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Four options for Pittsburgh, which one to take?

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Its been nearly five-and-one-quarter years since Dan Bylsma was hired as head coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins, replacing Michel Therrien.

The 2008-09 coaching change lit a fire under Sidney Crosby and the club, and when the 21-year-old captain became the youngest to ever raise the Stanley Cup that June, we all believed it wouldnt be the last time the Penguins would claim the prize under Bylsma.

Since that spring, the Pens have lost more playoff series than theyve won. Theyve also blown 3-1 series leads in two of the last four post-seasons.

For the NHLs marquee franchise, that simply isnt good enough. Add 14 unrestricted free agents to the mix, and changes are in order. Any number of things could happen in the Penguins off-season, but here are four to expect.

● Housecleaning

By all accounts, Bylsma will take the fall for another post-season flameout, which is unfortunate. You can only play the hand youre dealt, and hes been handed an uneven one two years in a row. Bylsma benched Marc-Andre Fleury in 2013, and switching to Tomas Vokoun got the Penguins to the Eastern Conference final. This year, he tinkered with lines to try and get Crosby going, but it just didnt happen.

Sports is a results business, and a fickle one. The more interesting case will be if general manager Ray Shero survives this disaster. The Penguins were exposed this postseason by injury, most notably the ones suffered by forward Pascal Dupuis and defenceman Brooks Orpik, and their organizational depth wasnt strong enough to overcome those ailments.

Plus, Sheros decision to deal for rental forward Lee Stempniak did not lead to playoff success, as he had just three points in 13 playoff games and finished on Pittsburghs third line. Thats on the GM.

● A blockbuster

Some might recall my speculation a year ago that a ransom could be fetched for Kris Letang or Evgeni Malkin, and the more interesting case now could be Letang. I know its not considered wise to part with a 27-year-old former Norris Trophy finalist, and Letang does carry a hefty price tag ($7.25 million cap hit), but his uneven play is representative of Pittsburghs post-season.

Letang was minus-2 in the Pens final three games. In four games this post-season he posted sub-46-per-cent Corsi-for percentages. For a player who is on the ice a lot, and on a team that makes its living playing offence, thats not good.

The Penguins might regret trading Jordan Staal two summers ago. Remember, Ryan Keslers name was floated at the trade deadline as a potential third-line centre. The Pens were stunningly thin offensively when Bylsma put Crosby and Malkin together against the Rangers, and you get the sense a Kesler-type centre, who can move up to the Pens second line and score if Malkin plays with Crosby, would offer Pittsburgh some scoring depth.

Perhaps a blockbuster with Letang and Kesler as the centrepieces could be order at the draft next month in Philadelphia.

● Plenty of walking

With free agency and a salary cap, teams are constantly forced to reshuffle the deck. Forward Jussi Jokinen is a free agent who only helped his stock playing with Malkin and James Neal. The Penguins will likely need to lock-in UFA forward Brian Gibbons, too, who was an excellent penalty-killer and part-time top-line forward.

Still, there are a ton of questions here. Orpik has done plenty of good in his 10-plus seasons in Pittsburgh but had a tough few months this year. An undisclosed injury which cost him eight-plus playoff games did nothing to help. The Penguins must get more responsible and younger on their blue line, and theyll likely watch Matt Niskanen depart for big bucks in free agency.

The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins are in the Calder Cups Eastern Conference semifinals, and there are AHL defensive prospects who are ready to make the leap if given the opportunity. It may be time to give the kids a look.

● A change in net

The Penguins lost to the New York Rangers in seven games in the Metropolitan Division final because their goaltending was inferior to New Yorks.

Thats a simple statement but also a true one. After pitching consecutive shutouts in games 2 and 3, Marc-Andre Fleury allowed questionable goals in each of the Penguins final four and surrendered bad goals in 10 of Pittsburghs other 11 games this post-season. Bylsma stood up for Fleury this playoff year, repeatedly saying, Ive won a lot of hockey games with Marc-Andre Fleury as my goaltender.

If you can live with a goalie with a .915 save percentage and 2.40 goals-against average, then Fleury is your guy. But if you expect to be a Stanley Cup team, those numbers arent good enough. Of the Eastern Conferences final four, Fleurys numbers were the worst of any netminder.

Is backup Jeff Zatkoff the answer? Who knows? But, at 26, hes no spring chicken either. Fleurys been tending goal in Pittsburgh for 10 seasons now, but his inability to come up big in clinching games is startling, and it may be time for him to get pushed.

Personally, I think it's a mix. GM and coach should be given the boot. GM had a handful of chances this deadline to acquire a top end player but refused to. It would have pushed them over the top and more competitive. Coach has just been a 1 year wonder. Not even 1 year considering he took the job half way through the season and won the Cup.

Also think they need to trade one of their big named players to get pieces back that'll help them more. Now I'm not sure who to trade cause Crosby is the best but hasn't been performing in the playoffs and Olympics. Malkin is the best point producer in the playoffs (won Conn Smythe) but could get max value. Trading away Letang would take away their backend puck movement. And James Neal won't get the biggest return and is one of the best pure shooters in the game. Maybe a trade of goalies? I'm not too sure either. What do you guys think?

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It's pretty easy.

Trade Letang for some young wingers for Malks and Crosby, use money to re-sign Niskanen. Fire Blysma.

Pittsburgh has plenty of guys like Letang in Pouliot and Maata. Niskanen can also bring the same sort of thing.

Key is - Fire Blysma

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I think they need a goaltender a little bit more set than Fleury. Don't get me wrong he's still a good goalie but he's just faltered in the past few years versus teams with not so offensive talent like NYI (last year? when so many goals were scored from HORRENDOUS angles) and Columbus this year.

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1)..Letang to San Jose. Take back a bad contract(eg:Havlat), which should improve the return. Amnesty buyout his last year. Also get a 1st & good prospect.

Look what CBJ did with Nash. Get depth & youth. Apply same philosophy to Malkin, but get better pieces.

2)..Malkin to StL. Return either Piets or Shattenkirk, Ryan REAVES(need this piece, to deal with Boston), another 1st & Jaskin/Rattie/Schwartz(maybe 2 of them?)

3)..Do the infamous Kesler deal. Send Sutter, Pouliot & 2015 1st. Add another piece to get one of our Swedish 'tenders.

They should try to add youth, depth & size; but so should about 15 other teams.Too many expensive stars for the cap world.

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Please tell me I misread that idea that Kesler and Letang are the centre pieces of a potential trade.....Letangs cap hit would cripple the Canucks, brutal amount of coin on the backend of the team and if no one waives their NTC we are in a fair bit of trouble, I imagine that Tanev would be moved if that happened.

Sure Letang would give us speed out of the defence but I don't like the idea.

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