The Pittsburgh Penguins, like any other champion of the salary-cap era, have found worthwhile contributions from previously unheralded sources. Last year saw the playoff breakout of Bryan Rust and Conor Sheary, while this year Justin Schultz has turned into the defenseman that everyone had hoped for in Edmonton. As Dave Holcomb of FanRag Sports details, it may be Jake Guentzel that is the next breakout star for a team that has so many.
Guentzel has seen his ice time skyrocket since his latest call up, playing as much as 19:52 in a regulation loss on the 28th. He’s become a relied-upon member of the Penguins top-9 and will be needed past this year’s playoffs. With Sheary and Schultz up for new contracts as restricted free agents this summer and Nick Bonino hitting the open market, the team will have to make some tough decisions on the future construction of their lineup around the $25MM trio of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel. Having a cost-controlled option like Guentzel that can slot in with any of the three is a huge plus for the Penguins and their long-term future.
- Mark Divver of the Providence Journal reports that Kristofers Bindulis is the latest college free agent to watch. Several teams are after the Lake Superior State defenseman after his solid debut in the WCHA. The Lakers are having a rough season, but Bindulis has turned heads with 12 points in 28 games. Rail-thin in his draft year, Bindulis is now listed at 6’3″, 180-lbs and likely still able to fill out into his large frame. Watch for Vegas to start their roster off with some college free agents, and perhaps Bindulis is on their minds.
- The New York Rangers better hope they don’t finish fourth in the Metropolitan Division. After getting pummeled by the Montreal Canadiens 4-1 last night and causing Alain Vigneault to become more angry than he has all season (according to Brett Cyrgalis of the NY Post), the team is now just 5-4-1 in their last 10 and 0-3 against the Habs this season. With the first wildcard sport set to face the Atlantic Division winner, the Rangers would be up against the Canadiens right away and would need to turn that record around fast.