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.