There has been considerable speculation over the likelihood that the Pittsburgh Penguins can keep their core group together as they come up for new contract deals. Players such as Evgeni Malkin, Marc-Andre Fleury, and Jordan Staal will be interesting decisions for the Penguin front office to ponder over the next 13 months or so (Malkin and Staal becoming RFAs after next season).
And, the Penguins took a roll of the dice in trading for Marian Hossa from Atlanta as possibly only a rental in an effort to bolster a Stanley Cup run that found them falling just short of the prize.
Well, now enter another factor -- draft position.
The NHL has the complete draft order up at NHL.com, and one thing that caught our eye was that the Penguins do not select until the 120th pick (4th round) in the upcoming entry draft -- by way of comparison, the Caps have six picks (23, 45, 57, 58, 84, 93) before Pittsburgh's first selection -- and only have four picks in the entire draft, absent any wheeling and dealing.
Add to this the fact that the Penguins moved last year's first round pick -- Angelo Esposito -- to Atlanta in the Hossa trade (along with this year's first-rounder and a couple of mid-20's players in Colby Armstrong and Erik Christensen), and the Penguins have a couple of years worth of holes at the top of the draft.
Of course, it is entirely possible that the Penguins will end up with gems in guys like Carl Sneep or Keven Veilleux (second round selections in 2006 and 2007, respectively), and they could pull off some deals in the next 10 days to improve their draft position. But with most -- if not all -- of their high-end prospects already on the Pittsburgh roster, they could have some gaps in their developmental pipeline with the moves made to go for the Cup this year. Maybe all the eggs weren't in the 2008 basket, but a fair number of them seem to have been there.
Ray Shero seems a very capable and talented executive, which will make what Pittsburgh does -- at the draft and as free agency season opens -- very interesting to watch.