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Wes Goldstein's Take

It was understood that Pittsburgh wouldn't be able to keep its talented lineup fully intact because of the salary cap so the vultures started circling soon after the Penguins lost the Stanley Cup Final to Detroit. The result was the loss of several key players including Marian Hossa, Ryan Malone, Gary Roberts and backup goalie Ty Conklin. But in the grand scheme of things, all of the departures other than Hossa, who turned out to be worthwhile trade deadline rental, were peripheral players for Pittsburgh. It would have been nice to hang on to some of them, but more important for the Penguins was their ability to retain core players Evgeni Malkin, Brooks Orpik and goalie Marc-Andre Fleury. All signed long term deals that should ensure this team will remain among the elites for years to come. In the meantime, the Penguins did a good job filling their other voids with forwards Miroslav Satan, Ruslan Fedotenko and Matt Cooke, and they saved themselves a fair amount of money doing so as well.

Sidney Crosby and Malkin give the Penguins the best 1-2 punch at center in the game, not to mention a pair of stars who belong in any discussion about the best player. And Jordan Staal isn't too shabby a third-line pivot either. Meanwhile, Fleury made a real name for himself in the playoffs last season behind a defense that proved how mobile it is and how much it has bought into coach Michel Therrien.

As good as they are down the middle, the Penguins lost a lot on the wings, and that creates question marks at least. Especially since some of those departing were veterans whose leadership will be missed as much if not more than their production. There were some problems last season in the faceoff circle that need to be resolved, and Dany Sabourin will have to fill the skates of Conklin. For the short term, the biggest problem facing Pittsburgh will be the absences of defensemen Sergei Gonchar and Ryan Whitney, who will both miss at least half the season recovering from surgeries.

Conventional wisdom says teams have to learn how to lose the Stanley Cup before winning it. The Penguins will get a chance to find out for themselves.

Burning Question

Was the lesson a good one? In revisiting the Penguins intangibles, I didn't think much of it when I picked the Penguins to take the Stanley Cup last spring, but after watching them get schooled by the Red Wings in the Finals, it was hard to argue the point. The amazing young core of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Jordan Staal, Marc Andre Fleury, Brooks Orpik and Ryan Whitney remains intact, although Whitney will be out for the first half of the season. The issue is what they took away from getting so close to and missing the brass ring.

On the Hot Seat
Brooks Orpik, D
Orpik becomes the No. 1 defenseman, at least for the time being, with Gonchar and Whitney out.
Save the Date
Nov. 11 at Detroit
A rematch of the Stanley Cup finalists.
Can captain Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins make it two-in-a-row? (Getty Images)
2008-09 in Review
Record: 45-28-9 for 99 points
Finish: 4th in East, 2nd in Atlantic; Won Stanley Cup
Goals/Game: 3.15 (6th) Goals Against/Game: 2.84 (17th)
Power Play: 17.2% (20th) Penalty Kill: 82.7% (8th)
Fantasy Projections
CSidney Crosby7634811151245
CEvgeni Malkin80405595979
RWMiroslav Satan81283159-646
RWPetr Sykora79243155-443
LWRuslan Fedotenko75201838-245
29Marc-Andre Fleury392132.47.9104
Complete Fantasy Projections
Generation Next
Eric Tangradi, C, 20
Picked up in the deal which sent Ryan Whitney to Anaheim, Tangradi is a potential top-six forward thanks to his size, grit and strong hockey sense. The Philadelphia native also has a powerful slap shot. He'll likely spend time in Wilkes-Barre before finishing off passes by Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin.
Belleville (OHL) - 55GP-38G-50A-88PTS
In the System
No. Player, Pos., Age 2008-09 Team, Stats
1 Luca Caputi, LW, 21 Wilkes-Barre (AHL); 66GP-18G-27A-45PTS
2 Dustin Jeffrey, C, 21 Wilkes-Barre (AHL); 63GP-11G-26A-37PTS
3 Alex Grant, D, 20 Saint John (AHL); 60GP-13G-37A-50PTS
Expert Picks
No. Goldstein Brown Devonport Hurcomb Cercel
Complete expert picks
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