When the top-three seeds in the Eastern Conference were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs, most notably the New Jersey Devils and Washington Capitals who were a combined 10-0 against Pittsburgh, the Penguins appeared to be the safest bet to advance to the Stanley Cup Final for a third straight year.
The defending Stanley Cup Champions, however, bowed out of the playoffs with a disappointing effort Wednesday night and the Penguins now face a number of difficult decisions regarding their group of potential free agents.
The Penguins will conduct their season end meetings on Friday as the players will meet with management Friday morning.
Although the Penguins are weeks away from engaging in serious contract talks with pending free agents, the Penguins will in all certainty have a much different roster in 2010-2011.
Sergei Gonchar will dictate the direction the Penguins go as Gonchar is among four defensemen who are set to become free agents. Mark Eaton, Jordan Leopold and Jay McKee are the others. Not to mention, Ben Lovejoy is also unsigned beyond this season, along with Steve Wagner, another depth player that the Penguins like.
Upfront, the Penguins group of wingers on their top-2 lines could have a much different look in 2010-2011.
Disappointing wingers Ruslan Fedotenko and Alexei Ponikarovsky are UFA’s and the future of 39 year old winger Bill Guerin is up in the air.
Fedotenko will not be back while it’s way too early to evaluate the future of Ponikarovsky and Guerin with the Penguins.
The wild card of the group is third line winger Matt Cooke. Cooke wants to come back but is set to go into some tough negotiations are he seeks a three year deal.