Courtesy of Point Park University

Penguins have plans to be better in 5-on-3 situations


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Penguins left wing Jake Guentzel (59) -- MATT SUNDAY / DKPS

The Penguins had one of the NHL's most productive power plays last season, and it should be every bit as dangerous in 2019-20. However, one area in which it almost certainly will improve -- if only because it's almost impossible to get worse -- is when the Penguins have a five-on-three advantage.

They had seven of those last season, spanning a total of six minutes, 37 seconds, and failed to score even once.

"Hopefully, that changes this year," said left winger Jake Guentzel, who figures to be at least a part-time member of the No. 1 unit.

The way he sees it, the keys to capitalizing on a two-man advantage are pretty basic.

"You have to move the puck, and have some movement (by players) out there," he said. "You don't want to get (stagnant). If you can get shots from the point and open up things that way, it gets you more opportunities."

Sidney Crosby suggested that the key is to not over-pass the puck and, in the process, pass up quality shots.

"You're going to get a look, 5-on-3," he said. "Sometimes, it's not necessarily what you draw up. It's just a matter of executing what's given to you. You're going to get your chances. So when you get your looks, put it in the net.

"Last year, I'm sure we had some really good looks. You can look at a lot of things, but it comes down to putting the puck in the net when you get a good look or you get a good seam to shoot it."

Bill Guerin has made it through his first training camp as general manager in Minnesota and still hasn't plucked any of his former co-workers away from the Penguins.

While it's still entirely possible he'll try to hire a few people, particularly scouts, from his old club, what will be more interesting is whether Guerin tries to exploit his knowledge of the Penguins' organizational depth chart to improve that of the Wild.

One prospect who always has intrigued Guerin is center Nikita Pavlychev, who is about to begin his senior season at Penn State.

Pavlychev a seventh-round draft choice in 2015, is 6 foot 7, 225 pounds and has shown real potential to develop into a shutdown center as a pro, but also showed a scoring touch last season, when he put up 14 goals and 15 assists in 39 games.

There's no indication the Penguins are interested in relinquishing his rights, but it won't be a surprise if Guerin makes an effort to acquire him.

• The latest trend among players with a lot of leverage in contract talks is to get the bulk of their money in signing bonuses, rather than salary. Mitch Marner, for example, recently accepted a six-year offer from the Maple Leafs that will pay him $60,958,000 in signing bonuses, but a total of just $4.4 million in salary.

Structuring a deal that way provides a hedge against losing significant money if the NHL goes through a work stoppage, which has happened several times during the past couple of decades.

Jim Rutherford, however, said that is not a route he will go down unless there is no option.

"Each individual team has to make up their own mind as to what they want to do and how they structure contracts, and be consistent with it," he said. "My preference is not to do the signing bonuses. When you're dealing with unrestricted (free agents) and you're competing with other teams, you may get forced to do that, but my preference is not to."

Rutherford, by the way, also said the labor peace assured by the NHL Players Association's recent decision to not reopen the collective bargaining agreement after next season -- which means the deal will remain in effect through 2021-22 -- will not have an impact on his approach to contract negotiations, such as increasing the number of years he would be willing to offer a particular player.

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