The Pittsburgh Penguins Win First Back-to-Back Championships Of The 'Salary Cap' Era

The Pittsburgh Penguins are once again Stanley Cup champions, with a twist. When I wrote my preview of the Final, I failed to realize that the current iteration of the NHL is known as the "Salary Cap Era". So, not only did Sid and the gang hoist the Cup for the second consecutive year, they are the first team to do so since the league's salary cap came into existence after the 2004-05 season-killing lockout. The last team to win back-to-back Cups was the Detroit Red Wings in 1997 and 1998.

Win is Almost Anti-Climactic

If you're a hockey nerd, you are absolutely salivating right now. In addition to the annual Entry Draft taking place at the United Center in Chicago on June 23rd and 24th, there is an Expansion Draft on Wednesday, June 21st that will stock the incoming Las Vegas Golden Knights for their inaugural season. If you click the link, you will see that there is all manner of maneuvering to be done between now and the twenty-first of June. Teams must finalize their lists of protected and unprotected players so Vegas can have its pick of what will likely turn out to be some pretty impressive talent. Gone are the days when expansion teams were expected to be basement dwellers for their first handful of seasons. Now, hitting the ground running is the only acceptable option. Growing pains will not be tolerated.

The greatest amount of intrigue currently surrounds Penguins' goaltender Marc Andre Fleury. Back in February, Fleury agreed to waive his no-movement clause, which means he will either be traded or exposed in the expansion draft. So, if there are no takers, Fleury could end up backstopping for Vegas. Each team, by the way, must leave one goaltender exposed, and after Matt Murray's impressive play over the past two seasons, all eyes point to "Flower". Fleury is 32 with a year remaining on his current contract, and a $5.75 million hit to the salary cap.

Sid Surpasses Mario

With his third Stanley Cup win, and second consecutive MVP nod, Sidney Crosby now has one more championship than his former mentor and current boss, Mario Lemieux. His calendar year has included two Cups, 2 NHL MVPs, and a gold medal and MVP in the World Cup of Hockey. Those are some pretty impressive feats. It is pretty much a foregone conclusion that he will take his place among the greats of the game, perhaps surpassing the 'Great One' himself as the greatest of all time.

I can't help but remember the buzz on Crosby before he was drafted by Pittsburgh in 2005. The hockey world referred to him as the "Next One", meaning he was poised to become a superstar at the level of Wayne Gretzky. Twelve years later, he seems to be well on his way, but in the Salary Cap Era, which makes it near impossible to cobble together dynastic teams similar to Gretzky's Edmonton Oilers, and their predecessors, the New York Islanders.

The Preds Have a Bright Future

While the Nashville Predators played their hearts out, they couldn't quite overcome some questionable refereeing (I'm being kind), along with a few devastating injuries. Still, the team has some depth with players like Filip Forsberg and Colton Sissons, leadership in the form of Mike Fisher, a character for the ages in P.K. Subban, and a stellar goaltender in Pekka Rinne.

But, please... enough with the catfish.

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