It's possible that the Penguins' roster when they close out the regular season April 4 in Ottawa will be identical to the one on hand for their opener against the Sabres Thursday at 7:08 p.m. at PPG Paints Arena.
Just as it's possible that Capitals winger/hitman Tom Wilson someday will be voted mayor of Pittsburgh. In a landslide.
Could happen, of course. It's just not the prudent way to wager.
That's because NHL rosters are organic, always evolving.
Players slump and get demoted.
They get injured, and must be replaced.
They get traded, creating openings that must be filled.
So the group from which Mike Sullivan selects his 20-man squad for the Buffalo game Thursday night almost certainly will not be identical to the one he has when the trade deadline passes, let alone when the regular season expires.
Still, the 23-man roster that Jim Rutherford submitted to the league office before the deadline at 5 p.m. Tuesday is the one Sullivan and his staff will be working with for the time being, so here's a look at each of those players. (The total of 23 does not include players on Long-Term Injured Reserve, who are exempt until they're healthy enough to resume playing. For the Penguins, they are forward Bryan Rust and defenseman Zach Trotman, the latter of whom is recovering from sports hernia surgery and is not on the major-league roster.)
Defenseman John Marino is included because the Penguins are expected to recall him from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton after Rust officially goes on LTIR.)
Upside: He's still high on the short list -- the very short list -- of the game's finest players, and he might have the best 200-foot game in the NHL.
Downside: He hasn't found a way to permanently halt the aging process. Yet.
Upside: Even at 33, Malkin has the size and skills to be one of the league's dominant players.
Downside: He's been prone to losing focus and discipline, which does more to neutralize him than any opponent could hope to.
Upside: He has the size and skill to be more of an impact player than he has to this point of his career.
Downside: He has the size and skill to be more of an impact player than he has to this point of his career.
Upside: He has a nicely rounded game, even if he's a bottom-six lifer on this team.
Downside: It's not quite like succeeding Mario Lemieux as the No. 1 center, but Matt Cullen set a high standard for Blueger's role.
Upside: He's fast, fearless, plays the body with enthusiasm and has the tenacity of a wolverine.
Downside: Occasional flashes of a scoring touch aside, he probably doesn't have the hands you'd like in a top-six winger.
Upside: He can move up and down the lineup, play both wings and kill penalties.
Downside: He's prone to extended goal-scoring slumps, and shouldn't be counted on to contribute much until he returns to active duty. (Gee, really?)
Upside: Of his 189 pounds of body weight, roughly 185 are heart. If Hornqvist has it to give, he'll give it.
Downside: His fiercely competitive style tends to wear him down over the course of a season.
Upside: Another versatile guy who can fill a variety of roles and fit in on a number of lines.
Downside: Simon still hasn't established himself enough as a scorer to merit a place on the top two forward units.
Upside: He's developed a nice chemistry with Crosby and seems capable of taking a run at a 50-goal season.
Downside: Opponents know all about him now (or at least they should), and he can expect plenty of attention, and possibly punishment, every time he steps onto the ice.
Upside: He has the talent to score 25 or more goals if his game jells with Malkin's.
Downside: Galchenyuk has been injured for the past week so, even if he's able to play in the opener, he might need some time to sharpen his skills.
Upside: Proved in Chicago that he can be effective in a top-six role and play well with gifted linemates.
Downside: Did very little during training camp to merit consideration for a spot on the top two lines.
Upside: He might be the most versatile of the Penguins' forwards, and could fit in anywhere on almost any line.
Downside: Being able to be plugged into so many spots could prevent him from ever really settling into one.
Upside: Plays bigger than he is (6 foot, 204 pounds), and seems well-suited for the bottom-six.
Downside: It's hard to prove your worth when you're injured much of the time, as Aston-Reese has been.
Upside: When healthy and on his game, he's a Norris Trophy-caliber talent.
Downside: Injuries and other ailments have forced him to miss time in all but one of his 13 NHL seasons.
Upside: He has exceptional offensive talents and instincts.
Downside: Is not big, as defensemen go, which can cause issues in his own end.
Upside: Adds a badly needed physical presence to the blue line, and he's solid when playing within his limitations.
Downside: Not much of an offensive force. His 10 points in 2018-19 were the second-most in his eight-year NHL career.
Upside: He was the Penguins' most pleasant surprise of the past month, playing well at both ends of the ice.
Downside: His lack of pro experience might show, so he might eventually benefit from some time in Wilkes-Barre.
Upside: He's established his credentials as a reliable No. 7, effective when called upon.
Downside: Ruhwedel is relatively small (5 foot 11, 191 pounds) and could wear down if forced to play for an extended stretch.
Upside: Reliable and responsible at both ends of the ice, he is the ideal partner for Letang.
Downside: Doesn't have as much of a New England accent as a guy from Maine should.
Upside: He's played well enough to spend most of camp as Schultz's partner on the No. 2 pairing.
Downside: With just 177 pounds on a 6-foot-3 frame, he could stand to bulk up quite a bit.
Upside: There's still room for growth, but he moves the puck well and can contribute all over the rink.
Downside: He could benefit from some additional muscle and experience.
Upside: Can provide physicality to a defense corps that doesn't have all that much of it.
Downside: There are times when it looks like he's lost his passion for the game.
Upside: Murray established himself by helping the Penguins win Stanley Cups in each of his first two seasons in the league.
Downside: It's tough to win games, let alone Cups, when you're injured, and that's been a recurring issue for Murray.
Upside: He is an excellent puck-handler who many scouts regard as a potential No. 1 goalie in the NHL.
Downside: Jarry has yet to establish himself at this level, let alone prove that he's capable of carrying an NHL team for a long stretch if called upon.
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