Why the San Jose Sharks benefit from the Pittsburgh Penguins Struggles in the Metro

Nov 4, 2023; San Jose, California, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins right wing Rickard Rakell (67) skates
Nov 4, 2023; San Jose, California, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins right wing Rickard Rakell (67) skates / Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

The Eastern Conference is a known bloodbath and perhaps the most difficult division in the league since the 2013 realignment is the Metropolitan Division. The New York Rangers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Washington Capitals, Carolina Hurricanes, Philadelphia Flyers, New York Islanders, New Jersey Devils, and Columbus Blue Jackets have been a murderer row of teams during this version of the divisional format. It's got an unintended consequence of teams often being extremely good for a brief window before falling back into mediocrity. The constant change at the top of the NHL is most prominent in this division.

For the purposes of today, the team I want to focus on is the Pittsburgh Penguins. With their struggles during this season, the Sharks are in a prime position to reap the benefits of the struggling roster from the Steel City. This is because the Erik Karlsson trade in the summer saw the Sharks take ownership of the Penguins' first-round pick this year. While it is top 10 protected, the Sharks could get a pick in the early 10s and find another great prospect for their organization.

Currently, the Penguins sit 14th from the bottom in points percentage. Assuming they could not win the lottery, it would give the Sharks the 14th overall pick in the 2024 NHL entry draft. That is a little misleading, though, as they could quickly find themselves as low as 11th from the bottom with a few losses. There's a fine line here for the Sharks. They need to hope the Penguins fall a little bit to gift the organization the 11th overall pick, but not so low that the pick is deferred to next season where it is unprotected.

Situations like this are weird, but the Penguins may look at trying to ship off pieces that they do not think they can re-sign. I'm referring specifically to Jake Guentzel. He's the major piece that might be available at this trade deadline if that is the path the Penguins opt to go down. It could mean that the Penguins drop into the top 10 picks, meaning the Sharks would only have their first-rounder at the draft.