Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Roster dogfight shaping up

Now that things have settled down quite a bit for the Penguins, the roster has started to take shape.

Today, with the official signings of Kris Beech, Bill Thomas and Ryan Stone, the Penguins have pretty much rounded out most the candidates to start the season in Pittsburgh. The team still has restricted free agents Tim Brent and Jonathan Filewich to deal with, however neither of those players have much leverage or incentive for a holdout and ought to sign contracts well before training camp opens.

Let's take a look at the forwards, as a roster battle to make the trip to Sweden..

Safe bets (11):
Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Jordan Staal, Petr Sykora, Miroslav Satan, Rusty Fedotenko, Maxime Talbot, Matt Cooke, Pascal Dupuis, Tyler Kennedy, Eric Godard

Wild card* (1):
Janne Pesonen

Bubble players (7):
Beech, Brent, Filewich, Connor James, Chris Minard, Thomas, Stone

Don't forget, the Penguins currently have 8 NHL level defensemen on the roster, and that omits prospect Alex Goligoski. If no moves are made--and given Ray Shero's mentality of having about 10 NHL capable defensemen in the organization--it seems likely the Penguins could start the season with 8 blueliners on the roster. Add the two goalies to the standard 23 man NHL roster, and by our math roster and that just 13 forward positions (only 1 scratched a night).

So it's pretty clear a lot more players bubbles will burst, sending them back to the AHL in early October then dreams realized. Also, it's probably important to note that while Godard is listed as a safe bet to make the NHL roster that doesn't necessarily mean he'll be in the lineup on opening night.

To say the least it'll be interesting to see which players in the log-jammed group of fringe players can elevate their games in camp to bring the amount of speed, toughness, skill, responsibility away from the puck that management will look for in filling out the lineups.

*Some Pens fans and observers have already pencilled Pesonen into a role playing Crosby or Malkin's wing. We're not comfortable enough to plug in a 25 year old who's played his entire career in an inferior league into such expectations. Don't get us wrong, we're intrigued by the idea of adding the Finnish scoring champion, but as of now, he's a wild card. Perhaps a skill winger, perhaps he can add some customary Finnish effort (and a little skill) to a 3rd line, perhaps his overall skill set or smallish size won't be able to measure up to the different rinks and playing style of the NHL. At this point, any scenario could be possible.

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