Monday, June 25, 2007


From the Pens site:

Executive Vice President and General Manager Ray Shero announced Monday that the Pittsburgh Penguins have extended qualifying offers to the following Group II free agents: Colby Armstrong, Ryan Whitney, Erik Christensen, Maxime Talbot, Ryan Lannon and Tim Brent.

The following Group II free agents were not made qualifying offers and will become free agents as of July 1: Michel Ouellet and Andrew Penner.


I heart Ray Shero :)


I just want to say this about those who are saying that the Pens want Ouellet back at a lower price. His contract was $500k this past season, meaning his qualifying offer would be $550k, $100k above the LEAGUE MINUMUM of $450k.

If a team you scored 19 goals for doesnt want to even retain the right to talk to you at $100k above the minimum, that says a lot.


Thursday, June 14, 2007

Off Season Game Plan Part 2

The off season is a time of hope for every team where they try and fill out their needs with free agents looking for the right fit (read as “money”). This year the Pens will be no different in trying to address those needs.

However, the Pens will NOT be big spenders. Forget names like Drury, Gomez, Giguere not even because of need, but because of the cap. With Crosby, Fleury, Malkin, Staal and Whitney all due new contracts within the next two years (Whitney this year), Ray Shero needs to be very cap conscience this year as to save enough room for these guys in the future. You can’t spend six million on a top flight player when you will have Crosby and Malkin, and possible Fleury and Staal making top flight money very soon.

I’ve heard some suggest it would be good that instead of getting two second tier guys get one big name. Well the problem with that is 1) you now have less depth and less cap room for depth and 2) if you need to get rid of the guy it becomes that much harder. Plus, do you really think we have room to add a $6 million player when you will probably have Crosby, Fleury, Malkin and Staal taking up half your cap?

This leaves the so called “second tier” players available to the Pens; players who often play on the second scoring or defensive pairing units. Look for a few of these guys to be signed .

This entry will cover the players that will be available and in the Penguins target salary ranges for what they need.


The Pens offense this year was generated mostly by Crosby, Malkin, Staal and Recchi. Recchi is fading and the other three are natural centers, though Staal looked fine at wing. Christensen has skills, but he doesn’t adjust well on the wing and he needs scoerers to help him, not Ruutu and Laraque. Ekman was a bust and won’t return and Ouellet is completely dependent on skilled players (and being prone) to produce. There is no one in Wilkes Barre that is capable of filling in the top line wings that the Pens really need to fully utilize Crosby and Malkin. Look for at least on free agent winger to be added this off season.

Scott Hartnell, Nashville
Hartnell may never be the player he was supposed to being drafted at 5th over all, but he is nonetheless good after a slow development. The biggest buzz around him is that he will be the first player in the NHL that hits free agency at a young age (25) under the new CBA. This youth, paired with a 25 goal year, will make him a commodity, especially to those who can’t afford the Drury’s on the market. His scoring and grit and age could easily price him out of the Pens range as a bidding war could easily ensue for him.

Dainus Zubrus, Washington/Buffalo
Zubrus was a chronic underachiever until he was put on a line with Ovechkin. When traded to Buffalo his scoring stopped. It’s no coincidence the only time in his career he scored was with Alex. When he’s not leaching off Ovechkin he’s playing stupid and once in a while hitting. He shouldn’t even be considered.

Scott Walker, Carolina
Walker would add some good secondary scoring for the Pens, but at 33 they may want someone younger. That shouldn’t rule him out though as in addition to scoring his leadership is something else the Pens need.

Peter Bondra, Chicago
Bondra is nearing the end of his effectiveness, and money would be spent better elsewhere.

Todd Bertuzzi, Florida/Detroit
Too much baggage, and supposedly a disruption in the locker room, exactly what the Pens don’t want with a locker room that is growing up together. We all want a power forward, but Bertuzzi isn’t worth it anymore.

Kyle Calder, Philadelphia/Detroit
After last year, would you really want to take the gamble?

Petr Sykora, Edmonton
I have always liked the way Sykora has played, but he has struggled since being dealt from New Jersey. However, at $2.5 million last year, I think he would be worth the money, providing good second or first line scoring. I would take a long look at him.

Jeremy Roenick, Phoenix
I really just want to mention that if I ever see this man in a Pen’s uniform, I will throw up. No, seriously, I will be sick if this cheap shotting hypocrite ever disgraces our uniform by putting it on. With luck this guy is done and gone.

Owen Nolan, Phoenix
While he had a pretty good year, he is past his prime and little more than a checker who can score some. Money is better spent elsewhere.

Richard Zednik, Washington/New York Islanders
He really hasn’t shown much in a few years, and seems to be injured more and more. I don’t really think he could be of much help.

Bill Guerin, St. Louis/San Jose
Geurin had a resurgence this year, but faltered in the playoffs. I think on better teams he can no longer keep up with the top players. If there are no other options, okay but otherwise look for someone better.

Yanic Perreault, Phoenix/Toronto
Yanic had another solid year with scoring and face offs, the latter being of most interest to the Pens. At this point I wouldn’t mind him on the third line center, but it’s possible he just can’t be fit in as 4th line duty is definitely not a fit for him. We do need to get better on face offs.

The Pens defense proved to be as abysmal as ever in their own zone. It says something when Sergei Gonchar is your third best defensive defenseman. The Pens need to dump both Melichar and Scuderi as both hurt the Pens much more than they helped last season. While the Pens won’t be bringing in big names like Souray or Tommonen, like the offense look for some second tier guys to fill in the voids on defense (I think “voids” is a very fitting word).

Scott Hannan, San Jose
Hannan has been an underrated stalwart on the Shark’s defense for many years. He is very physical, albeit a bit slow, and very sound defensively. He is definitely the kind of player you want on your defense. Hannan will be one of the marquee defenseman on the market this year after all stars Timmonen and Souray, so the bidding for him could get steep and knock him out of the Pens price range.

Ossi Vaananen, Colorado
Vaananen is big at 6’4 220 lbs. While he won’t go out of his way to hit people, he nevertheless adds a physical presence the Pens lack on the blue line outside of Orpik. Vaananen is also capable of moving the puck some, and he could fill in on the second power play unit well enough. He is rather sound defensively, but don’t mistake him for a top pairing guy.

Vitaly Vishnevski, Nashville
Vishnevski bounced around this year, being dealt to the Thrashers at the start of the year and to Nashville at the deadline. This bouncing around could hurt his open market value, and admittingly he has not been as good under the new rules. He is a strong physical presence and reliable in his own zone but offers nothing in the way of offense. He would be a cheaper alternative than someone like Vaananen or Hannan, but also not as good. I can assure you though he is in fact a significant improvement over Melichar and Scuderi.

Cory Sarich, Tampa Bay
Sarich is big and strong and can provide some much needed physical play on the blue line while not be reckless about it. He was an under rated member of Tampa’s blue line, and definitely wasn’t one of the problems. He should be seriously considered.

Nolan Pratt, Tampa Bay
While nothing to write home about, Pratt can nonetheless give you some good minutes. If the free agent well starts going dry, give him a look.

Tom Preissing, Ottawa
Preissing stepped up his game this year and helped Ottawa make the cup finals. At 28, he is at an age where he can still improve some and you don’t have to worry about age until his contract ends. The Sens cup run though may inflate his value.

Teppo Nummien, Buffalo
Teppo has been solid again since the lockout, but at 36 you can’t expect him to keep it up. I like him, but keep with someone younger.

Greg Devries, Atlanta
Devries is aging, but could still be effective. However I think the Pens should go after someone who will be around longer than he will.

Andy Sutton, Atlanta
I only mention him because his name has popped up in rumors. Sutton is a #6 version of Eric Cairns and nothing else. They should absolutely stay away from him. If you’re not convinced just ask Atlanta fans whoa re happy he is hitting free agency.

Roman Hamrlik, Calgary
Hamrlik was proven to be a solid defenseman on both the Island and Calgary. If he can be signed rather cheaply around $2 million (which my guess is no) then he could definitely help the Pens on the second power play unit, and he’s decent in his own end. Beware a long term deal though as his decline may start soon.

Brad Stuart, Calgary
I’d love to have him, but his age (27) and skills will price him out of the Pens range.

Jon Klemm, Dallas
Another stay at home who isn’t flashy, Klemm could definitely help the blue line. I do wonder when his decline will begin though. If his demands are reasonable, I would consider him.

Danny Markov, Detroit
I was surprised he went unsigned for so long last year. Markov is a hard hitting defenseman who is good in his own zone. He is definitely a physical presence forwards need to look out for. But buyer beware, he is often injured.

Aaron Miller, Los Angeles
Miller has been showing signs of his age the past few years, and I expect that to continue. However, as a cheap short term fix he wouldn’t be a bad idea.

Janne Niinimaa, Montreal
He would have been an upgrade over Melichar, but then so would I. He has completely lost his touch under the new rules, something you wouldn’t expect from a fast offensive defenseman. Stay away.

Brad Lukowich, New Jersey
Lukowich wouldn’t be a bad idea, being solid if unspectacular in his own end. If he’s cheap, why not?

Sean Hill, Islanders
Hill had a good season for the Isles after a poor season with the Panthers. But which would you be getting? He would add grit and leadership, but his age is a major concern.

Craig Rivet, Montreal/San Jose
Rivet was pretty solid for Montreal, but was very good for San Jose. If his demands are reasonable, he should get good consideration as his stability is much needed on the blue line.


Friday, June 1, 2007

Pens Offseason Outlook Part 1: Who to Keep

The Pens head into the off season with only eleven players signed to contracts. I will review which players, broken up by free agency status, the Pens would be best to keep and let go. This will be the first part of two for the Pens off season plan, the other covering what free agents the Pens should seek out and why.

Unrestricted Free Agents

Gary Roberts- Roberts proved to be more valuable than anyone would have guessed. Even Shero was surprised. His strong work ethic fit right into the Pens mentality and he provided much needed grit and leadership, not to mention a mean streak, to the young squad. Shero has already stated they will talk extension which is good, they need Roberts. A two year deal should definitely be considered.

Mark Recchi- Recchi started off well enough but really trailed off at the end. Age is catching up and Shero has already said he would like Recchi back in a reduced role. Key words: reduced role. If they give him a one year deal at about half of what he makes now ($2.28 million) than by all means bring him back in that reduced role. But I think he has lost too much to be a top line player on a regular basis.

Nils Ekman- No one expected 30 goals from Ekman, but they expected about 20. We didn’t even get half. Despite his speed Ekman just wasn’t able to mesh with anyone and had the worst +/- rating on the team. Therrien refused to give him chances to redeem himself after his injury so I don’t see either side wanting him to return.

Ronald Petrovicky- Petro showed great chemistry with Ruutu, but sadly was not used as much as he should have been. He added speed and grit and while he couldn’t burry the puck he did create some chances. I’d like to see him back, but if not I won’t be broken hearted as his players tend to be a dime a dozen.

Joel Kwiatkowski- we know as little of him now as when he arrived two months ago. I don’t see him sticking around at all.

Josef Melichar- Get out. Just get the hell out and never come back. I feel bad a shoulder injury pretty much ruined Melichar’s game, but he proved to be the worst player on the team this year. He contributed nothing at all the whole year and will not if resigned. Again I must mention that his injury and the win streak coincided.

Rob Scuderi- you were better than Melichar, but not by much. Though to Melcihar’s credit he wasn’t scoring or directly assisting the other teams goals. Scuderi did something good every once in a while, but not enough to make him a serious part of the defense. There are others I would rather have as the seventh defenseman.

Alain Nasradeinne- Nazzy proved to be pretty solid in a limited role. He was responsible and there was no reason he shouldn’t have gotten a shot in the playoffs. I’d like him to stay on as the seventh defenseman as he can jump in and help from time to time.

Eric Cairns- He’s played less than a minute all year due to an ankle injury and post concussion syndromes. For a guy that makes his living beating people up, that’s very dangerous to have. I honestly think his career is done, and with the acquisition of Georges Laraque I don’t see the Pens keeping him.

Jocelyn Thibault- Thibault rebounded this year for some strong play when it was needed. I like Thibault, but I would not bring him back for what he’s making now. If he wants to take about half, ok, otherwise let Schaeffer take backup. I can see some teams being interested in his services this off season.


Colby Armstrong- how could you not like the beaked, “eh” spouting grinder whose as white as the snow in his homeland? While his offense was minimal he killed penalties, made some hits and often pissed off the other team. It was a hell of a sophomore slump he had but he’s young and can improve. He should definitely be resigned.

Ryan Whitney- Whitney is quite possibly the most improved player on the team this year and will be looking for a raise over his $900k contract. I bet most don’t remember that after he finished school he signed an entry level contract with no bonuses so he could get signed in time to play in Wilkes Barre’s post season. I don’t see contract negotiations with him being a problem.

Maxim Talbot- How can you not love this guy? Fast, funny and feisty, he is everything you want in a bottom line player. He is good on the PK and chipped in some points here and there. Even his offensive skills improved as he showed signs of flare that made him a scorer in juniors. He should definitely be kept.

Michel Ouellet- the subject of Therrien’s affection who despite adding little to nothing the whole season was treated with utter favoritism. I think it would be best if the Pens sign him to a qualifying offer and deal him to another team. Someone will see 19 goals and think that he wasn’t completely reliant on other talent or remaining motionless tos core them. The sad thing is his skating was improved from the year before and still Laraque could skate circles around him. I honestly don’t think he will ever be a good enough skater to maintain a spot in the league, especially since he is so ill fit for bottom line duty.

Chris Thorbun- Thorburn played very well the first half of the year, but could not get into the line up the second half. He is only 24 years old so I think it is way too early to give up on him. Even if not played every game I think he can develop into a solid 4th line guy.