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NHL - US Sports: Petry targets success with Pittsburgh

After being traded by the Montreal Canadiens to the Pittsburgh Penguins defenceman Jeff Petry says he's excited to be on a "team that's ready and eager to win".

But how will his addition help the Penguins and can he help them live up to their 22/1 odds of winning the Stanley Cup for the first time since their back-to-back successes in 2016 and 2017?

Bigger and more productive on the back-end

After they were eliminated from the Stanley Cup playoffs in the first round by the New York Rangers in seven games, General Manager Ron Hextall vowed to make his team bigger and more productive from the back end and 6'3" Petry fits the criteria perfectly.

An accomplished all-rounder, 34-year-old Petry scored more than 40 points in his last four seasons before a dip to 27 (six goals, 21 assists) in what was a challenging season for the Canadiens over 2021/22.

Selected by the Edmonton Oilers in the second round (45th overall) of the 2006 NHL Draft, Petry has 322 points (87 goals, 235 assists) in 803 regular season games for the Oilers and Canadiens, and has 13 points (five goals, eight assists) in 48 Stanley Cup Playoff games.

Petry is one of two excellent additions made by Hextall to the Penguins defence, also signing 6'3" Jan Rutta who has helped the Tampa Bay Lightning to three straight Stanley Cup Final appearances, winning twice.

Stay-at-home Rutta had 18 points (three goals, 15 assists) in 76 regular season games last season, before adding five more points (one goal, four assists) in 17 playoff games.

Petry will aid Penguins powerplay

The Penguins' powerplay was ranked 19th overall in the NHL last season, converting on 20.2 per cent of their chances in the regular season.

Despite improving to 26.1 per cent in the series against the Rangers, Pittsburgh needs to improve and Petry's addition will certainly help.

Ninety-one of Petry's 322 NHL points have come on the powerplay where throughout his eight-year stay with Montreal he was well trusted.

Right-shooter Petry will likely take John Marino's place in the Penguins' line-up after the 25-year-old was traded to the New Jersey Devils.

Since Marino entered the NHL in 2019, Petry has outperformed him in multiple areas, especially in creating offense.

During the last three seasons, Petry has outscored Marino in goals (29 to 10) and total points (109 to 64). He also out-chanced Marino by 525 scoring chances (2,126 to 1,601).

Marino struggled to remain on the Penguin's second powerplay unit, whereas Petry will likely have that spot solidified.

Band back together

Despite speculation that defenceman Kris Letang and forward Evgeni Malkin may leave the Penguins this off-season, the three-time Stanley Cup winners have instead committed to having another run at the championship alongside Captain Sidney Crosby.

Letang, 35, signed a six-year, $36.6million contract and Malkin, also 35, agreed to a four-year, $24.4m deal.

The trio all played a pivotal role in the Penguins' successes of 2009, 2016 and 2017 and have helped the franchise reach the playoffs in each of the past 16 seasons, the longest active post-season streak in the NHL.

Health has been an issue for the pair in recent seasons, but each performed very well last season with Letang remarkably recording a career year.

In 78 regular season games, the most he has played in four seasons, Letang registered 68 points (10 goals, 58 assists). Malkin, who missed the beginning of the season following surgery, scored 42 points (20 goals, 22 assists) in 41 regular season games.

The acquisition of Petry should help Letang particularly, lessening the burden on the player who led all players on the Penguins for ice-time (25.47).

Petry averaged 22.07 of ice time with the Canadiens last season, just under 90 seconds more than Marino in the same spot.

He also has experience playing against the opposing team's top talent, meaning Pittsburgh should be able to lower Letang's usage this season, making it easier for him to remain healthy and fresh throughout the year.

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Age becoming a factor?

By adding Petry and Rutta, also 31, plus bringing back Malkin and Letang, the Penguins have grown the average age of their squad over 30 and higher than it has been in over 50 years.

With currently the oldest roster in the NHL, Pittsburgh are clearly in 'win now' mode and likely feel their best chance to win another Stanley Cup in the Crosby/Malkin/Letang era is the next one.

However, an 82-game season is a long one, and the schedule undoubtedly becomes more difficult to navigate with age.

According to Hockey Reference, the last time a team with an average age of 30.0 years or older won the Stanley Cup was the Detroit Red Wings in 2008, which marked the second time since the turn of the century.

That said, doubting Crosby, Malkin and Letang is far from the safest of practices, especially considering the number of boxes which the addition of Petry ticks.

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