers Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, but recently there has been speculation that new management might seriously consider trading one or both away and rebuild with the bounty they might bring. Respected TSN hockey insider Darren Dreger, in fact, created waves by saying he wouldn’t be “at all surprised” if Crosby went to management after this season and asked for a trade to another team on the rise, where he could be a final piece to a Stanley Cup roster.
Burke didn’t dim speculative fires any when he said in his final “Hockey Night in Canada” appearance that while the plan is to try and “win” with the current roster, if that doesn’t happen there could be some “tough discussions” about the future direction of the roster.
Here’s what I think could happen, from all this talk: It might light a real fire under Crosby and Malkin to prove to new management that they can still win another Cup in Pittsburgh. This could all be a ploy by Burke and Hextall to put some real pressure, especially, on Crosby - a good kind of pressure.
After the changes were made in the front office, the Penguins started winning again. They’re still a very dangerous team. But Crosby is 33 and Malkin 34. By the start of next season, they’ll each have another year. After winning back-to-back Cups in 2016 and 2017, the Penguins have gone three straight years without advancing past the second round of the playoffs.
The “tough discussion” new Penguins management will have to face: Are Crosby and Malkin both still players you can build around, or are they players who need to be parceled off while they can still fetch good market value? Also, will either player, in particular Crosby, ask out? Maybe he’ll be the one who says, “You know what? It’s been great here, but I’m not interested in being part of a rebuild. I’d like to go to a team where I can be the final piece and not have to carry all the load anymore.”
If the Penguins can win it all this season, management might still have to have those tough discussions. There’s no doubt they’d gladly trade a couple years of declining Crosby and Malkin for another ring this year.
It’s going to be very interesting to see how the Penguins fare from here, and how this whole scenario affects the 2021 Stanley Cup futures odds. It could be that +2500 might look like a bargain at some point soon.