The Pittsburgh Penguins are just one win away from capturing their second straight Stanley Cup title with Game 6 tonight, but they’ve done it throughout the playoffs with one of the most unheralded defensive corps possible. With two-time all-star Kris Letang out for the season with neck surgery he underwent on Apr. 13, the team has played without a star defenseman and it showed early in this series when the Predators dominated in Games 1 and 2. However, the defense held together and took things a step further the other day in Game 5 when the defense dominated on both offense and defense. They got two goals and three assists during that victory.
That defense, made up of Olli Maatta, Ian Cole, Trevor Daley, Ron Hainsey, Brian Dumoulin and Justin Schultz, has held tough and just might be increasing their stock as the offseason approaches for them in the next few days. The Penguins may have a few offseason issues to deal with in the upcoming weeks when it comes to their defense. While Letang is locked up until 2021-22 ($7.5MM), only two others are officially under contract for next year. The 22-year-old Matta is also under contract until 2021-22 ($4.083MM) and Cole has one more year left at $2.1MM. The rest are all free agents with Daley and Hainsey listed as unrestricted free agents, while Dumoulin and Schultz are both restricted free agents who should command more than they made this past year.
Daley played a much stronger game in Game 5 and was able to move the puck much more quickly in that performance. He is completing a six-year deal ($3.3MM) and the Penguins must decide if they want to bring the 33-year old back next season. He played in just 56 games and had 5 goals and 14 assists for 19 points, but has had a goal and five assists in the playoffs, including a key assist in Game 5. Hainsey came over as a rental from Carolina at the trade deadline. The 36-year-old is finishing up a three-year deal in which he was getting $2.833MM per season. Hainsey finished the season with four goals and 13 assists, but has proven valuable in the playoffs which could net him a solid offer next year. The veteran has put up two goals and six assists during the playoffs despite struggling to keep up with the top line.
The Penguins must also make key decisions on the restricted front. Dumoulin is wrapping up his second full season with Pittsburgh. The 25-year-old has played solidly and should get quite an increase from the $800,000 he is currently making. Dumoulin, a gifted young defender, scored one goal and added 14 assists this season, while adding a goal and five assists in the playoffs this year. He’s even been mentioned as a possible expansion candidate if the team trades backup goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury. Finally, Schultz is coming off a breakout year. After taking a paycut last year from $3.9MM in 2015-16 to $1.4MM this year, the 26-year-old will be looking for a long term deal after putting up 12 goals and 39 assists this past year. His playoff performance should also improve his stock with four goals and eight assists so far.
The Penguins should have plenty of questions to answer once they reach the offseason.