Monday, June 30, 2008

The calm before the storm

Tomorrow at 12 noon, all hell will break loose. Well, not really, but the "free agent frenzy" of teams rushing out to out-bid each other for services of unrestricted players will begin.

For the Penguins there's more unknown than perhaps any other team. They're supposedly the front runners for both Marian Hossa and Brooks Orpik who will both stick their feet in the pool to see how warm the water is. If there’s one thing you should know, it’s the paraphrase of an old H.L Mencken quote: “no top free agent ever went broke underestimating the restraint of NHL general managers”.

As it stands now:


The question marks on the 4th line could be filled with young players from the minors (like Ryan Stone, Tim Brent, Jonathan Filewich, etc) or could be veteran UFAs, whether the Pens can coax back guys like Georges Laraque, Jarkko Ruutu, Adam Hall, Pascal Dupuis or sign new faces to play the bit roles. This shouldn’t be that hard to fill out.

Obviously the glaring need is for skill wings to compliment Crosby and Malkin.




The defense seems decent enough but the glaring hole is toughness. Gill is physical but no others play that game effectively. We’d be shocked to see the Pens try to sign a top defenseman (other than Orpik), since their needs are so much more for skill forwards. It seems like they may be content to go forward with these players (and maybe prospect Alex Goligoski)


By our count the Penguins have spent $33.8 million dollars already accounted for next season which covers 13 players (Crosby, Malkin, Staal, Sykora, Talbot, Kennedy, Gill, Gonchar, Whitney, Scuderi, Letang, Sydor and Sabourin). So the Pens have up to about $23 million (since ownership has authorized them to spend up to the salary cap) to fill out the roster. It should be noted, of course, that Marc-Andre Fleury will either get an award through arbitration or be signed before-hand, so that needs to be taken into mind as well.

After this season the Penguins have four impending UFA’s of note (Sykora, Gill, Scuderi and Sydor). Their contracts will take only $7.22 million off the books, and that following year is when the new contracts for Malkin and Staal, so the front office must keep in mind to buy in a little bit of wiggle room.

Top free agents like the long-term 6-8 year deals, but that’s not what fits the Pens salary plans. They need to target players who will accept shorter deals like Sykora and Sydor did. That might mean they might miss out on a guy who can’t get the most money possible (Marian Hossa?) but it does show there are some skilled players (like Sykora) that they can bring into the fold.


As we identified there are several great targets if the Pens can’t bring back Hossa.

Our preferences:
-Rolston (consistent 30 goal guy with a good all-around game)
-Huselius (imagine him with Crosby)
-Stillman (proven veteran presence and a consistent scorer)
-Naslund (completing the career circle)

Price will always be the decider on if it’s a good deal or not, but if the Pens came out of free agency with two out of those four targets we’d feel pretty good about the complexion of the forward lines on paper.

Buckle up boys and girls, it's going to be a wild ride.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Malone and Roberts are Lightning...And on front loaded contracts

Over the weekend the Penguins traded the negotiations rights for impending free agents Ryan Malone and Gary Roberts to the Tampa Bay Lightning. In return they were given a 4th round pick in 2009 that would become a 3rd rounder if Malone signed.

Well, according to TSN it's a 3rd rounder, as Tampa has signed Malone seven years, $31.5 million bones. That is silly money. Tampa is also said to be close to signing Mr. Roberts for about a one year $2 million deal.

Between Vinny Lecavalier, Marty St. Louis, phenom #1 pick Steve Stamkos, Malone, Roberts, coach Barry Melrose and a couple crazy new owners, Tampa is definitely a team to keep an eye on, if only because one can never quite be sure what wild and crazy stunt they might pull next.

An interesting aside...Malone's deal is front loaded, so he will reportedly be getting about $7 million a year in the first two years before the deal ratchets down to average out to the $4.5 million a season. Perhaps Tampa's willingness to do this for him was a reason why he signed before July 1, as he previously indicated he wouldn't do.

Other notable free agents to sign front loaded contracts include Daniel Briere, Scott Gomez and Ryan Smyth so this has been a fairly regular occurance in the new-CBA. Players obviously like doing this because who doesn't want a big payday as soon as possible. And if they weren't business majors, their agents probably teach them a little something about the time value of money.

For the teams there is also much value in front loading...The top unrestricted free agents tend to be older players and are usually given 5-7 year contracts. Sure their contributions for the first few years should be great, but as they age performance will obviously peak and decline during the life of the deal (particularly for power forwards like Smyth and Malone). By leaving little salary in the contract for the final few years, the players can be bought out fairly painlessly. See example 5 here for a great explanation.

Also the player could be attractive for a trade to a small market team that needs to meet the salary floor. For example, as he contract goes, a 37 year old Daniel Briere will "only" get paid $2 million for the 2014-15 season. But his cap hit is still going to be $6.5 million. By that point Briere probably won't be among the NHL's top point scorers, but for a small market team that needs to spend more money in salaries, his deal will still be $6.5 million against the cap, even though they have to pay him less than 1/3 of that for his play that year.

Front loading contracts isn't a loophole, per se, but clearly it's a crafty way for NHL general managers, players and agents to exploit the collective bargaining agreement for a little wiggle room to make it work best for them.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Announcement of the salary cap shows how much Crosby saved the Pens..

As you've probably seen by now, the NHL and the players association announced that the upper limit for 2008-09 salaries for each team is $56.7 millon dollars.

A player can be signed for a maximum of 20% of the upper limit so Sidney Crosby, who would have been a restricted free agent this summer, could have commanded no more than $11.34 million a season.

Crosby, of course, signed with the Pens last summer for five years and $43.5 million dollars ($8.7 million a season). Players extended have to finish their existing contracts, so Sid played on the final year of his entry level contract in 2007-08; this coming season will be the first where his cap hit is $8.7. If he wanted to stretch the negotiations to find out what his maximum would be, he could have demanded $11.34 million from the Pens right now. And they would have obliged without blinking. Or he could have become a RFA and received an offer-sheet of likely epic proportions from any number of teams.

But Crosby didn't take any of those paths. He locked in to the Penguins taking less than what he could have in large part to ensure the team could have a little more flexibility in filling out the roster around him. Crosby, ever the selfless, humble person and with his mature-beyond-his-years demeanor seemed to realize that if he took the most of the pie that he could take, there wouldn't be enough to even talk about retaining a guy like Hossa and still hope to keep all of Evgeni Malkin, Jordan Staal, Marc-Andre Fleury. At the same time, Crosby is a member of the union and realized that if he accepted too little money it could be used as a glass ceiling for his peers league wide and could keep the amount his brothers got down. Plus dude's trying to get paid and he's basically the face of the league, put in all the marketing campaigns. It's not like he doesn't deserve to be compensated accordingly.

As of now, if Crosby signed five years at $11.34 million it would have been the $56.7 million figure. His overall contract is $43.5, saving the Pens more than $13 million over the life of the deal ($2.64 million a season). And that's assuming that the cap--which has risen every year as league revenues continue to climb, remained at 2008-09 values.

Just something to think about as Penguin free agent properties like Marian Hossa and Brooks Orpik (who've both publicly talked about taking less money or wanting to stay) explore free agency to what would amount to probably gaining a couple million over the life of a contract from another team on the market...It's easy to talk the talk but Crosby has walked the walk by actually putting a pen to the paper to make it official.

Another franchise player that seemingly is about to do the same is Evgeni Malkin. Malkin can't sign until July 1, but if, as indicated, he gives the Penguins about the same break as Crosby the "sacrifice" (if you can call making that much money a sacrifice) will be virtually doubled. The Pens will have essentially have $22.68 million dollars (max contract times two) worth of superstar locked in for the set price of about $17.5 million dollars...That's a discount of 23% and over $5 million dollars in 2008-09 cap space. And as the salary cap seemingly will continue to rise in the future, the discounts the Pens received will only continue to grow.

Body of an American.....Orpik rejects the Penguins

Why wouldn't you sign this guy $4 million plus a year if you're a basement team?

In lieu of recent impending free agent news (Marian Hossa, Ryan Malone, Gary Roberts) it should come as no surprise that Brooks Orpik has rejected the Penguins latest contract offer. At this point, with just a few days left in June before unrestricted free agency, there's no reason for a guy who's trained and played hockey his whole life not to see what's out there on the open market.

Still, it's a little sad to know what was a pretty good offered (rumored to be about $14 million for four years [$3.5 million annually]) was rejected.

We don't doubt what Brooks Orpik said in January when he told reporters:

"I've loved all the time I've had here," he said. "I love the guys here, love the direction Ray [Shero, the general manager] has put the organization in. Everything here is done first-class, very professionally....Some guys get really upset with where they're at, they can't wait to get to July 1 to get out of a situation. ... I've talked with a lot of guys I've played with here who have gone other places, and they kind of wish they could come back."

We honestly believe what Orpik said to be true. But to turn down the serious money the Pens offered obviously shows a difference of philosphy. Maybe it's because Michel Therrien doesn't play him on the penalty kill and has had a frosty relationship with Orpik. That's not the end of the world, coaches and players don't need to be the best of friends and go out for beers after games; they need to win games.

Therrien shoved Orpik in a role of 4th line winger this season. Not because he was necessarily unhappy with Orpik, but he was trying to prove a point.

--Don't run around so much in the zone looking for a hit and opening up room for scoring chances.
--Stop taking so many lazy penalties that might lead to someone to rhyme your first name with an infraction and start a blog off of it.
--Play smart, play forceful.

To Therrien's credit, when Rob Scuderi was injured there was a hole opened up for Sergei Gonchar's partner. He didn't hesitate to plug Orpik in that gap and stuck with it for the rest of the season. Orpik rewarded him by redeeming himself to play the best hockey of his season. No doubt playing with the guy who came in 4th in Norris Trophy voting (and should have been higher than that) had something to do with it. But Orpik performed, he learned the lessons that HCMT was trying to convey and it showed.

At the end of the day though, it's about what the player wants. Despite his relationship with Therrien, Orpik has proven to be a loyal soldier to the Penguins regime and willing to accept whatever role they throw at him. While he rejected the Pens offer, it still seems out of Hossa and Malone, BO would be the most likely high profile UFA to return to the Pens. But to fit under the salary cap with their roster, how much more than the reportedly ~$3.5 million a season can Pittsburgh go? That's your $56.7 million dollar question.

Right now it doesn't seem like July 1 is shaping up to be a good day on 66 Mario Lemieux Place.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Anne Hathaway's ex-boyfriend took Pens owner for a ride

From the New York Post:

The handsome Italian's audacious scheme also allegedly involved hiring a nephew of the Vatican's ex-secretary of state and paying Catholic monsignors to dress in clerical garb of a higher rank to con people into believing he had the ear of top church leaders.

The federal criminal case against Follieri echoes claims made by his highest-profile alleged victim, billionaire California investor and Clinton buddy Ron Burkle.

Burkle filed a civil lawsuit against Follieri that was settled earlier this year.

Prosecutors suggested that the suave, sweet-talking Follieri may have stolen up to $6 million - mostly in funds Burkle had invested with him in a business venture to buy Catholic Church properties.

And we thought the worst thing that could happen to Burkle's money was if sweet-talking agents tried to take him on a ride!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

He'd probably kick an ass or two, that's what Gary Roberts would do

This picture was taken in 1984....It might be the last time Gary Roberts has ever smiled.

Ok, so we're still a little reeling from the fact the a 42 year old who would probably be a 3rd/4th liner has decided to leave the Pens. But it's just not anyone drafted in the same year as Patrick Roy and Mario Lemieux, it's Gary Roberts.

By the way, a sampling of the injuries Roberts has endured in his hockey career (see the link up top to read for yourself)....Broken thumb, whiplash, surgery to repair a severed blood vessel and save the quadriceps muscle, hematoma in left quadricep (severe charley horse), although Roberts broke the thumb in seven places, he missed only one game before playing in Calgary's March 26, 1994 , Missed Toronto's 2002 training camp and start of 2002-03 season while recovering from off-season shoulder surgeries to correct tendon impingement in both shoulders, severe nerve damage in his neck, the degeneration of discs in his neck and resulting bone spurs combined to limit space available to nerves in his spine, Doctors had said that a particularly hard hit could cause discs in Roberts' spinal cord to collapse, and that would leave him paralyzed, broken leg.

With all that said, we proudly present the following selections that come from the Facebook group "Gary Roberts facts". These are the top of the heap (some that we submitted!). If any accidental Chuck Norris facts slipped through, we apologize, but for the most part they're fresh. They're juvenile, silly and needless, but at a time like this they still bring a smile to our face....And hopefully yours...Apologies in advance if you are offended by profanity.

The fate of Harry Potter is the hands of Gary Roberts. Roberts hates books. Potter dies.

Gary Roberts counted to infinite-twice.

A single punch from Gary Roberts gave Bryan Murray that lisp.

Gary Roberts doesn't know what "scoring chances" are because the word chance indicates the possibility of failure. Gary Roberts finishes.

Directly translated from Latin the word "hospital" means a place for people who have pissed off Gary Roberts.

Gary Roberts once took Dorothy Mantooth out to a nice seafood dinner and NEVER CALLED HER BACK!

On February 27th, 2007 the refrigeration system in Mellon Arena broke down. Instead of repairing the aging venue, the Penguins traded for Gary Roberts. Ever since then, the ice has been too scared to melt.

Neil Armstrong didn't travel to the moon, Gary Roberts traveled to the moon.

Gary Roberts goes grocery shopping at Lowe's.

Gary Roberts assists on his own goals.

Chunky Soup will be making commercials with Gary Roberts and his mother. The flavor is based on Gary's diarrhea.

Wayne Gretzkys recorded of 2857 points is a historical inaccuracy, because the NHL stopped keeping track of Gary Roberts' points after he broke 5 billion.

During the '94-95 season, Gary Roberts underwent surgery to remove bone spurs and repair nerve damage in his neck. At his request, the surgery was done without anesthesia.

Jason Spezza came home to find Gary Roberts sleeping with his wife. He then hid in the closet so that Gary Roberts did not see him.

Gary Roberts was born in a log cabin in North York, Ontario that he built with his own hands weeks in advance.

Gary Roberts once convinced a woman to suck his dick, while SHE was driving.

Gary Roberts once drank 64 beers on a cross-country flight.

Gary Roberts won the Stanley Cup with Calgary in 1989. The NHL briefly considered renaming it to the 'Gary Roberts Cup' but reconsidered after realizing that future winners would be too scared to touch it.

Gary Roberts once arrested a police man for giving him strange, suspicious looks.

Gary Roberts hockey stick is made out of human cadavers.

Somebody once tried to make a Gary Roberts cover band, but it is impossible. Nobody can cover Gary Roberts.

Gary Roberts beat Jesus in a game of 3-bar. With one shot.

Gary Roberts freed the slaves.

They tried to make a Clue version of Gary Roberts...but it was always the same answer.Gary Roberts...behind the net...with a fist.

Wilt Chamberlain fucked 10,000 women, unfortunately Gary Roberts fucked Wilt's mom.

Gary Roberts can believe it's not butter.

Wayne Gretzky had it wrong: 100% of the shots Gary Roberts doesn't take DO go in.

Gary Roberts doesn't take face-offs, he takes heads off!

Scientists got it wrong. It's not acid rain, Gary Roberts is taking a leak.

The story of Santa is loosely based on the life story of Gary Roberts. The difference is while Santa delivers presents once a year, Gary Roberts delivers pain, nightly.

Only Gary Roberts would be listed day-to-day with a broken leg.

Since 2001, people have been wondering, "who is the face behind Master Chief's helmet?" You would think the obvious answer is Gary Roberts, but you are sadly mistaken. Gary Roberts doesn't need armor to "finish his fights.

Gary Roberts messes with Texas.

Gary Roberts is the reason that Brian Engblom's hair looks like a dead rodent.

The Alamo remembers Gary Roberts.

World War I started when Gary Roberts checked Archduke Franz Ferdinand from behind.

Heath Ledger died from shock after watching a Gary Roberts career highlights video.

The Scorpions hit song was originally titled "Rock you like Gary Roberts" but censorship permitted anyone being rocked that hard.

Ever wonder what those cables hanging straight down from the ceiling of the arena are? Gary Roberts climbs each one after every practice.

Gary Roberts' jersey number, 10, represents the number of women he has impregnated who were previously considered barren.

Harry Truman is often criticized for dropping the atomic bomb on Japan, when it is obvious he could have gotten the Japanese to surrender merely by sending them a picture of Gary Roberts holding a plane ticket reading "To Tokyo".

Gary Roberts does not ask you "Can You Hear Me Now?" He knows you can hear him.

Gary Roberts plays as the farmer, WITHOUT A WAGON, and ALWAYS makes it to Oregon before you!

“Jeremiah was a Bullfrog” was originally called “Gary Roberts was a Bullfrog” but they later changed the name because Gary Roberts is not friends with anyone.

When Daniel Alfredsson found out Gary Roberts would be sitting out Game 3, his "injury" miraculously "healed" and he was ready to play.

Rt. 28 was closed again today due to a rockslide...Gary Roberts was rock climbing again. (You'll probably only get that if you're fimiliar with Pittsburgh)

Fiji water consists of 100% pure tears of Ottawa Senators fans. That's why it's the only thing Gary Roberts drinks.

In any given arena, there are 542,709 things Gary Roberts can use to kill you. But he usually just uses his fists.

Most players say they started playing hockey for the love of the game. Young Gary Roberts just thought it was cool to have blades on his feet.

There are no such things as tornadoes, Gary Roberts just really hates mobile homes.

Gary Roberts official goal totals are deceptively low because they do not include pucks he has frightened into the net.

While on the Maple Leafs Shayne Corson was caught sleeping with Alexander Mogilny's wife. This upset Gary Roberts and he decided to beat up Shayne Corson. Only Gary Roberts fucks his teammates wives, Shayne crossed the fucking line.

Wonder why no one has seen Kris Beech lately? Gary Roberts ate him.

O.J. didn't do it, Gary Roberts did...and he got away with it

Gary Roberts put the p in pneumonia.

Gary Roberts has asthma because most oxygen molecules are afraid to enter his lungs.

Today in Dallas, a parade was held on behalf of the Stars season. They were the true winners of the series against the Red Wings... They do not have to play Gary Roberts.


The Penguins have qualified all of their restricted free agents to be. The list is: Tim Brent, Ryan Stone, Jonathan Filewich, Paul Bissonnette, Mark Ardelan, Daniel Fernholm and Patrick Ehelechner.

If you're new to qualifying offers, they have to be made to players about to become restricted free agents in order to retain the rights of that player. It's a nominal bump (10% we think) on the salary the player made in the previous season. The players have a couple weeks to sign that offer, or let it expire in hopes of negotiating a higher contract or looking to sign in Europe where older professionals can make more money than being in the AHL.

As JB points out, the ones to keep an eye on are Brent (who had an awesome post-season) and Stone and Filewich….If the Penguins don’t come to terms with guys like Pascal Dupuis and Jarkko Ruutu and don’t replace them, it seems to be a lock that some internal players would fill their positions, and those three are the presumed candidates, unless an unpolished prospect like Luca Caputi or Dustin Jeffrey comes in and has an amazing training camp.

Bissonnette, a feisty player who once skated warmups in the ECHL wearing a professional wrestling championship belt, was thought to be at the end of his line with this organ-eye-zation. He’s got talent but has shown flashes of immaturity and unprofessionalism. But due to injuries he got a 2nd chance as a winger instead of his usual defensive spot and really opened eyes. Bissonnette focused on playing hockey and really impressed the front office, he’s earned his qualifying offer for sure. The other players qualified, Ardelan, Fernholm and Ehelechner are not expected to be in the organ-eye-zation moving forward.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

As some doors close, others perhaps open

We now know that Gary Roberts is looking to move on from Pittsburgh, Ryan Malone is less than a week away from about a $5 million a year offer that can't hope to be matched and Marian Hossa is interesting in at least testing the waters....

But there's other options out there. If the Pens lose important players to free agency they will inevitably be signing others to fill the gaps around their talented nucleus to continue to momentum built in the past two seasons in becoming a perennial contender.

An interesting story has developed out of Toronto: Darcy Tucker has been bought out. On one hand, Tucker is a 33 year old cast out from a struggling team. He plays a grinding game that has surely seen his best years past and his production has fallen each post-lockout year. But on the other hand he still is a player that plays a gritty game (reminsicent of a guy like Roberts or Malone) and still scored almost 20 goals last year on a lackluster squad.

We're not saying the Pens will or should sign Tucker, but it's not too hard to imagine him signing a Petr Sykora-esque deal in terms of money (~$2.5 million) and years (2). Tucker has the physicality and grit to play on an excellent 3rd line with guys like Jordan Staal, Max Talbot and/or Tyler Kennedy....But he also has the experience, sense and hands not to be totally out of place to open up room on the top two lines for Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin.

So chin up Pens fans....The news in the past couple days hasn't been favorable, with Hossa breaking off contract talks, Malone ready to be released into the sea of free agents, no significant news in signing important players like Brooks Orpik, Georges Laraque or Pascal Dupuis...But in the flurry of activity about to break in early July, there will just have to be as many good stories of new beginnings as there will be endings.

Mr. Gary moving down that road

PG breaks news:

"He very much enjoyed his time there," Curran said. "But he understands that Ray [Shero, the Penguins' general manager] has a number of items on his agenda that would take priority."

Curran added that Roberts, 42, "most definitely" intends to continue his career and will decide where after reaching unrestricted free agency next Tuesday.

Seth at Empty Netters, as usual, knocked the ball out of the park with a lot of great youtube clips of some of Roberts most memorable moments.

Before Roberts and Georges Laraque the Penguins were a skilled team that got knocked around, and let themselves be abused. Shortly after the two arrived a new fire and attitude was instilled. You saw guys like Ryan Malone and Brooks Orpik more willing to drop the gloves to stand up for a teammate. We have it on good account that younger teammates got into the “Gary Roberts facts” and were almost as awed by Roberts presence as the fans were.

Roberts may have only laced ‘em up for 57 games with the Pens and was only with the organization for about 15 months, but it’d be hard to find a player with a bigger impact. Even last summer when hockey was over, younger guys (including Sidney Crosby) spent time with Roberts: training with him like the maniac he is, eating is horrifically healthy diet, and yes, we suppose drinking the Fiji water.

So in many ways Roberts announcing his separation from the team and fans that so embraced him is saddening. But Puck Daddy thinks this could be a good thing for the Pens:

But the shock isn't that Roberts is leaving. It's the shock that despite all the Evgeni Malkin free-agent discounts (is that Geno or Gino?), the Penguins team that played for the Cup is effectively dead.
Roberts is gone, Hossa will be gone, any number of other grunts will be gone. (And yet Therrien remains ...) What is lost on many of my Pittsburgh friends is that this is a good thing. Your team was a bridesmaid. Complacency leads to the 2007-08 Ottawa Senators; modification means that the Penguins, going forward, can build a team that will win a Cup rather than one that might. Keeping around a fourth-liner who is two years
younger than the head coach doesn't achieve that goal.

Wyshnyski makes a valid point, change is vital and necessary to get over the top. Roberts would have been, at most, a 3rd line winger, and given his injury history (he’s missed at least 10 games every season over the past six) and age (42), it’s unlikely the salary he’d want would make him a good signing from a pure business perspective.

The Penguins won’t be able to replace his intensity, but they will be able to use what they’ve learned, individually and collectively, going forward.

We've been watching a lot of the Discovery Channel series 'When We Left Earth' and can't help but think of the the metaphor that could be used between veterans like Roberts and the big Saturn V rockets that generated the force needed to go past the bounds of Earth's gravity. Both strong and do their jobs and even though it's jettisoned before the mission is completed, it's the reason you got there....In the future that's how we'll look back at the contributions of Gary Roberts.

If there’s one thing the editor here feels sad for, is not so much Roberts departing, but him doing so after coming so close and falling short of the Stanley Cup. But, sometimes in life that’s the way it goes. So long, Gary, and thanks for everything.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Shooting for the Moon

The Pens took Nathan Moon with their first pick, which might be more impressive if the first pick wasn’t just before the beginning of the 5th round of the draft.

Still, it seems like Moon has a lot more going for him than the usual 120th pick in the draft, perhaps a subconscious reaction by Pens fans since he was the top pick. Here’s how the Faceoff Factor described his up-and-down season and overall game:

Head coach Bruce Cassidy [a former NHL coach with Washington –Ed], one of Moon’s biggest supporters, was fired after a six game losing streak.

Moon continued to produce at a high level, however, things changed as the season wore on. Call it frustration, the loss of a mentor, whatever – Moon and the Frontenacs were stuck in the basement of the OHL and Nathan Moon’s game began to become slightly inconsistent from night to night.

I think overall, for Moon, it’s time to leave last year behind and begin to start working on things to make him a better overall player. Not that Moon is a one dimensional character at this point, but his defensive game needs work. Overall, this was certainly the best player available for the Penguins the 4th round. Moon should have been taken mid to late third, so Pittsburgh comes away with a fantastic prospect way behind where he should have been taken.

Overall, we don’t have much of a reaction. Outside of a few slam-dunk picks, most of the time it’s near impossible for professional hockey scouts and general managers to predict which 18 year old kids will turn into solid professional players 5-10 years down the line. Which is why you often see players like Henrik Zetterberg get drafted way down the list but then have a solid NHL career, while a lot of high picks never pan out to expectations.

It’s an inexact science, to be sure. But, right now there’s a reason Moon was on the board at 120. He’s smallish, had an up and down season. But there is some upside to him to, it seems like you’d be hard pressed to find a guy with the offensive ability and perhaps potential as Moon that late in the draft. That’s a good thing. Time will tell if Moon will pan out and create a nice career for himself or just fizzle away, but in the NHL, that’s the way the draft goes.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Hossa to test free agency

As we said, actions speak louder than words...

“I’d rather take less and play on a good team,” Hossa said. “Hopefully, I can return here and be part of this organization but, with the salary cap, I know
how hard it is. There’s lots of players to be signed, so we’ll see what’s going to happen.”

And now from the Trib:

Marian Hossa has declined an offer to sign a long-term deal with the Penguins and will test free agency.

General manager Ray Shero said today after the NHL Entry Draft at Scotiabank Place that Hossa, a star right wing acquired Feb. 26, will offers his services to other teams as an unrestricted free agent on July 1.

Shero said he is "comfortable" with the offer presented to Hossa to remain in Pittsburgh, though Shero would not provide specifics of terms.

To be fair, we don't know the specifics of what Hossa was offered. Surely it was less than the $8.5 to $9 million dollars a year he will be offered on July 1.

One doors possibly closes and another one opens....There will be other targets out there for the Pens in free agency to look at. Hell we know a guy who's a fast skater and scored 30+ goals the past three seasons in Minnesota of all places that would look pretty good playing with Sidney Crosby.

On one hand it's disappointing to see Hossa reject the Pens offer. But on the other hand, it's not completely unexpected. Plus with a Crosby-esque deal for Evgeni Malkin about to be made, it was pretty much impossible for the Pens to keep all three of them plus the rest of their core (Marc-Andre Fleury, Ryan Whitney) and still round the team out with championship caliber players for too long.

"There's square dancing and trains and, obviously, balloon hats"

That quote above comes from our President....It was just too good not to use.

Gare Joyce says:
Lecavalier and Stamkos: Potentially the best one-two punch at center in the league -- and more salary-cap headaches down the line.

We like Mr. Joyce, but we'd take Crosby/Malkin in 2008 (or any year) over Lecavalier/Stamkos.....Not to rain on the parade, but just sayin'.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Draft update: No update

The NHL completed the first round of the 2008 draft tonight....And the following happened:

  • Evgeni Malkin was not traded
  • The rights to Marian Hossa were not traded
  • The rights to Ryan Malone were not traded

Furthermore, Atlanta took someone named Daultan Leveille with the Pens first round pick to complete the Marian Hossa deal.

So, in exchange for a first-line forward in Hossa (plus a mad-man beard grower Pascal Dupuis) the Pens gave up a plateau'd 3rd line forward (Colby Armstrong), a shootout specialist who couldn't hack it on the skill lines (Erik Christensen), a prospect with no upper body strength and supposedly questionable heart (Angelo Esposito) plus a dude TSN had ranked at 35th overall that respected journalist Bob McKenzie said was "[a] tall and skinny [dude and he] played at a low level".

And Hoss scored 26 points in 20 games. We'll take that trade every day of the week, and twice on Sundays when you're talking about going to the Stanley Cup Finals.

in regards to tomorrow, what you know about pick 120? Hoo-hoo!!!!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Don't blame anyone

Don't blame Malone

Malone made that obvious by issuing statements Tuesday to The Trib ("We will not talk to anyone until July 1") and the Columbus Dispatch ("I don't want any team I go to to give up a possible teammate"), seemingly torpedoing any chance the Pens had to deal his pre-free agency negotiating rights for a draft pick or a player or both.

Translation: I'd rather screw the Penguins than the Blue Jackets.

Malone isn't screwing anyone. Any deal the Pens would have made for his negotiating rights would have surely been contigent on the team acquiring him signing him to a long-term contract. Malone's well within his right's to wait until July 1 to field all offers. He's this close, he might as well go all the way to let a possible 30 teams bid on his services instead of negotiating with just one.

Further, hundreds of players are about to become free agents. Sure their are special situations where an impending free agent like Vincent Prospal getting dealt, but for the most part they all go into the UFA market with no return to their team. Malone is no different, and he shouldn't be faulted for that.

For anyone to suggest more is foolish.

Malkin rumors are ridiculous

There are certain people (rhymes with "Becklund", Bruce Garroich, Larry Brooks) that this blog doesn't often mention. Because they only blow hot air and have nothing to much to offer.

The thing that sucks about the off-season is that there are rumors everywhere and usually action no where.

The latest rumor that's sweeping the rounds, summed up well (as you'd expect) by a solid source like Puck Daddy. In it, Garroich claims that Pens GM Ray Shero has offered Evgeni Malkin to the LA Kings for the 2nd pick in the draft plus forward Mike Cammalleri.

This makes no sense on several grounds...
  • Garroich claims Malkin makes $984,000 a year and the Pens can't afford his salary increase (which won't kick in until 2010-11 by the way). Malkin's base salary is $984k, but his rookie bonuses (and salary cap figure) push his actual salary up to upwards of $3.84 million dollars a year. He's not going to go from under a million dollars to $8-10 million a year, as Garroich seems to suggest.
  • Mike Cammalleri, while a good center (as evidenced by his 80 points in 81 games two seasons ago) makes $3.6 million a year and is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent after this season, where he'll likely be in line for a hefty raise. In other words, the Penguins stand nothing to gain by trading for him.
  • After certain #1 pick Steven Stamkos, the field is wide open for the second pick in the draft. Some like Russian forward Nikita Filatov, who is a skilled and explosive forward, will not have the immediate impact of a Malkin, Sidney Crosby or Alex Ovechkin. Others like a plethora of right-handed big defensemen like Drew Doughty, Zach Bogosian, Alex Pietrangelo or Luke Schenn. But they're all projects and while some will be solid, nothing is promised for a prospect--especially a defenseman at that. Again, trading a legit super-star in Malkin for a prospect offers nothing to a Penguin team looking to get back to the Stanley Cup.

It's a load of crap. As we've reminded readers, the Penguins aren't even allowed to negotiate an extension with Malkin until July 1. And like Malkin said at the award ceremony, he's receptive to a 5-6 year deal that doesn't have to pay him more than Crosby's $8.7 million.

The media keeps feasting and spreading rumors; hoping the Malkin is "tired of being second bananna" or that the Pens can't keep Crosby, Malkin and Marian Hossa long-term (despite the fact that Hossa still isn't signed and may not be). They're looking for angles, but more importantly they're looking to generate newspaper sales and web-clicks and attention....Which is why we don't like to "feed" them by talking about it. The buzz got too strong to ignore.

As has been our message for the past two weeks, whether it's Hossa's alleged re-signing, a so-called imminent Ryan Malone trade in the works or anything regarding Malkin, Jordan Staal or Marc-Andre Fleury: there's a lot of words but not a lot of action. Likely after the draft things will settle a little. Surely after July 1 when players start to sign things will die down more.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Naslund interested in Pittsburgh return?

In what could finally lay those Alek Stojanov nightmares to rest, Markus Naslund apparantely would be considering a return to where his NHL career started in Pittsburgh.

Here's a link: (warning it's in Swedish) which we found by way of the wonderful HFboards.

Someone who apparantely understands the article (which has Crosby's name and a picture of the musatchioed man in it) relayed the following details that we've mashed together...

"What kind of guys I will play with, and what kind of hockey I will play
will be a big decision in my future.....I will play next season, the question is where...I feel very motivated to play in NHL" says Naslund and wont go back to Modo and Sweden

"Money is not the important part, I prioritize the social bit, what type of hockey the team is playing and what kind of players they have....With the uncertainty for the future it was the right decision to sell my house (in Vancouver)" says Naslund.

"Though it might not mean I wont return here"Naslund is an UFA july 1st.Source

"Of course it would be fun to play with Crosby," says Naslund.

Take this with a grain of salt, but it's certainly an interesting development. Talk is cheap and easy, it'll be more impressive if Naslund puts the pen to the paper and joins the Penguins.

However, the Pens (and their fans) should be aware this is a player in decline. His points total as slipped every season since the lockout. Last year he had 30 assists, his fewest in that category since the 1998-99 season. He's gained the reputation of a free-floating player away from the puck that doesn't have much interest in playing defense. As a team leader for the Canucks he hasn't delivered and at turning 25 this summer, Naslund is no spring chicken.

Let's not discount his talent though, this is a guy who scored 55 points this past season and would seem, if healthy to be a lock for 25-30 goals and 35-40 assists on a line with Crosby. Naslund, a natural left winger, would fit perfectly with Crosby. Both are good skaters, have a lot of skill and think the game well. Naslund is selling his house, which we think is significant; for whatever reason it looks like a move from Vancouver is in the cards...And Pittsburgh seems to be on his radar. He mentions money isn't important, but we don't think he's signing anywhere for close to league minimum. Still, the Pens should plenty of money short-term (before Jordan Staal and Evgeni Malkin extensions kick in for 2009-10) to accomendate at least a one year deal.

As usual all we have for you is a lot of speculation and not too much of actual action. But this is a development to definitely keep an eye on. It'd be getting a little ahead of ourselves to imagine a top like of Naslund-Crosby-Hossa next season, but wouldn't that be amazing?

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Columbus not the spot for Malone?

Apologies for TST turning into the "All Taters All the time" network, but there really isn't that much going on in Penguin land at the moment.

Kuklaskorner quoted an interview on Canadian radio with hockey "expert" Nick Kypreos:

Nick Kypreos was just on Fan590 in Toronto and stated Ryan Malone has been telling people that Columbus, along with Toronto is one of the teams he does not
want to play for. Nick feels Columbus is just trying to show an effort to sign a player.

This would make sense. If the Penguins do feel they will lose Malone (and it seems they will) then why not try to trade his rights to another team for draft compensation. Malone though holds a lot of cards, after all he only needs to wait two more weeks and then he can field offers from all 30 teams. A destination like Columbus, who's been one of the league's worst teams (and never qualified for the playoffs) since their inception in 2000 is not the most promising of markets.

As for the Toronto jab, we buy that too. Bugsy is a pretty laid back guy, and there are stretches of the season when he doesn't always produce goals and assists. He'll be one of the most sought after UFA's, but that doesn't mean he's necessarily got the pure skill of some of the other UFA forwards. Why subject yourself to a hockey hotbed like Toronto that demands results every night under an intense media and fan microscope?

We don't doubt that Pittsburgh and Columbus have had talks about exchanging the rights of impending free agents for draft picks, but obviously without the willingness to sign a deal on the part of the player, the incentive for a team like the Blue Jackets to trade is shot.

Even if the BJ's would offer Malone a very reasonable salary (rumored to be $4.5-$5.5 million annually for 4-5 years) it stands to reason other GMs could bump the price up just as high and Malone could play in a more favorable hockey environment like Vancouver, Minnesota or Boston. If we were a player or an agent in Malone's position that's this close to testing the open market, why negotiate with just one team when there's multiple suitors about to fall over each other offering perhaps just as much if not more money.

Wait and see Pens fans, but at this point we're skeptical that any deal goes down. News of Malone to Columbus was broken by the Ohio reporters seven days ago....If a serious storm was brewing, it stands to reason that the teams and players would have an agreement in place by now. With the clock ticking quickly towards the approaching draft (and free agency) it seems the Pens getting "something for nothing" by dealing a guy like Malone or Brooks Orpik is shrinking every minute.

Malone to Columbus Today...Or Wednesday...Or Thursday

More rumblings from Columbus with a now inexact time-table of when the Penguins may trade Ryan Malone's negotiating rights to the Blue Jackets...

A trade with the Pittsburgh Penguins for the negotiating rights to winger Ryan Malone could be struck today or, more likely, Wednesday, NHL sources told The Dispatch.

later in the article...

They would have to do [the trade] by Wednesday, or possibly Thursday, so a contract for Malone could be hammered out and sent to the NHL for approval before the draft.

So there you have it. Ryan Malone to the Blue Jackets today....Or more likely tomorrow. But it'll have to be done by Thursday. Unless the negotiations are a cinch and the BJ's can trade for him on Friday. Unless they want to gamble and trade for him Saturday the day of the draft.....Or maybe Sunday....

(Stick tap to kuklaskorner for the link)

Monday, June 16, 2008

Signing Hossa wouldn't mean losing Malkin

A lot has stirred up recently regarding the Penguins contract situation, the hockey world is eyeing Pittsburgh especially as word has come out the Pens are interested in making a serious offer to retain Marian Hossa.

If, as Evgeni Malkin mentioned himself, his deal is at or below what Sidney Crosby got (5 years, $43.5 million or $8.7 million cap hit) then the Pens are in good shape. Most observers previously said Malkin was going to take $9-10 million a year to sign. If he, hypothetically, signs for about $8.5 million he and Crosby would have combined to leave about $4.0 million dollars on the table for the Penguins to spend on others.*

*Each player can sign for 20% of the salary cap, so Crosby could have gotten about $10.3 million a year if he demanded the max, and if the cap rises, as expected, to about $56 million, Malkin could demand no more than $11.2 million a year.

The additional $4 million in savings is the difference between keeping a guy like Ryan Malone and keeping a guy like Hossa.

Can the Penguins afford to have four players (Crosby, Malkin, Hossa, Whitney) hogging up about $28-29 million and still have to worry about long-term deals for Marc-Andre Fleury and Jordan Staal? Probably. Is it a wise idea? Who knows. The easiest comparision to make is Tampa Bay, who won a Cup but then fell apart with so much of their budget dedicated to a few players. But Tampa was about $11 million under the Cap last year, they were having an ownership sale and obviously were trying to keep liability and costs down to make them more attractive to potential owners.

So our buddy Greg at Puck Daddy suggests that Hossa could be the beginning of the end for Malkin's tenure in Pittsburgh. We don't buy it. James Mirtle MD does point out the reality of signing a few means not much of the pie to round out the team, but we think this is managable as well. Players on entry-level deals are the key. They usually come in around $600,000 and guys like Tyler Kennedy and Kris Letang did well for the Pens this season. In years to come, if the drafting/developing continues, this trend could continue as well.

Looking around the league, dedicating a large chunk of your cap to your important players is becoming a trend. New York Rangers have $21.8 million of their cap allocated to three players (Gomez, Drury and Lundqvist) through 2011-12, the Flyers have $28 million going to five players (Briere, Hartnell, Gagne, Richards, Timonen) through 2010-11 and Ottawa's on the hook for $19 million for their "Big 3".

Given the choice of those players, wed rather have the Pens nucleus. Things will slide into place, we'll just have to see how it turns out. Even if Pittsburgh has offered Hossa and extension and has planned to move on without Malone, none of it has been written in stone just yet.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

If you're keeping score at home

Here's a great contract status chart by JB that shows an early outlook for the organization for next season.

It's assumed the Pens will give qualifying offers to retain Jonathan Filewich and Ryan Stone. But we wouldn't be surprised to see them only bring one back. We'd think the most likely to be cut free would be Filewich. The Pens have a lot of candidates for 4th line duty next year (including UFA's like Adam Hall and Jarkko Ruutu that may very well be back). It'll be interesting to see if the two aging prospects in Filewich and Stone get one more contract to try to make the transition to becoming NHL players.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Making a Hossa push

Rob Rossi from the Trib reports that the Pens have made Marian Hossa their #1 priority for right now and are doing everything possible to get him back.

While news, this isn't exactly surprising to us, and shouldn't be to TST readers. Almost two weeks ago we showed you a hypothetical view of how the Pens could sign Hossa for $7 million a season and still retain the likes of Evgeni Malkin, Jordan Staal and Marc-Andre Fleury.

The biggest factor now, as it was then, is what will Hossa do. Last weekend news was reported that Hossa would be willing to take a little less to stay on a good team. Well if Rossi is correct about the Pens supposed offer of seven years, $50 million, Hossa will have his chance to prove his word. There's more out there for him on July 1st, but he won't have Sidney Crosby or Malkin at a new home.

This same article reports more bad news on the Ryan Malone front. His representatives and the Pens aren't in the same neighborhood salary and it's looking increasingly like he'll hit the open market on July 1. Again, not unsurprising but still a little sad.

Some encouraging news perhaps on the Brooks Orpik front:

Orpik, praised by team officials and coaches and opponents during the Penguins' playoff run, told the Penguins he would accept less than market value for a deal of at least five seasons. Several agents speculate he will command above $4
million annually on the open market.
In our long-term forecast, we hypothetically traded Ryan Whitney for a high draft pick and then signed Orpik long-term for $3.5 million. If the Pens could do the same perhaps they could get a similiar deal. With the likes of Sergei Gonchar, Kris Letang and Alex Goligoski, the Pens have a lot of puck-moving defensemen compared to having physical defensemen (really only Hal Gill).

Things are heating up and it has nothing to do with the temperature. We can only imagine the flurry of activity inside the Penguins front office as they talk to so many different people on a lot of different areas to try to get as many of these pieces back into the fold.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Pens taking Fleury to arbitration

Well, Marc-Andre Fleury, rated the most desirable goalie RFA by some, will not be a restricted free agent this year.

The Penguins are taking him to arbitration. This is a good move by the team, it buys them some time. If Fleury hit the market on July 1, there was a pretty good chance some team might have given him an offer sheet of a ridiculous amount of money. The Pens would be in the uncomfortable situation to match it and pay more than they wanted to, or let Fleury go and since Ty Conklin is a free agent, have a huge hole in the depth chart at goalie.

Arbitration, which runs from the end of July to early August buys more time to negotiate before the hearing. Players and teams can make comparable analysis, meaning only RFAs can be used. We think this is good for the Pens, after all Carolina's Cam Ward is the same age and has similiar stats and, oh yeah a Stanley Cup. Ward signed $8 million for 3 years ($2.66 million cap hit). Buffalo's Ryan Miller got that same contract three years ago and had similiar numbers/regard as Fleury does now.

Both sides will probably be looking for a long-term contract in the weeks to come, but by taking Fleury to arbitration, the Pens have essentially just pulled him out of the fire and won't allow other teams to even think of making an offer.

Uhh, what games are these guys watching?

The good doctor Mirtle had the details of the professional hockey writers association (PWHA) votes for the NHL All-Star Team that they name...Guys at the top of the list who deserved to be their (Ovechkin, Malkin, Iginla, Lidstrom) are obviously all there.

But go down a little bit and it gets goofy.

Sidney Crosby gets a 2nd place vote as a right winger? Crosby's never taken a shift at ring wing in his NHL career. Someone out there gave a 2nd place vote to Wade Redden (maybe they didn't know they're supposed to be ranking them from the top) and others gave 3rd place votes to Jassen Cullimore, Joe Corvo and Robyn Regehr. Dany Heatley (a left wing) got a couple votes for right wing and his linemate Daniel Alfredsson (a right wing) got some votes for playing left wing. Up is down and left is right!

We understand these guys aren't choosing a Pope or nominating Supreme Court Justices but geez take a little pride in knowing the sport, eh boys.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Hold your sides, it's time to laugh

Malkin Rumours [sic] continue to surface as talk is that he is looking for a HUGE deal in the area of 10 years 100 million. I would be careful to buy into these rumours [sic]...but I do know that every team out there would put a bid in on a player who may be the best in the world someday. I don't see him be moved by the draft. One rumour has him going to the LA Kings for a MAJOR package of players. Another has him going to Toronto. A third, going to Dallas. While I hate to dismiss rumours [sic] ever, I think we need to see where this is going first with his contract.

There's a reason no self-respecting blog ever mentions the name of Eklund, but this is just too good to pass up. (Quoted emphasis ours).

Point one: We can at least kind of see the logic in "Whoa there" Pierre McGuire spouting off talking about Malkin getting traded to the Kings. At least with young players like Dustin Brown, Anze Kopitar, Alex Frolov and Jack Johnson (plus the second pick in the draft) the Kings could--if they wanted to--throw enough talent in the direction of the Pens to draw interest. But hockey is a team sport. Say Malkin got a high ankle sprain like Sidney Crosby did this season...They'd be screwed.

But Dallas or Toronto? Toronto? What in the world would they have to offer? Nothing. Absolutely nothing of interest (no offense, Dallas).

Point two: As the terms of the collective bargaining agreement go, Pittsburgh is not even allowed to talk extension with Malkin (or Jordan Staal) until July 1. Rumors of Malkin already wanting out are putting the horse way before the buggy.

Point three: No one--aside of Malkin and his agent-- knows what he wants. Malkin said, on record, that he liked the money per year Alex Ovechkin got (and who wouldn't) but that Gino didn't like the length. And there's nothing to fault in that...If the salary cap continues to rise, as it has every year, AO left a lot of money on the table compared to what he could have received. Not that there's anything wrong with what he signed, after all the man is guaranteed $124 million over the next 13 years and that's more than anyone else in the sport of hockey (or 99.9% of the general population) can hang their hat on.

Who's to say Malkin wouldn't extend for $8 million, $8.7 million, $9 million or $10 million? And would he sign on for 3, 4, 5 or 6 more years? The point is, no one really knows right now. If Malkin wanted $24 for three, he'd get it. If he wanted $34 for four, he'd probably get it. If he wanted $45 for five, he'd probably get it. The elite stars of this league basically write their own contracts. It's what Ovechkin did by adding on the final seven or eight year on a whim at the las minute and it's what Crosby did by getting his average up to $8.7 million per year. That's the way it works.

And, even if Malkin signed 10 years, $100 million and the Pens wanted/needed to trade him (or he requested it) in three or four years, would that dissuade a suitor from getting a guy who's still very young and would be arguably the best offensive player in the game? Doubt it. But then again it's doubtful this situation ever makes it out of hypothetical.

Of course, if Calgary calls up and offers Dion Phaneuf, Jarome Iginla and a host of first round picks, we'd help Malkin pack his bags for the Northwest. No one is untouchable, to be sure. But why in the world would Calgary (or anyone else with the value to pull the trigger) make such the disproportionate deal in favor of the Pens to make it happen?

In conclusion, Eklund is an idiot and anyone who thinks that Malkin is interested in playing away from Pittsburgh, his buddy Sergei Gonchar and even further outside of his North American comfort zone next year and the years to come is probably smoking something you'd get in trouble for selling on the streets.

Congrats Alex!!

Uhh, yeah, best player in the league this year....You da man?

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

NHL Awards....Sweater Ted Style

**Note: We predict playoff series on who we think will win....We're giving these awards on who we think OUGHT to win. Big difference***

Vezina Trophy: Top goalie
Nominees: Matin Brodeur (NJD), Henrik Lundqvist (NYR), Evgeni Nabokov (SJ)

--All three were absolute workhorses, appearing in at least 72 of the 82 games for their teams. Lundqvist has a mostly "no name" defensive core and an offensive unit that struggled early on in the season. Nabokov lead San Jose to another great year, winning the most games of any of the nominees. We're going for Martin Brodeur here. The two time Vezina winner was said to have been a product of New Jersey's defensive system, but seemingly every year retirement or free agency has taken about every piece of the puzzle away. Brodeur is the constant. Brodeur is the reason that NJ is in the hunt every single year, the numbers don't lie.

Lady Byng Trophy: Most Sportsmanlike
Nominees: Pavel Datsyuk (DET), Jason Pominville (BUF), Martin St. Louis (TB)

--This award should be re-named "player who scores a lot of points but doesn't rack up a lot of penalty minutes" because that's basically what it is. Datysuk had 97 points and 20 penalty minutes, Pominville had 80 points and 20 PIMs and San Louie had 83 points and 23 penalty minutes. So we're picking Pavel Datsyuk, he's dangerous in the offensive zone and mindful enough without the puck to be good, but gentlemanly. Whatever that means.

Masterton Trophy: Perseverance to the sport of hockey
Nominees: Chris Chelios (DET), Jason Blake (TOR), Fernando Pisani (EDM)

--Blake played through cancer this season, Pisani dropped a ton of weight and missed the beginning of the year with the disease colitis and Chelios has dedicated himself to hockey through 46 years of age. We think Jason Blake's condition was probably the toughest of the three to fight through, and statistically he had the best season (82 games, 15 goals, 37 assists). Despite being a disappointing free agent on a disappointing team, Blake showed up every night and that's pretty inspiring. The Masterton is a cool award because every team gets a nominee, and the stories that are around, be it through guys fighting through injury, illness or just dedication deserve the honor and recognition that goes with it. So, as corny as it sounds, there's always 30 winners of the Masterton every year if you think about it.

Frank Selke Trophy: Top defensive forward:
Nominees: Pavel Datsyuk (DET), Henrik Zetterberg (DET), John Madden (NJD)

--Votes are cast for these awards before the playoffs, but from watching the Stanley Cup finals, there's no doubt in our mind who the finest defensive forward in the league is. Collect your award Henrik Zetterberg.

Jack Adams Award: Best head coach
Nominees: Mike Babcock (DET), Bruce Boudreau (WAS), Guy Carbonneau (MTL)

--For the longest time we were leaning towards giving this award to Carbonneau. He's coaches in, after all, arguably hockey's hottest pressure cooker in Montreal and when not many experts predicted him to make the playoffs (and his GM traded his top goalie for a draft pick at the deadline) and the Habs ended up the #1 team in the East for the regular season. Babcock has a thankless job, if he wins it's expected due to the strength of his team, but if they lose it's his fault and all the "monday morning quarterbacks" come out of the woodwork to second guess his decisions. After significant thought, we're giving the award to Bruce Boudreau. He breathed life into essentially a dead team and they responded, going 37-17-7 and winning their division on the last night. A story that could have been written by the folks at Disney, the middle age coach finally getting a chance at the top level with a last place team who turns them into a success.

Norris Trophy: Top defensemen
Nominees: Zdeno Chara (BOS), Nicklas Lidstrom (DET), Dion Phaneuf (CGY)

--Lidstrom captained his team to a President's trophy (and Stanley Cup), Chara was the captain of an upstart Boston team that defied expectations and made the playoffs and at age 23 Phaneuf has the movie-star girlfriend, youtube highlight reels and all-around game to be at least a pretty constant nominee for this award for next decade plus. At the end of the day though this one is going to be a runaway for Nicklas Lidstrom, when it comes to the best defenseman in the game, he's clearly got to be #1 on everyone's list..

Calder Trophy: Most proficient rookie
Nominees: Nicklas Backstrom (WAS), Patrick Kane (CHI), Jonathan Toews (CHI)

--The key word is proficient. Backstrom had a great year, a player capable of keeping up with Ovechkin and feeding him sensational passes. Pat Kane, the youngest of the three at age 18, fired up a dormant city of Chicago with his offensive genius and ended up with the most points of the three. Toews suffered an injury and ended scoring fewer points (but more goals!) than any candidate. When Toews was out, coincidentally or not, the wind was taken out of the Blackhawks' sails and it took them out of playoff contention. Toews also scored what we feel is the goal of the year just two weeks into the season. That doesn't figure into consideration for this voting, but hey. We're picking Jonathan Toews for the Calder. While no one in the hunt would be a bad choice, he was just a little above the rest.

Hart Trophy: Most Valuable Player
Nominees: Alex Ovechkin (WAS), Evgeni Malkin (PIT), Jarome Iginla (CGY)

--Iginla is the classic captain; on a given shift he's just as likely to help his team by dishing a big check, scoring a goal, setting up a goal or dropping the gloves to stand up for a teammate. We've been talking for months about how Malkin put the Pens on his back when Sidney Crosby went down with injury and really became a true superstar. But you can't argue against 65 goals and 112 points. Alex Ovechkin was the man every night, his team counted on him every game down the stretch to produce and he answered the bell almost every night. He was simply the most forceful, explosive and tremendous player in the game...This year.

Lester B. Pearson Award: Most outstanding player (as voted by the players)
Nominees: Alex Ovechkin (WAS), Evgeni Malkin (PIT), Jarome Iginla (CGY)

--We're not an NHL player so we don't have a vote. But if we did it'd go to Alex Ovechkin for the same reasons as we listed in the Hart.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Sunny side of free agency...

The Penguins have more unrestricted free agents of consquence than any other NHL team this summer. Since you're probably interested in hockey by your reading of this blog, this is not a news-flash. Players will be departing, and that will draw a lot of attention. After all, we've cheered for these guys, followed their career paths for years and some will be finding new places to play.

But in their place will come others. Ray Shero has had some success in bringing in vets on short-term contracts (Petr Sykora, Gary Roberts) and some ones he'd probably like back (Mark Recchi, Darryl Sydor). Who's this year's candidates?

We're anticipating, as of this moment, the Pens need three skill players to fill out their top six forwards. We're only counting on Sykora, Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby to be the top forwards this fall. If Ryan Malone or Marian Hossa re-signed that would be awesome, but let's even think of them as goners for the time being. The Penguins have about $27 million committed to 11 roster players for next season. They'll want to leave wiggle room for deals for Marc-Andre Fleury and big contracts that will kick in the following season (Malkin and Jordan Staal), which is why they can't just appease guys like Malone and Hossa with longterm contracts today.

Keep in mind the below named aren't a list of players that will end up in Pittsburgh, just a little exercise to keep our minds off of the subtractions and look to new additions...

So here's some skilled forwards set to be unrestricted free agents that would look good lining up on Crosby or Malkin's wings next fall.....But then again, who wouldn't look good on those two's wings?

  • Cory Stillman (OTT, $1.75 million)-- Ottawa has alot of money locked up in a few players (Spezza, Heatley, Fisher, Alfeddsson) and still needs deals for Meszaros and Vermette. Stillman scored 24 goals and had 41 assists between Carolina and Ottawa last season and has two Stanley Cup rings. At age 34 he's veteran but not too over-the-hill. He's a pretty reliable bet to have about a 25 goal/45 assist season.
  • Brian Rolston (MIN, $2.432 milion)--Rolston's scored 30+ goals in all three seasons since the lockout. Even at age 35 he's an extremely fast skater, is defensively orientated and probably has one of the top ten slapshots in the league. He's got the wheels, hands and hockey sense to keep up with Crosby.
  • Ladislav Nagy (LA, $3.75 million)-- The Penguins are going to have to be almost like the Oakland A's in finding talent; sometimes it has to come with a defiency or two. Nagy has knocks against him: he's doesn't seem to give his maximum effort every night, he's not a playoff performer and this will now be the third team not too devastated to see him leave. Nagy does have a ton of skill and age 29 he's a lot younger than most other UFAs.
  • Vinny Prospal (PHI, $1.9 million)-- Prospal is a very consistent and steady offensive player. This past season was his best too in terms of goal scoring with 33 between stints in Tampa and Philly. Prospal seemed to run out of gas when he played the Pens, but was a diference maker in series before it.
  • Kristian Huselius (CGY, $1.4 million)-- Huselius seemed to be forever in the dog house in Calgary but look at his average season over the past two years (29.5 goals and 42 assists) and it's hard not to be impressed by the numbers. He rode shotgun with Jarome Iginla, so playing on a line with a star wouldn't be anything new.

If the Penguins lost Malone and or Hossa but were able to reload with a name or two off the above list for a reasonable rate and term, it might not be the end of the world.

Of course, there's still a lot to play out, the real "fun" of speculation, signings and shock hasn't begun yet. But just remember, for every loss there's going to have to be a replacement to fill the ranks. How Shero finds them will obviously go a long way's in determining the mentality and set-up of the team for this season and the years to come.

Pens looking to get something from nothing?

Interesting whispers have come out of Columbus, namely the Columbus Dispatch writer Aaron Portzline's blog:

The two clubs have had preliminary trade talks, the Dispatch has learned. The discussions have involved Pittsburgh trading the rights to one or two of their pending unrestricted free agents -- players the Penguins have decided they can't keep because of the salary cap -- to the Blue Jackets for draft pick or player

It's unclear who the players are, but Ryan Malone and Brooks Orpik seem like logical choices. Hey, why not Marian Hossa?

My guess is the Blue Jackets will be giving up draft picks. I don't think anything is imminent. Right now, Penguins GM Ray Shero has to be sweating it out deciding
who he's going to keep or let go...When he figures out how he's going to build the roster, the trading could commence.

The conventional wisdom each summer is that talks won't get serious until the draft gets underway on on June 20. But that's not true anymore.

We agree that if anything would happen, it's probably going to be more towards the draft day, and the return for Pittsburgh almost certainly will be draft picks. The Penguins gave up their first three picks to acquire roster players (1st for Hossa, 2nd for Hal Gill and the 3rd to get Georges Laraque last year).

At this point, the key word in the quoted artice is "preliminary". We wouldn't imagine anything is imminent, Shero's probably looking at all possibilities open to him. There is a history to this, right before the "silly season" of free agent signing in 2002 a couple of deals were made. The only one we can remember off the top of our head is Toronto sending UFA to be Tie Domi to Nashville for an 8th round pick. The rationale was a loop-hole in the old CBA that a low budget team like Nashville would get a compensatory pick for losing Domi (who ended up going back to Toronto) and Toronto got a little extra. Toronto, we believe, wouldn't have stood to gain a compensatory pick had they lost Domi because they spent too much money on salary and weren't eligible for the pick under the terms of the previous CBA.

Back to present day, this makes sense for the Pens. If initial talks with Malone or Orpik showed the players were asking for more money than Pittsburgh could budget, or if the players were interested in seeing just how much they could get when 30 teams bid on their services, Pittsburgh doesn't get much when they walk. At least by trading the short-term rights to a UFA to be, they could receive a needed draft pick in two weeks.

By that same token, if the player really wanted to test the open market, what good would it do to trade his rights for conditional draft picks that likely won't come to pass. And while the article specifically mentions Malone, Orpik and Hossa, the Penguins have a host of other impending free agents (Laraque, Adam Hall, Pascal Dupuis, Jarkko Ruutu and Ty Conklin, among others). Perhaps Columbus specifically contacted Pittsburgh about getting a leg up on everyone else when it comes to getting a chance to negotiate with a lesser light. It's pure speculation on our end, of course, but right now no one seems to know much of anything.

We're not sure how the NHL would respond to a conditional trade like this--they weren't happy about the Toronto/Nashville shenanigans back in 2002-- but something would be better than nothing. Plus the last CBA was hundreds and hundreds of pages of legal mumbo-jumbo that dozens and dozens of lawyers wrote, proofread and tweaked. With examples like the 2002 loophole still a little fresh on their minds, we think if they wanted to close it, it would have been done. But then again compared to the major issues of that document (salary cap, defining revenues to be shared, etc) this couldn't have been too prominent on the radar.

And say, who was the assistant GM back in Nashville that would have knowledge of this practice to be keyed in? The very same Shero. This will be an interesting development to watch unfold.

Also last season it might be relevant to point out that the Preds dealt to UFA to bes (Kimmo Timonen and Scott Hartnell) for a first round pick last summer, so it seems recent precedent would be in favor of this deal to happen.

Where there's smoke there's not always fire, but since this is coming from a non-rumormongering source that's actually based in the other city, we won't flat out dismiss it as trash.

Eyes and ears open Pens fans, business is most assuredly about to pick up.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Maybe we have been thinking hockey too much....

Upon checking Yahoo this morning our eye went straight to this headline...

"Tips to fix broken fans"

Sadly, upon clicking on the link (which we now can't seem to find) they were talking about the repairing the kind of fans that cool you down in the summer, not dealing with a heart breaking sports loss.

Also while on yahoo trying to find the fan link (we swear!) was this: 15 Hotties With Facial Hair

Say, didn't they miss someone.....

Pieces of the puzzle for 2008-09

Here’s what Shero is dealing with….If next season started today, here’s how the Pens lineup looks (for players under contract or at least RFA's-to-be). Consider this basically your first look at the Pens lineup for 2008-09:




*Fleury is the most notable restricted free agent. Staal and Malkin have contracts for next season but will likely get extensions this summer…But of course you knew that…

As you can see, we’re projecting right now that Ryan Stone, Jonathan Filewich and Alex Goligoski make the jump from the minors to the show. The more obvious point is the glaring holes at skill forward positions. Plus questions on if the defense is deep and physical enough to get back to where everyone wants to be.

Roughly the Penguins could have about $25-30 million to make it happen. You could sign guys like Marian Hossa and Ryan Malone for that. But the kicker is that guys like Fleury, Malkin and Staal will be making more in the years to come. That’s where the issue of signing a guy like Malone or Hossa long-term just doesn’t jive. The Pens might be able to afford paying big bucks for one year (while Malkin/Staal are on entry level contracts) but there’s no room to fit them long-term. Plus, due to the nature of the business (and namely guaranteed contracts) it’d be foolish for a guy a Hossa to take a 1 year deal when another city will offer him 6, 7, 8 years. If he were to blow out his knee while on that one year contract, there wouldn’t be the safety net of that guaranteed contract.

Needless to say, it’ll be interesting to see how Shero handles filling out the roster. He’s done well to sign his veterans (like Sykora, Sydor, Gary Roberts) to just one or two seasons in a time where the rest of the league it largely handing out huge terms to players. Shero’s most pressing immediate need is obviously finding some skilled wingers for Crosby and fitting guys like Malkin, Fleury and Staal into the contract jig-saw puzzle. Hopefully the signings will be of the more effective Sykora variety than the largely ineffective Sydor signing, which is going to eat up $2.5 million on the cap if he’s not bought out/traded/retired behind a barn somewhere.

Depth wise, a guy like Max Talbot could jump up and play 3rd line wing or if the Pens re-sign Pascal Dupuis or another like-minded grinding, defensively aware, hard working winger that should suffice there. The biggest and most pressing concern is making Line 1 not look like a helicopter (because it has no wings!) and trying to get Marc-Andre Fleury under contract before another team gets the chance to present him an offer sheet.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Former Pens in the NHL 2007-08

One of the features we had at this blog’s infancy last summer was a re-cap of those ex-Pens who laced ‘em up for another NHL team in the season before. It was well received, so we did it again.

Former Pittsburgh Penguins who played in the NHL in 2007-08

Anaheim Ducks

Atlanta Thashers

Mark Recchi (19 games, 2 goals 6 assists with Pittsburgh, 53 gp, 12 goals, 28 assists for 40 points with Atlanta)
--After dropping Sidney Crosby’s anchor on the top line, Mark Recchi was claimed on re-entry waivers by the Thrashers. Recchi got the chance to play with some good players and made the most of it, picking his production up. Recchi is now a free agent, and at 40 doesn’t have much gas left in the tank. We get the feeling he could have somewhat a productive season (like 15-20 goals and 35-40 assists) in the right situation…The question is, will an NHL team be willing to give him that.

Chris Thorburn (73 games, 5 goals, 13 assists, 92 PIMs)
--Thorburn is a scrappy lower line winger. Players like him are a dime-a-dozen but do fill important roles on every NHL roster. The Pens received a 3rd round pick (defenseman Robert Bortuzzo) from Atlanta at last year’s draft and the Thrashers got a fairly solid feisty NHL’er. Thorburn is a RFA so it’ll be interesting to see if Atlanta wants to qualify him this summer or let him go find another place to play.

Colby Armstrong (54 games 9 goals, 15 assists with Pittsburgh, 18 gp, 4g 7a with ATL)
--Much has been written about the trade sending Army to Atlanta. He played well with the Thrashers and figures to be an important part of their team in the years to come. Armstrong is under contract next year ($1.2 million) and is at a career cross-roads. Should he play well and produce points he’s likely to get a pretty lucrative long-term deal. If he fails to establish himself, he might bounce from organization to organization in the years to come.

Erik Christensen (49 games, 9 goals, 11 assists with Pittsburgh, 10gp 2g 2a with ATL)
--Crusher is one of the best shootout specialists in the NHL. He’s got arguably one of the best wrist shots in the whole league. But he hasn’t established himself either yet at the NHL level. A knee injury after the trade sidelined him and again kept him from becoming a top 6 center. EC is under contract for the relatively reasonable rate of $750k next season and surely Atlanta is hoping for a breakout performance.

Joel Kwiatkowski (18 games, 0 goals, 5 assists)
--Kiwi played one memorable game with Pittsburgh [ed. Note: not that memorable] in 2006-07 and then was on the team’s playoff taxi squad in case of injuries. Kwiatkowski remains a good puck moving defenseman that just can’t stick in the NHL permanently. But he remains a valuable NHL/AHL swing player and is a UFA for any team to pickup this summer.

Johan Hedberg (36 games, 14-15-3 record, 3.46 GAA, .892 save %, 1 shutout)
--Hedberg will always remain a beloved figure in Penguins fans eyes for his performance in 2001. He got stuck in a pretty brutal situation in front of Atlanta this year and his numbers tell that tale. Most observers agree that he was better than those numbers indicate; he played a lot when starter Kari Lehtonen missed time with injury. Hedberg is now a UFA and Atlanta has promising young netminder Ondrej Pavelec knocking on the door for an NHL job soon so it’s likely “The Moose” will have to find a backup job somewhere else.

Boston Bruins
“Anyone But” Glen Murray (63 games, 17 goals, 13 assists)
--Murray keeps chugging along in the NHL, surpassing the 1000 career games played milestone this past season. Boston is still on the hook for $4.15 million in 08-09 so it’s likely he’ll be in this recap for one more season.

Andrew Ference (59gp, 1g, 14a, 1 lost fight to Sidney Crosby)
--Ference is the prototypical post-lockout defenseman; small, mobile and a decent puck mover. He’s not a name-sake player, but a good one nonetheless. As mentioned above, Ference’s 07-08 season (and possibly career) might be best remembered for the footnote of being on the receiving end of Crosby’s first NHL fight.

Buffalo Sabres
Jocelyn Thibault (12 games, 3-4-2 record, 3.31 GAA, .869 save %)
--A stint in Pittsburgh helped revive Thibault’s career, but his performance in mop up duty with Buffalo wasn’t the best. Thibault’s a UFA again and has to see what the market looks like for him.

Carolina Hurricanes
--no former Pens

Calgary Flames
Wayne Primeau (43 games, 3 goals, 7 assists)

--Primeau keeps filling the important niche of being an energy lower line forward. He also has now 90 career NHL playoff games (Mario Lemieux, by comparison had 107). No real meaning behind that stat, just something we found interesting and surprising.

Chicago Blackhawks
Robert Lang (76 games, 21 goals, 33 assists)

--This marks Lang’s eight straight season of at least 50 points. He’s done this with now four different teams. Lang is not an inspiring player, nor a particularly dynamic one. But the numbers can’t be wrong; he’s been good at staying healthy and putting up about 20 goals and 30-35 assists for a long time now.

Patrick Lalime (32 games, 16-12-2, 2.82 GAA, .897 save %, 1 shutout)
--Lalime will forever be remembered for his blistering rookie start, holding out and subsequent trade and falling off the map. But he’s still around and still playing relatively well. He’s now 34 years old and set to be an unrestricted free agent. His reputation proceeds him but it seems he’s played well enough to be offered an NHL job somewhere out there.

Columbus Blue Jackets
Dick Tarnstrom (48 games played, 3 goals, 11 assists between Edmonton and CBS)

--The last player to lead the Penguins in scoring before Crosby and Evgeni Malkin found a new home and a little new lift in Columbus. Tarnstrom remains one of just eight skaters (out of 34 that Pittsburgh used) still in the NHL from that dreadful, dreadful 2003-04 season.

Colorado Avalanche
--no ex-Pens

Dallas Stars

Stu Barnes (79 games played, 12 goals, 11 assists)
--Stu Barnes remains another ex-Pen that many still hold in high regard. He’s not tall, not particularly skilled but made an honest career out of hard work and being in the right place at the right time. Barnes has been great for Dallas’ system and played well. But he’s 37 years old now and it’s unsure if this UFA to be will find a job playing in the NHL next season. If this is the end of the line for him, it’s a career of 1136 regular season games and that’s nothing to be ashamed of.

Sergei Zubov (46 games, 4 goals, 31 assists)
--Sergei Zubov has now been in Dallas for 11 years. Seems like a life time ago when he spent his one season in Pittsburgh as an offensive defenseman that’s style didn’t mesh well with Lemieux. Now, even at age 37, Zubov is still one of the best defensemen in the league and has one of the finest two-way games. His transformation (as well as what could have been) never ceases to amaze us.

Toby Petersen (8 games, 0 goals, 3 assists)
--We’ve talked about Petersen before. He’s a little diabetic guy that can’t stick in the NHL but can take a decent shift or two.

Detroit Red Wings
Mikael Samuelsson (73 games, 11 goals, 29 assists) (5g, 8a in 22 playoff games)
--Samuelsson was acquired in the blatant Alexei Kovalev salary dump-off at the trade deadline in 2003. He played 22 career games with the Pens and had 2 goals and 0 assists. The Pens let him slide away and I thought he wouldn’t stick around in North America much longer. Samuelsson went to Florida for 2003-04 and back to Europe to play during the lockout. That time was good for him, as for some reason Detroit offered him a contract and in 2005-06 Samuelsson was a 20 goal scorer in the NHL and has been an important 3rd line player for the Red Wings. Credit them for transforming his game, or at least recognizing the change that he made.

Edmonton Oilers
--no ex-Pens

Florida Panthers
Noah Welch (4 games played, 0 goals, 0 assists)
--The trade bait dangled for Gary Roberts suffered another frustrating season. Welch, with all his talent, size and potential just hasn’t been able to establish himself at the NHL level. Welch didn’t appear in any AHL games this season; we believe he suffered a shoulder injury that pretty much wrecked his season. Now 26 years old, Welch is signed for next season to once again try to put something together at the NHL level, lest he become another victim of the curse of Greg Malone.

Los Angeles Kings
--no ex-Pens

Minnesota Wild
--no ex-Pens

Montreal Canadiens

Alex Kovalev (82 games, 35 goals, 49 assists)
--In 2006-07 Kovalev looked miserable, scoring just 18 goals and 47 points and becoming a universal whipping boy in the hockey hot-bed of Montreal. Many were wondering if he, at age 35, he was washed up. To his credit, Kovalev re-dedicated himself to achieving a high fitness level, changed his attitude and was the driving offensive force behind Montreal’s best record in the Eastern conference. Personally AK-27’s 86 points were good enough for 11th in the league in scoring. Kovy’s got one more year on his contract with Montreal, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that it will be his last in the NHL.

Tom Kostopolous (67 games, 7 goals, 6 assists, 113 PIMs)
--The “original” TK had a very interesting year. He provided a spark plug like energy for his new team. He got arrested. Then come playoff time he scored 3 goals (one a game winner) in 12 games. But Kostopolous let his emotions get the best of him when he blindsided Philly’s Kimmo Timonen in the face after the Flyers had sealed Game 2 in that series. The Canadiens would lose the next three games and get sent packing and many point to TK’s loss of control as the emotional turning point of the series for both teams.

Interesting side fact that may only interest us: Kostopolous (28 years old) now has 298 career NHL regular season games played. Brooks Orpik (27) and Ryan Malone (28) have 297 and 299 career NHL games played respectively. Kostopolous bounced around more, but we were surprised that he’s played almost identical games as Orpik and Malone. That says something good about the niche TK has been able to create for himself at the NHL level.

Nashville Predators
--no ex-Pens

New Jersey Devils
--no ex-Pens (Ian Moran did play 12 games for their AHL affiliate though, so that warrants at least a mention!)

New York Islanders
Jon Sim (2 games, 0 goals, 1 assist)
--Jon Sim played 15 games for the Penguins but earned a cult following. Internet lore termed the phrase “Jon Sim will eat your soul”. Sim seems to score a lot against the Washington Capitals but only played two games this season in any league. We think injury had something to do with it, but aren’t to sure. Expect the soul eatings to resume next season.

Richard Park (82 games, 12 goals, 20 assists)
--Park, a former Penguin draft picked, scored 2 goals (one short-handed, one on the powerplay) and 2 assists against his former team. He’s drawn our ire for seemingly elevating his game against the Pens. And the stats backed it up, Park shot the puck more times against Pittsburgh than any other team he faced in 2007-08. Dammit, Richard Park is still pissing us off.

Andy Hilbert (70 games, 8 goals, 8 assists)
--The Pens picked Hilbert up at the end of the 2005-06 season and he scored 18 points in 19 games (mainly riding shotgun with Sidney Crosby). Many fans thought this flash-in-the-bottle chemistry meant that Hilbert should be retained and kept with Crosby. They didn’t understand that it’s not that Hilbert is good, it’s that that Crosby guy is.

New York Rangers

Jaromir Jagr (82 games, 25 goals, 46 assists) (10 playoff games, 5g, 10a)

--It’s no secret how we feel about Double J. We were raised on the guy, and as mercurial as he is, we will always respect him. He’s in contract negotiations now with the Rangers and seems to want to return to Manhattan. Many thought after a frustrating year that he would go back to Europe, but Jags was awesome in the playoffs; easily the most assertive offensive player that the Penguins went up against in the post-season. He might have broken his streak of 30 goal seasons, but JJ still has a lot in the tank.

Martin Straka (65 games, 17 goals, 25 assists)
--“The Waterbug” is still ticking in New York, he was the glue that held the Ranger forwards together. Straka will turn 36 before next season starts and is an unrestricted free agent. If the Rangers re-sign Jagr it seems like a lock that they will want to bring Straka back for on and off ice reasons.

Michal Rozsival (80 games, 13 goals, 25 assists)
--Rozsival set a career high in goals scored this season for the Rangers. His transformation from a somewhat suspect defenseman with injury issues to being a legit top four defenseman on a good club has also been pretty amazing. Rozy is an unrestricted free agent now and probably in line for a pretty good (and well deserved) payday from some team. He’s great on the powerplay and has been reliable enough in his own zone.

Ottawa Senators
Shean Donovan (82 games, 5 goals, 7 assists)

--Donovan is another player that’s valuable to NHL teams; he won’t make the cover of the media guide but he will be a guy busting his tail and working hard on lower lines and penalty kills which, as we know, can benefit the team as much as scoring goals. Players like this are essential, but essentially replaceable since there are so many players who bring the same thing to the table. This is why guys like Donovan seem to bounce around the league so much. And look at that, he’s a UFA this summer and could very well be in a new town.

Randy Robitaille (68 games, 10 goals, 19 assists)
--Robitaille had statistically one of his better NHL seasons in 2007-08. He’s a fringe guy with some skill, but seemingly never enough to stick in a full-time role.

Interesting side fact that may only interest us: Randy Robitaille played 81 games as a Pittsburgh Penguin in parts of two seasons. The most heralded Robitaille (that being Luc, of course) only played 46 games with the Pens in 1994-95. The two are unrelated.

Philadelphia Flyers
--no ex-Pens…They do have RJ Umberger who grew up in Pittsburgh, if you didn’t remember from being told thousands of times during telecasts…

Phoenix Coyotes
Matt Murley (3 games, 0 goals, 1 assist)

--Murley’s almost like a Toby Petersen type player: he can and will score about a point-per-game at the AHL level (62 points in 76 games there this year) and be a difference maker there. But he just hasn’t had the needed skill, luck, consistency (or some combination of the three) to be thought of as a regular NHL’er.

Pittsburgh Penguins

Unrestricted Free Agents: Marian Hossa, Ryan Malone, Brooks Orpik, Jarkko Ruutu, Georges Laraque, Adam Hall, Pascal Dupuis, Ty Conklin, Gary Roberts, Jeff Taffe, Kris Beech, Nathan Smith, Connor James, Mark Eaton, Alain Nasreddine, Ryan Lannon

Here’s hoping that if any of them make this season re-cap next year playing on another team it will be filled with words of positives…Except against their old team, of course.

San Jose Sharks
--no ex-Pens

St. Louis Blues
Micki Dupont (2 games, 0 goals, 0 assist)
--Micki Dupont might be John Slaney’s younger brother. Both are very talented and skilled defenseman that are great skaters and move the puck very well. Both put up huge numbers at every level….Except the NHL

Tampa Bay Lightning

Michel Ouellet (64 games, 17 goals, 19 assists)
--Coming off a 48 point season in 2006-07, Ouellet got a two year contract from the Lightning. However a shoulder injury this past season hampered our former friendly garbage-man’s production. It was something of a throw-away year for the Lightning in general though. It’ll be interesting to see how another new coach for Ouellet works out for him.

Andre Roy (63 games, 4 goals, 3 assists)
--Andre Roy got sent home from the team for a week in March for going mental during a game and basically trying to attack opposing players and fans alike. The night that Crosby injured his ankle, Roy decided to score 3 out of his 7 points on the year to lead the Lightning to a 3-0 win. This blog’s editor really should let things go, but sometimes useless knowledge like that just sticks.

Karl Stewart (9 games, 0 goals, 0 assists)
--Here’s where you’d find a recap about Karl Stewart if we knew anything to write or if you actually would have bothered to read it. Hooray Karl Stewart!

Toronto Maple Leafs
Dominic Moore (68 games, 5 goals 12 assists combined between Minnesota and TML)

--Moore’s set to be a UFA and could be on the move again. He’s a heady forward, good at playing D and unspectacular. He’s another one of those guys that teams like having on their club for the most part, but don’t go out of their way to retain him for too long.

Vancouver Canucks
Markus Naslund (82 games, 25 goals, 30 assists)

For some rationalization to make Pens fans about this monstrosity of a trade, let's play a game of point/counter-point

Point!: Naslund’s stats have been sliding for the past five seasons, he got paid $6 million last year and couldn’t even lead his team to the playoffs.

Counter-point!: Alek Stojanov hasn’t been listed in professional hockey for the past seven years.

Yep, we harbor no ill feelings for that anymore...

Washington Capitals
Matt Bradley (77 games, 7 goals, 11 assists)

-- Washington has decided that Bradley, the proverbial NHL plugging forward, is a part of their future and core of their team when they gave him a three-year contract recently. Good on him, he’s a hard working player that seems to be well liked and respected in a fairly young Washington dressing room.

Whew, that's it. From the stars like Jagr and Kovalev to the obscure like Dupont and Stewart, there's your list of former Penguins who appeared in an NHL game in 2007-08. If we missed someone, please call us a moron and point out the mistake in the comments. Huge credit to hockeydb, nhlnumbers and The Pensblog images and the fine folks who made the,