Unless they make some sort of trade (still very possible) or make some additional small free agent signings (also possibly possible), it seems likely that the Pittsburgh Penguins have already made most of their midseason additions. They haven’t made any major moves and appear to be taking a more long-term approach with their direction.

So the next step is what they plan to do with the handful of players in the squad who are entering the final year of their contracts and are now eligible for a new contract extension.

Let’s take a look at them and try to figure out what the Penguins could — and perhaps should — do with these players.

We exclude all players who signed a one-year contract this offseason and only look at players who played for the Penguins last season.

Sidney Crosby: Re-Draw

The most important of the upcoming free agents is of course the captain.

I’m a little surprised that the Penguins and Crosby didn’t sign new contracts on July 1st, as soon as they were eligible to play. I find that remarkable, to say the least.

Is Crosby waiting to see what happens this season?

Is he waiting to see what direction the team is actually going in before making a decision about his future?

Will his competitiveness win out over his desire to finish his career with a Penguins team headed in the wrong direction?

I still think it’s a matter of when, not if, he eventually re-signs, and that should still be the Penguins’ goal. Not just for sentimental reasons and for everything he’s done for the Penguins, but because he’s still a great, elite player who shows little sign of slowing down. He should have a few more very good years.

Marcus Pettersson: Shop

Now we get into an interesting discussion.

Pettersson is one of the Penguins’ best defensemen, and if we’re being honest, he’s probably one of their best players left at this point. He may not be a huge presence on offense, but he can be a great defensive player when he’s at his best and he’s still on the right side of 30. That makes him a rarity on this roster.

It also makes him one of the most sought-after players when it comes to trading chips.

If the Penguins are really thinking long-term and about the future, Pettersson could give them a very solid return.

It’s also worth pointing out that, given the market for similarly skilled defenders, his next contract probably won’t come cheap. I just don’t know if A) he’ll be worth it and B) you want to be the team that pays that price.

His contract includes a list of eight teams that cannot be traded.

Lars Eller: Shop

This is a very easy decision and honestly I’m a little surprised he hasn’t been traded yet.

He’s still a very good defensive center and was one of the few offseason additions from a year ago that really worked out. But he’s turning 35 this season, has no real long-term prospects here, and is still good enough (and cheap enough) that a lot of teams should be interested in him.

He should be able to give them at least a second round pick.

Furthermore, they now have Kevin Hayes in the squad for two years and you can expect him to play a part in the bottom six during that time.

Drew O’Connor: Re-sign

Even though O’Connor isn’t really a core player, or someone you should build around, I think he’s a good player and worth keeping. He’s still quite young, he’s taken a nice step forward in 2023-24, and while his production can be a bit inconsistent, he’s still shown that he can score 15-20 goals over a full season.

You still have to build a squad of competent players, and O’Connor can certainly do that, but it probably won’t be an exorbitant price.

Considering his age, I think he has more value to them as a mid-table player than as a trade item.

Have him sign again.

Jesse Puljujarvi: Let’s wait and see

Puljujarvi should get a real chance this season to see what he can do. Make it a trial year for him and see if he fits as a potential mid-term answer. He will never be a star at this point, but I think he has enough positive qualities defensively and with his ability to drive possession that you should be able to find a role for him. No reason to rush to re-sign him. No reason to give him away. See what he can do and make your decision after the season.

Matt Nieto: Shopping (or Let Him Walk)

Nieto has one year left on his contract with a $900,000 salary cap hit, which is next to nothing. There’s little to no incentive to re-sign him, as he doesn’t really add much that you can’t replace with any number of potential available free agents next season. Get him, and if you can’t find a deal, just let him walk as a free agent after the season.