The Pittsburgh Penguins were dealt a critical blow Thursday when they announced that Sidney Crosby would miss at least the next six weeks. Crosby underwent successful surgery after suffering a core muscle injury last Saturday vs the Chicago Blackhawks.
The Penguins have been no stranger to the injury bug this season. Bryan Rust, Evgeni Malkin, Nick Bjugstad, Alex Galchenyuk, and Patric Hornqvist have already spent time on IR. The Penguins were so riddled with injures, defenseman Jusso Riikola was called on to play forward on the 4th line for a game.
But arguably none of those injuries stack up to losing Sidney Crosby long-term. Crosby has 5 goals, 12 Assists and 17 points through 17 games. Sid can elevate the play of those around him. Conventional wisdom dictates that Malkin will shift up to the top line in Sid’s absence. Head coach Mike Sullivan may also give Jared McCann a few looks in that spot.
Oddly enough injuries over the past few years are where the Penguins shine. Young play makers can often step up and contribute in the face of injury. Most notably among the crop of current Penguins was forward Jake Guentzel’s call up in 2016. He earned his spot on the roster, and in the post season that year he would tie the rookie record for most playoff points. The Penguins fourth line has been strong all season so look for that trend to continue. Guentzel leads the Penguins with 8 goals. I also like Bryan Rust, Jared McCann, and Dominik Kahun as strong candidates to step up to an elevated role in the wake of the Sidney Crosby injury.
Could the Pens explore another trade?
General Manager Jim Rutherford is no stranger to in-season trades. Most of the time he doesn’t wait until the trade deadline to pull the trigger on a deal. With about $2.6 Million in cap space according to CapFriendly. With Jack Johnson‘s albatross of a contract looming over them, Rutherford might have to get a little creative if a deal were to be made.
Tyler Toffoli, a skilled winger on an expiring contract that Los Angeles seems content on moving on from, carries a cap hit of $4.6 mil. Josh Ho-Sang is an option. He is buried in the AHL by the Islanders and only carrying a cap hit of $874,125. Free Agent Jason Pominville, at 36 years old, may also have something left in the tank. Taylor Hall is a long shot with a cap hit of $6 million and currently on a division rival. With Jim Rutherford though, nothing can be ruled out.
The silver lining here is the injury to Sidney Crosby happened early in the season. Barring any complications the Penguins should get him back months before the playoffs. Regardless of how they go about dealing with it, it looks as if the Penguins will have to weather the storm without their captain until at least January.
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