MOST VALUABLE PLAYER
Evgeni Malkin is the heavy favorite to claim his first Hart Trophy as NHL MVP, and there's little question he was the Penguins' MVP this season. His play was nothing short of spectacular. Malkin claimed his second Art Ross Trophy as NHL scoring champion by producing a career-high 50 goals and 109 points. Fairly ordinary through the first half of the season, Malkin exploded in the second half to run away with the scoring title. He was clearly the league's best player despite having ACL surgery in February 2011.
MOST DISAPPOINTING PLAYER
Defenseman Paul Martin simply has never fit in with the Penguins. He signed a five-year, $25 million contract with the team on July 1, 2010. Since then, he has never produced much offensively -- he has five goals in two seasons, one of which was an empty-netter -- and has been horribly disappointing in the defensive zone. The Penguins paired Martin with defenseman Kris Letang late in the season in an attempt to hide some of his deficiencies.
The Penguins' biggest needs are on the same page. They badly need teams to inquire about Martin and defenseman Zbynek Michalek. Those two are under contract for the next three years, and make a combined $9 million per season during that stretch. The Penguins will be desperate to get rid of those two this summer, and if they are able to free up the case, will happily spend money on at least one tough, stay-at-home defenseman. At forward, they are pretty well set.
FREE AGENT FOCUS
The Penguins could be active on the trade market this summer, but not so much in free agency. They have little money to spend and few players that need signed. Only two regulars -- forwards Steve Sullivan and Arron Asham -- are unrestricted free agents. There is a chance both could return. Sullivan aided the team's power play this season and the organization would like to see him return. The decision figures to be his. Asham was suspended for four games in the playoffs, which won't help his chances of coming back. But the team like's his toughness and his ability to play an enforcer role while also chipping in the occasional goal.
--C Sidney Crosby feels good following 20 straight in-game appearances. He sustained two nasty collisions in the playoff series against the Flyers -- a collision with teammate Evgeni Malkin and a big hit from Philadelphia's Claude Giroux -- and said following the season that he feels fine. Crosby said he will have normal summer workouts and is hungry to play even better next season. He led the NHL with 1.61 points per game.
--LW Matt Cooke made it through an entire season without receiving any disciplinary punishment. In fact, he was a model citizen and was even nominated by Pittsburgh writers for the Masterton award. Cooke scored a career-high 19 goals while staying out of trouble, clearly altering his game to avoid the dangerous hits that had long been his trademark.
--RW Pascal Dupuis ended the regular season on a career-high 17-game scoring streak. It was the longest scoring streak any NHL player produced this season. At 33, he has one year left on his contract and has turned into one of the team's most reliable players.
--G Marc-Andre Fleury produced 41 regular-season victories, the highest total of his career. And then he fell apart in the postseason. Fleury twice allowed goals on the first shot he faced and allowed a remarkable 27 goals in six games against the Flyers, cementing his reputation as a tremendously talented but sometimes unreliable goalie.
--G Brent Johnson is an unrestricted free agent and almost definitely will not be retained following a very, very poor season. The Penguins are likely to look for Fleury's backup via free agency this summer.
--C Evgeni Malkin (Russia) and D Zbynek Michalek (Czech Republic) opted to participate in the World Championships this spring.
--D Kris Letang was playing all season with a hip injury but believes it does not require surgery.
--D Paul Martin received a concussion in Game 3 against the Flyers on a hit from C Brayden Schenn.
--LW Steve Sullivan was playing with a foot injury that required a painkilling injection before each playoff game.
--D Matt Niskanen was playing with a shoulder injury that required a painkilling injection before each playoff game.
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