Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Follow-up to a story you probably don't remember

Long time keen minded readers (if we have any), might remember that former Penguin Tom Kostopolous got arrested this past summer in a bar incident with his Montreal teammate Ryan O'Byrne.

Well, since it's summer and literally nothing else is going on, we saw on KK that charges against O'Byrne have been dropped.
Somewhat humorously (as far as run-ins with the law go) O'Byrne was accused of stealing a purse at a bar in Florida. The cops came but O'Byrne said he thought the purse belonged to his ladyfriend. Supposedly the old TK wouldn't back down from the po-lice nor be quiet when told to, so he got the hook as well....Charges against him were dropped soon after the incident.
Come to think of it, it's been a long year for those few and proud Captains of the Wilkes-Barre Penguins, because "Kosty" wasn't the only member of that fraternity to get arrested.

Sykora training with Straka, is delusional

Cool translation of an interview at Steel City Sports Fan with Petr Sykora...

Q: Thanks to Satan signing you don’t have to be that disappointed about the loss of the productive Slovak Marian Hossa. Is that so?

A: I take it a little differently. For me, it’s better that Hossa left, because now I should get back on the first power-play unit again. That’s the best place how my productivity can help the team.

Crosby and Malkin should be locks playing up front on the #1 PP (we've had enough of Geno playing the point, a position he doesn't like and isn't as good at). While Sykora could be the third foward there, it could also be Satan, arguably the same player or a big body in front of the net like Jordan Staal or even Rusty Fedotenko.

It's just summer so we'll see what happens but it sounds like Mister Sykora may have his hopes raised if he thinks he's got a spot on the top PP unit.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Malkin and Gonchar staying busy

Last summer Sergei Gonchar and Evgeni Malkin trained in St. Petersburg Russia and both had great seasons. Gonchar, a notoriously slow starter from his early years in Washington, particularly played well. Need proof? The first two months of the 2007-08 season the Sarge put up 24 points in 23 games, better than the 17 point in 23 games in 06-07 and 12 points in 22 games for the 05-06 season.

This summer the pair of Russian Penguins are seemingly participating in similiar activities, as they're playing in a tournament August 1-6 in St. Pete, along with a fellow by the name of Alex Ovechkin.

It's interesting that Malkin and Ovechkin are taking another similiar path. Ovechkin has been friendly and open about Malkin's talent and ability, all the while saying it doesn't matter if his opponent is Russian or Canadian. Malkin has been a little frostier towards his countryman; once saying the relationship between the two were "teammates" (as in the Russian National team), not "friends" as the reporter suggested in a question.

Hockey is a tight knit circle and we assume there's not too much world class training going on in summer in Russia so the two will likely be in close quarters again. It'll be interesting to see what if any reports come to this side of the world about the participation of some of the biggest NHL stars in the world right now.


As a rule, pretty much anytime we can get the opportunity to talk about Matt Barnaby, we're gonna do it. He's always been among our favorite hockey players considering the character he showed carving his way to a solid NHL career despite deficits in size and all-around talent. Sean at going five hole thinks Barnaby could the the replacement Mullet for ESPN.

We like this, Barnaby is good for TV. He is young, has the look, is fairly well-spoken and has pretty humorous stories and we think would do a good job. Hockey obviously doesn't have the biggest profile on the "World wide leader" but they've shown a little more exposure to our beloved sport lately. So thumbs up to Barnaby joining ESPN in some capacity.

Also, apologies again for the slowness around here....Horrifically casa de Hooks is lacking internet and television right now as we wait for installation of the wonderful Verizon FiOS in all it's high definition splendor. For now, however, we wait. Side effects of this technology down-time have included increased human interaction, depression, loss of the will to live and strange compulsions to venture to strange places such as outside and to bookstores...

..Told ya it was horrifying.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Any worth in summer power rankings

ESPN really loves the power rankings, don't they. Well since Pittsburgh is #1, we suppose we'll bite..

1. Pittsburgh PenguinsNever mind the absence of Marian Hossa, Ryan
, Jarkko Ruutu and Georges Laraque, the Penguins still have the most formidable lineup down the middle of any team in the NHL, with Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal, plus an emerging elite netminder in Marc-Andre Fleury.

2. Montreal CanadiensMany folks will pick the Habs to win the East next season, but Carey Price will have to prove he's over this spring's playoff meltdown before we hop on that train. Sundin will make that bandwagon pretty crowded if he signs on with the Habs.

3. Philadelphia FlyersWhat do Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, Braydon Coburn, Daniel Briere, Kimmo Timonen et al do for an encore after going from 30th overall in 2006-07 to a berth in the Eastern Conference finals? How about a return trip?

4. New York Rangers The Rangers have been flirting with contender status for three seasons now, and they'll have a dramatically different look with Wade Redden, Nikolai Zherdev and Dmitri Kalinin in and Jaromir Jagr, Shanahan (we assume) and Martin Straka out. Different, but not necessarily better.

5. Washington Capitals OK, the defense is still a little suspect and there's Jose Theodore in net, but this Caps team can light it up with any team in the league.

6. New Jersey Devils We put the Devils here because they're always better than we expect they'll be. This will be true again with the addition of Brian Rolston and the continued growth of an underappreciated blue-line corps.

7. Carolina Hurricanes Yes, the Hurricanes have missed the playoffs twice in a row after winning the Cup in 2006, but they missed the cut by a single point this spring and have improved themselves along the blue line with the addition of Joni Pitkanen. If healthy, they're a playoff team.

8. Tampa Bay Lightning The Lightning will be much more imposing offensively this season with the addition of Malone, Radim Vrbata, Gary Roberts and Adam Hall. Defense is young, and goaltending is unproven. Still, a playoff team in the mediocre East.

--We agree that right now, on paper, it looks like Pittsburgh and Montreal at the top. But on paper and on the ice are two separate issues.
--Only one Northeast team in the top 8? Yeah, right.
--Tampa Bay is flashy but they are not a playoff team. Just wait.
--Hear that teeth gnashing sound? That's TST reader JP over the crack about the Caps defense. Their defense ought to be alright, it's the man in net that will provide the questions, if you ask us.

Do Not Get


Therrien is a dangerous combination of narrow-minded and panicky. You could see it during the finals when he didn't change anything against the Wings until he suddenly moved Ryan Malone to the top line, only to put things back the next
game. I suspect we'll see more moves like that from Therrien, and as he loses people in the locker room, which is rumored to be the case, these knee-jerk switches will be less and less effective.

You'd think Therrien's the only coach ever to make a line adjustment in an effort to jump-start his team. Or that a player like Malone (who's spent a significant amount of time playing with center Sidney Crosby) was unfit for such an assignment.

As far as "[losing] people in the locker room, which is rumored to be the case", we think an indictment of that is Brooks Orpik--a player who's had problems with Therrien--coming back to Pittsburgh a for half a million less a season. Or Evgeni Malkin not thinking twice about re -signing. We defy anyone to show one quote of a Penguin player that's openly dissatisfied with Therrien and let it be known.

Of course it's natural to go through difficult stretches and get "tough love" from Therrien (like Orpik or Ryan Whitney's temporary stints LW) but every player knows that Therrien's style has been right for the team so far.

Outside observers have never been quick to give Therrien credit, we'll see if he can earn some generalized respect.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Dead of summer

Apologies for no updates of late, it's the middle of summer and not too much is going on and we're fresh out of ideas. So, short of getting tips, we're settling into a nice little summer vacation from the blog. Updates, which we've tried to keep one a day, may be less frequent until things pick up, as if you couldn't already notice. But a point to check out the right-hand sidebar, there's been additions of several great blogs and a lot of them are finding great points to churn ou.

Monday, July 21, 2008


We can't decide if we want to get a Brooks Orpik jersey or a Max Talbot jersey...

Puck Daddy found another Penguin fan who couldn't decide either...

Is this world ready for a #45, Orp-bot jersey?

No, we didn't think so either.

Shake that Laffy Taffe-y

In news that Kris Beech may not make the NHL roster after all, the Penguins have brought back center Jeff Taffe on a one year, two-way contract.

Taffe played admirably enough as a 4th liner last season in Pittsburgh. He's not that skilled and doesn't check that much, but he's got good size and is a decent enough skater and player away from the puck to be effective in a limited capicity.

Also Taffe is an excellent scoring option in the AHL if the Penguins want to send him down (and no other team claims him on waivers). It seems like, waiver permitting, that one of Beech or Taffe will be in Wilkes-Barre opening night which is good news for the farm team's firepower.

Now with Tim Brent out of the picture, here's an updated look at the dogfight that will ensue for the last two or three forward slots on the roster...

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, Taffe, Jonathan Filewich, Connor James, Chris Minard, Ryan Stone, Bill Thomas

Sunday, July 20, 2008

There's no need to argue, Smizik just doesn't understand

Much brouhaha over the latest Bob Smizik (or, as former Steeler crazy man Greg Lloyd used to call him "Bozo the clown") article. In it, the old coot takes Pittsburgh fans to task for booing former Pittsburgh athletes; namely Jaromir Jagr, baseballer Aramis Ramirez and the soon to be catcalls for Marian Hossa.

In it, Smizik's main justification for calling fans "knuckleheads" eleven times over the course of the piece boils down to this:

Penguins fans revere players who take less money to play for the Penguins. It shows these players are team oriented and put winning in front of the almighty dollar. But when Hossa does the same thing, he's lambasted.
Of course Hossa will be jeered for his choice....It's not coming from Hossa being greedy--like if he took more to play for a team like Edmonton--but from the fact he chose the team and city he felt the best chance of winning in and it wasn't Pittsburgh. Obviously, it's not a bad choice as Detroit won the Cup this past year and returns the entire core of their team. The fact is, Pittsburgh has a pretty good team too and rather than come back and finish business here, Hossa elected to jump ship and give it a go somewhere else.

Fans, the ones who buy the tickets, have every right to cheer or boo at their discretion. It's the atmosphere of sports. In Jagr's situation, he asked to be traded three times and proceeded to whine and cry his way out of town. Fans responded by booing him and he ended up not playing well and producing points against the Penguins in his first returns to Pittsburgh. Perhaps it was luck, perhaps it got to his head but his boos were as much psychological as anything and the booing stuck. We don't follow the Ramirez situation closely enough to offer explanations on it, but a guess could be the boos aren't intended for the player himself, but rather the inept management that foolishly traded such a promising young player away.

Back to hockey, Hossa deserves to hear the fans displeasure when he comes back to Pittsburgh. This has nothing to do with what he did as a Penguin, it's about what he did after. Was Hossa a major reason the Pens got to the Stanley Cup finals? Absolutely. Does he deserve credit and praise for his actions while he was a Pen? You bet. Now that the initial shock and anger has subsided most rational Penguin fans (this one included) can respect the contributions Hossa made to the team while he was a part of it but still scowl at his decision to take less $$ for a chance to win...In Detroit.

As for Smizik, he can cram it with walnuts.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Almost as if on cue...

Penguins re-sign Therrien for 3 years.

Atta boy, Coach....Now get ready to coach them up again.

In honor of the extension can we get a smile out of you, T?

Uhh, ok, guess not.

Penguins still have a big signing to go

As Joe Starkey pointed out, the Penguins still have another important negotiation to take care of this summer (and it aint just Jordan Staal).

It's Michel Therrien, who has just one year left on his contract--and coaches don't like working without a deal for the following season. Therrien was inherited by Ray Shero and most figured in the world we live in where the turnover rate of NHL coaches is very high that it would be only a matter of time before HCMT got the ax.

But a funny thing happened along the way, the Penguins started winning. Therrien did have the good fortune to come along when Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin made it to the NHL, but he also had a rapport with much of the base of the team, since he had been the coach of the Wilkes-Barre team since 2003-04. Even today there are nine prospective Penguins (Kris Beech, Rob Scuderi, Marc-Andre Fleury, Ryan Whitney, Brooks Orpik, Maxime Talbot, Dany Sabourin, Ryan Stone and Jonathan Filewich) that played under Therrien at the lower level.

47 wins in the breakout 2006-07 season. 47 more wins in a division winning 2007-08 season. 15 playoff wins in the two years combined. That's a lot of winning.

A lot of people question Therrien's tactics, and it's easy to do so; the man changes his line combinations at a maddening rate, rides players hard, seems to play favorites to give guys he likes (Michel Ouellet) every opportunity to succeed and treats goalies somewhat harshly whether they're former #1 picks or minor league fillers.

But there is a method to the madness. Before Therrien, in the age of Eddie the Broadcaster, the Pens were far too easy a team to play against. They had skill and talent but seemed unwilling to be pushed into getting their hands a little dirty. As we know, that's what it takes to win, particularly in the playoffs. Therrien deserves credit for eliminating the soft mentality, for installing a good defensive system, and for pushing the right buttons most of the time.

The question remains, is he the man to lead the Pens all the way? We don't think it's a matter of the coach. At the NHL level the head coach's main task is to have his boys fully prepared--in game shape and given info about the opponents. The coach can only put the players in position to do well, they must actually execute.

Some say Therrien got out coached in Games 1 and 2 of the SC Finals. We say stick Herb Brooks AND Badger Bob back there and the same would have happened. Detroit was a strong team, at home and executed their game-style flawlessly. Therrien's moves in that series weren't perfect, but some were very good: like putting Talbot on the ice for the final shift of regulation in Game 5. Also Therrien took the spotlight off his guys and put it on himself for bashing the refs and Detroit's clutching and grabbing.

We think Therrien's earned a two year extension. He was the stern voice the team needed a couple of years ago and he has a great rapport with all the players. The media liked to say Orpik often clashed with Therrien and didn't like him at all. Well Orpik took $500,000 less a season to stay with Therrien and the Pens. Two years for Therrien seems about right, it gives him a cushion but he knows he has to get the Pens over the top. If the team regresses or if players tire of his shtick, that could be it.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Brent traded for Danny Richmond

The Penguins today traded forward Tim Brent to Chicago for 23 year old defenseman Danny Richmond.

Richmond has played 49 career NHL games and was originally picked 31st overall in the 2003 draft (one pick before Ryan Stone) by Carolina. He was traded with a 4th round pick in 2006 to Chicago for Anton Babchuk.

Not too much to make of this deal, two teams swapping fringe NHL players--both of whom are restricted free agents and might be looking to stick on a new team. For Richmond though, the task is daunting, as the Penguins have 8 NHL established defensemen on their roster currently, plus impressive prospect Alex Goligoski.

Ray Shero has said he likes to have 10 capable defenseman, and this move gives him that. But by trading Brent, a true center unlike Stone and Jonathan Filewich, this makes it more likely that Kris Beech may be able to stick on the Pens NHL roster. Gah.

The shape of the Wilkes-Barre Baby Pens roster is forming too, and they seem to be solid, if not spectacular. With presumably Goligoski and Richmond on the backline in the 'A', they'll also have TJ Kemp, Deryk Engelland, Joey Mormina, Ben Lovejoy, Jon D'Aversa and perhaps Paul Bissonnette as defenseman. Overall a pretty young and skilled defensive group.

Does this deal signal an idea for another trade down the line--such as the rumored disposal of veteran Darryl Sydor? It appears for now it's going to be a wait and see situation, but the Pens definitely have the defensive depth to go in any direction they choose. And if that choice is to take that reasonably solid organizational depth into the season, well that ought to be a good one for the on ice performance for the big and farm team.

Schedule is out, schedule is out

View it here on NHL.com

Things that jump out

  • Last year the NHL had all the teams end the season with a string of division games that set the stage for close finishes and exciting play. That is not the case this year, as just 4 of the Penguins last 20 games are against division opponents.
  • So you'd think there'd be a huge chunk of divisional games somewhere in the middle, but there's not. Pittsburgh's longest streak of division games is just 3. By contrast, they'll host 3 straight western conference teams once over the course of the season. The idea to de-emphasize divisional matchups and let every team play every other team atleast once seems to have inserted some color and excitement in the schedule.
  • Starting Sunday February 8th with the Red Wings coming to town, the Penguins are scheduled on Sundays six of the next seven weekends with matchups against Washington (twice), Dallas, Boston and Philadelphia. Any of those could be targets for nationally televised NBC broadcasts.
  • The Penguins were lucky to play all but 5 games the Eastern time zone last season. That will not be the case this year. Throw out the Sweden trip and they're making west coast jogs to San Jose and Phoenix (in late October), Colorado (in January) and Dallas (in March). Nothing that will make the West coast teams cry, but the Pens will certainly earn some frequent flyer miles this season.
  • Perhaps as a reward, there's a stretch of games starting March 8th (at the friendly confines of the Verizon Center in DC) to April 1st where the Pens play 10 out of 12 home games. The only other roadie during that time is the short trip over to Columbus.
  • We touched on the European trip, last year we thought the NHL did Anaheim the injustice of making them play three more road games before going home, after they'd already been to England. That seemed excessive and perhaps took it's toll on them. This year the Penguins get almost a full week off after their Euro trip and then don't have an away game for another 10 days. Much more favorable, we'd say.
  • The season finale is a game IN Montreal on Saturday night. You think the NHL is thinking that maybe it could be to decide the #1 seed in the Eastern Conference?

There will be plenty of time to pour over the schedule and offer oberservations, but that's what jumped out for the nowbeing.

And the ESPY goes to....

Hint: the guy on the left

Japers doesn't like it one bit (or doesn't care), after all this is supposed to be the year of Alex Ovechkin. Sidney Crosby is still the higher profile player with the constant media spotlight, the unending Gatorade commerical and the storybook GWG on the year's most widely watched game.

If you look at pure points per game in playoffs plus regular season, Crosby was in a virtual dead heat with Ovechkin. Sid talled 1.33 (99 points in 73 games) to AO's 1.36 (121 in 89). Crosby played 20 playoff games (to Ovechkin's 7) where points are supposed to be harder to come by.

Not to mention Crosby helped his team to within 2 games of Lord Stanley, while Ovechkin and the Caps were shown the door in the first round of the playoffs.

So picking Crosby over-all as player of the year isn't as bad as Captial fans may cry about....But for Christ's sake it's the ESPYs, not anything important.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Schedule details released

The full schedule is officially announced tomorrow, but the NHL has released some highlights for teams

For the Pens:
--They open the season with games in Sweden against Ottawa. Not exactly news
--The home opener at Mellon Arena is set to be Saturday October 11th, against Martin Brodeur and the New Jersey Devils
--This year there are "at large" teams from the Western Conference that the Pens will play twice. It's going to be San Jose, Columbus and the treacherous Marian Hossa led Red Wings.

The preseason schedule was also announced:
Saturday, Sept. 20 TAMPA BAY 7:30 p.m.
Monday, Sept. 22 at Tampa Bay 7:30 p.m.
Wednesday, Sept. 24 TORONTO 7:30 p.m
Friday, Sept. 26 at Toronto 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Oct. 2 at Jokerit (Finland) 11:30 a.m. (Eastern time)

Nice to see a home and home with Pittsburgh South.

Full details of the 2008-09 schedule and analysis tomorrow.

Forward looking roster projections: Goaltender Edition

(picture used for the guy who loves this one the most, our buddy the Peerless)

Yep, throw Fleury in white and tells the story for that. But, exactly like last season like we said, if MAF gets hurt, heaven help us all. And it certainly did last year, but this time Conkblock is not waiting in the wings.

Forward looking roster projections: Defensemen edition

We're going to highlight this breakdown of next season's likely defensemen personnel with a spotlight on a player. And it's probably not who you first thought it was...

He's a player who tied for 18th among defensemen in scoring last season (beating out names like Redden, Bouwmeester and Rozsival). He scored as many goals (12) as Sergei Gonchar.

And Penguins fans generally do not like him for his unwillingness to use his 6’4 frame to make any kind of physical contact.

He's Ryan Whitney, of course, and how he bounces back from an up-and-mainly-down year last season will be one of many critical factors for the 2008-09 Penguins. We all know about the tough love Michel Therrien gave Whitney by taking his defensive position away and shifting him temporarily to become a winger.

Whitney responded from that point, playing generally a little better. His real shining moment came at the crest of the Penguins season: the triple OT Game 5 thriller. Gonchar went down with a back injury (and supposedly a head full of concussion) and the Pens had to lean on all their defensemen but none more so than Whitney. He played 50:46 of ice-time, over 7 minutes more than the next closest Pen. Playing that much is one thing, but Whitney played it well, doing everything expected of him to keep the Pens into the game.

Obviously the regular season games don’t quite match the intensity or meaning of a do or die Stanley Cup final game, but Whitney’s shown he can be very, very effective.

With the re-signing of Mark Eaton—who was used as Gonchar’s first partner before Eaton got slew footed by Marco Sturm and tore his knee up—we thought of how the defensive units would look. No doubt Brooks Orpik played the finest hockey of his career when paired with the Sarge, but Free Candy needs to be effective away from #55. Whitney and Orpik have been partners before and have been teammates, more or less, since the spring of 2004. Both figure to be around for the next 5 years at least so creating a long-term duo that could be the modern day equivalent of Stevens/Niedermayer seems very appealing.

That leaves the logjam of veteran Darryl Sydor, the USS Hal Gill, shot-blocking (but vanilla) Rob Scuderi and the promising Kris Letang to fill two spots in the lineup. As long as Letang is a regular, we wouldn’t mind any combination of partners for him. Gill seemed to play the best and adds more size, toughness and is a better passer than the other candidates, so we’ll plug him in.


Spares: Scuderi, Sydor

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.

Bill Thomas is the new Ryan Malone

Some big shoes to fill, but for now at least 25 year old Bill Thomas is the newest Pittsburgh born representative of the Penguins.

An interesting signing, as Thomas could be a fringe NHL player for the Pens, or provide some scoring at the AHL level and be a decent mid-season callup option.

Thomas, a 6'1 185 winger, went undrafted to the NHL but still had a great career at the USHS and NCAA level. Phoenix signed him late in the 2005-06 season and Thomas had a decent go in a short stint [9 games, 1 goal, 2 assists]. Things seemed to continue to go well for Thomas, he scored 33 points [13 goals, 20 assists] in 47 games in San Antonio and was named to the AHL all-star game, of which he didn't participate since he was in Phoenix. That year for Phoenix, in 24 contests Thomas had 8 goals and 6 assists. That's a pace for 27 goals in a full season.

The wheels of his development were spinning last season, as Thomas was an "up and down" player between Phoenix and San Antonio. Most of it was down, as he only got 7 games in the NHL (pointless). The AHL numbers were good, he was 2nd on the team (to former Penguin Matt Murley) with 52 points [24 goals, 28 assists] in 75 games.

Bill Thomas became a Group VI unrestricted free agent. The definition in it's simplest form for a Group VI UFA is: it's for relatively younger guys who haven't played a certain number of NHL games (Ryan Lannon, Connor James and Nathan Smith qualified for it from the Pens). The purpose is to give guys who are about 25 and spent most of their careers in the minors a chance to find a fresh start in a new organization.

A knock on Thomas has been that he's not strong enough on the puck and while a skilled player, is he skilled enough to be a consistent top 6 forward every night at the NHL level? The answer to that seems to be in the negative. We still think Thomas is a good signing, he's young, shown flashes of great play in the NHL and could conceivably make the roster.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Beech is back, TST cries

According to various rumor blogs and NHL.com, it looks like Kris Beech is back again. The former center piece from the Jagr trade to Washington--which was seven years (!!) ago last week has had a crazy career.

By our account it goes something like this:

``Drafted by the Washington Capitals 7th overall in 1999
``Played 4 games in the NHL in 2000 before being returned to WHL
``Traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins for Jaromir Jagr in July 2001
``Played the whole 2001-02 season in Pittsburgh (10 goals, 15 assists)
``Played 16 games in Pittsburgh up to the lockout (0 goals, 2 assists), spent the rest of the time in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton either moping around, being injured or showing flashes of brilliance (103 games, 39 goals, 87 points)
``Spent the lockout season in WB/S, impressively scoring 62 points in 68 games.
``Traded to the Nashville Predators September 2005 for a conditional draft pick....We can't find the conditions nor anything that Nashville ever sent Pittsburgh. Beech would play just five games with Nashville (and 48 with their AHL affiliate before
``Traded back to the Caps (with a 1st round pick that ended up being prospect goalie Semen Varlamov) for a playoff rental, Brenden Witt. Beech got five games with Washington before going to Hershey and helping to lead the Bears to a Calder Cup victory (in 21 playoff games he had a team high 14 goals).
``Spent 2006-07 with Washington (64 games, 8 goals, 18 assists)....First season since '01-02 that he didn't play in the minors...Cut loose by the Caps
``Signed by the Columbus Blue Jackets August 2007....Didn't make their NHL team out of camp
``Claimed off of waivers by the Vancouver Canucks January 10th, 2008
``Waived by Vancouver 1/22/08, claimed by Washington
``Claimed by Pittsburgh off of waivers on 1/26/08

Kris Beech is now 27 years old.

The contract he signed is reportedly a two-way contract that will pay him less for time spent in the minors. Surprisingly, even though our feelings about Beech are no secret, we don't have much a problem with this deal. If he can come into camp with a good attitude and make the team over a younger player like Tim Brent or Ryan Stone, he gives the Pens a better NHL option as a 4th liner. If not, the Pens will send him to Wilkes-Barre (unless of course someone else claims him) and the Baby Pens will have a great point producing forward and an injury call-up "just in case".

Friday, July 11, 2008

Catching up with Angelo

Fewer prospects have been as intriguing or experienced such a roller coaster ride as Angelo Esposito. Esposito, now just 19 years old, has been on the radar of hockey people and fans for years. At one point, before the 2007 draft he was mentioned as the presumptive #1 pick and drew favorable comparisons to another skilled center phenom, Sidney Crosby. Esposito lived up to all of this during the 2005-06 season, his first in major junior competition where he scored 98 points (39 goals and 59 assists) in 57 games.

But that success wasn't to be. Esposito's breakout season was aided by playing with current NHL star Alex Radulov, and when Radulov left Espo's production went down the wayside. In the past two seasons in the "Q" Esposito's scored 79 and then 69 points.

His NHL draft stock, as we all know, took a Brady Quinn, and the Penguins selected him 20th overall and then traded him to Atlanta as part of the Marian Hossa package.

The Atlanta-Journal Constitution has a nice article about Esposito, currently in Atlanta for their summer prospect development camp, and the hopes that they have for him.

Esposito will play another year of junior hockey, Waddell said, for the new Junior de Montreal team in Esposito's hometown. The Thrashers need to sign him by June 1, 2009. "From there," Waddell said, "his play will dictate where he goes."

Note that what's expected to be one of the worst teams in the league next year doesn't even expect to have Esposito make a push for the NHL roster. Of course, this has something to do with the measured development that the Thrashers are charting for Angelo, which probably will benefit him and perhaps the team in the long-run. But if he was polished enough mentally and physically to be a contributor at the NHL level, surely he wouldn't be looking at having tea with Miss McGill already...

We're thinking the Penguins may have bought Esposito's stock at it's low point and still were able to sell while it had significant value.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

What the Penguins really lost....And gained

The Penguins, despite losing two of the biggest prize forwards of the free agency season in Marian Hossa and Ryan Malone, are still a better team on paper right now than they were 12 months ago at this time. It's hard to believe, but think about it, it's true.

Think in terms of personnel and regular season standings...What was last year's 2nd place Eastern Conference team ended up scoring 240 goals and yielded a total of 212.

That team had some incredible contributions-- like Evgeni Malkin's 47 goal, 56 assist (106 point) season and remarkable work by Ty Conklin (18-8-5, 2.51 GAA, .923 save %)-- but both those players were thrust into bigger roles by injuries to Sidney Crosby (who missed 29 games) and Marc-Andre Fleury (who only appeared in 35 contests).

--Just from taking a look at the regular season contributions from all the player the Pens lost and it amounts to 70 goals (lead by Malone's 27 and 9 a piece from Colby Armstrong and Erik Christensen).
--They've replaced that with a combined 42 goals scored last season from their three biggest free agent signings (Miroslav Satan and Rusty Fedotenko with 16 a piece and Matt Cooke with 10). We'll say right here that this blog shuts down if Satan plays a mostly full season and can't improve on 16 goals.

So where will the rest come from? Jordan Staal only scored 12 in the regular season (but got 6 in 20 post-season games), Crosby could create more offense in up to 29 more games than last season. Other young players like Tyler Kennedy (10 goals in 55 games in his rookie campaign) and Kris Letang (6 goals in 63 games) figure to naturally progress and continue to increase their production. Throw in a potential sleeper in the mix like newcomer Janne Pesonen or Pascal Dupuis (who contributed 2 goals in 16 reg. season games with the Pens) and the 240 goals scored number could easily be matched, if not exceeded.

Of course the natural disclaimer is that this is all on paper and it is July 9th, not January or even October. Plans change and the game of hockey is too fluid to write anything in ink at this point.

The popular vibe right now is the Penguins took a big hit in early July, and to be fair losing the likes of Hossa, Malone, Conklin and the other does hurt. But it doesn't necessarily lessen a team that returns 7 of its 8 top regular season scorers from last season.

And, how's this for perspective.....Of those seven players, five of them--Malkin, Crosby, Ryan Whitney, Staal and Max Talbot-- will be 24 years old or younger when the puck drops on opening night.

I'm skating on blades like Sidney Crosby

Title of the post comes from a reference we found on Pensblog. If nothing else, consider it a good indicator for hockey when the biggest rap star in the game today drops a Sidney Crosby reference in a song. Hey, the sport must be on the radar a little bit, right?

Yeah, it's July and free agency has settled down. If you've looked a little on the internet today, scrounging all corners to get your hockey fix, you've probably already seen or read about the new information about EA Sports video game NHL 09. Puck Daddy thinks it could be G.O.A.T (greatest of all time).

Speaking of hockey video games, one player we picked up in a dynasty mode was Adam Henrich, a 6'4, 220 pound winger that's a former 2nd round pick in 2002 and a good minor league scorer. Well the Penguins followed our lead and signed Henrich today to a one year deal. He'll play in Wilkes-Barre to start the year, but this past season seven forwards that started the year in the AHL (Connor James, Jeff Taffe, Chris Minard, Ryan Stone, Jonathan Filewich, Nathan Smith and Tim Brent) combined for 98 man-games in Pittsburgh. So you never know.

Speaking of James, he re-signed with the Penguins too. Pittsburgh also added a big 6'6 26 year old defenseman Joey Mormina (who played one game with Carolina and the rest with their farm club) and TJ Kemp, 5'11 puck moving defenseman who scored 46 points in 73 AHL games last signs. These moves were all designed with minor league intentions, but the point again being one never knows in the dog days of summer which players a team may be forced to call upon during a tough stretch in the following winter.

That's about it for news on the home front.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Why wouldn't the Lightning sign Mark Recchi?

The Tampa Bay Lightning continued to pile on veteran support on Monday, signing forward Mark Recchi to a one-year, $1.25 million contract that's worth $1.5 million with incentives.

Pittsburgh south indeed. Recchi, Ryan Malone, Gary Roberts, Adam Hall and don't forget Michel Ouellet (how could you)....The Lightning also had ex-Pens Andre Roy and Karl Stewart in their coffers last season, though both are now unrestricted free agents.

That got us to thinking of the breakout 2006-07 Penguins that all those men (except Hall) played for Pittsburgh....8 out of 31 skaters to appear in a Penguin jersey that season--the Tampa four plus Colby Armstrong and Erik Christensen (ATL), Josef Melichar (CAR) and Noah Welch (FLA) will start the season in the Southeast division.

Consider that only 10 skaters from that season--which ended for the Pens only fifteen months ago--are still with the Penguins. They are as you'd imagine, pretty much the core of the team: Crosby, Malkin, Gonchar, Whitney, Staal, Talbot, Scuderi, Orpik, Eaton and Letang.

Like roster turnover? The NHL is the place for you.

Hossa fallout redux

After the initial emotions (shock, disdain, cursing) have died down, TST buddy Greg Wyshnyski posed a question on Puck Daddy to Penguin fans:

Here's the thing that I asked [to yahoo/going five hole writer Sean] Leahy last week, and he really didn't have an answer on behalf of Pittsburgh Penguins fans: If Hossa fails to win a Stanley Cup with the Red Wings, what would it take to forgive him if he showed an interest in coming back to the Penguins?

A full-on apology for his avarice? A daily foot massage for Maxime Talbot for the duration of their contracts? Or has this bridge been permanently burned? Is Marian Hossa now dead to Penguins fans?

As we're ought to do, we turn to a hair-band for the answer. In this instance was it not Motley Crue who taught "don't go away mad, just go away"?

In the long-run, Penguins fans shouldn't be mad. Of course, the human nature is to hold a grudge that Hossa believed he'd have a better shot of winning the Cup in Detroit that Pittsburgh, but a neutral observer would probably tell you that's a good bet.

Even though Hossa only pulled on the black and gold jersey 32 times, the trade was worth it:

  • The cost really wasn't that bad--guys like Matt Cooke and Pascal Dupuis are just as good as Colby Armstrong; Erik Christensen wouldn't be a top 6 forward this year; and the two first round prospects (Angelo Esposito and Daultan Leveille) are still a-ways away from producing in the NHL, if they ever even make it there.

  • The message the trade sent was the front office didn't expect just gradual improvement: they wanted to be bold and embolden the players to dream big.

  • The Penguins got two games from winning the Stanley Cup, and Hossa played his role wonderfully.

Further, it wasn't just Hossa's choice to go to Detroit, he bent over backwards to make it happen. Consider (emphasis added):

We were dreaming thinking we could add either [Hossa or Mats Sundin] to our team because we were looking at one year deals.

"I went to bed last night thinking we were going to be by the way side."

Hossa's agent, Ritch Winter, called Holland in the morning and said his
client was on the line and willing to discuss a one-year contract

"I asked what they were looking for," Holland told Landsberg. "It was north of 7.5 (million). I told them I was uncomfortable (having Hossa make more than Lidstrom).

"In the end, Marian Hossa told me to not bother calling Nik, one year at 7.45 - it was a done deal."

(from TSN)


I had to compare the two teams, and there's a little better chance to win the Cup in Detroit. I had a great time with Sid and playing on the power play with Geno, but the team in Detroit is something special. I know it's a short term, but we never talked about a one-year [deal] with Pittsburgh. We just talked about a long-term deal. I totally believe Detroit has the kind of team that can win it again."

In conclusion, Hossa agreed to a contract the price and the length that Detroit wanted. If he would have went back to Pittsburgh for a one year $7.6 million contract, it would have been granted. He never let the Penguins know he'd consider a short term deal, so how were they to know it was a possibility? But, as an unrestricted free agent that's just as much his right as signing in Edmonton for $90 million, as many expected.

The Penguins, after losing the Hossa sweepstakes, turned around and locked up their core--Evgeni Malkin at $8.7 million a season and Marc-Andre Fleury at $5 million. Omitting Brooks Orpik's new contract (since the Pens almost certainly could not have afforded him if they were paying Hossa $7+ million for the next 5-7 years) the Pens have their four franchise cornerstones* locked up until at least 2012-13 for an average cap hit of $26.4 million. Add Hossa's approximate contract and that's five players for about $33.6 million. Suddenly the room to sign other players (like Orpik, Jordan Staal, Talbot and Kris Letang) is cut down significantly, especially if the salary cap levels off or doesn't keep rising at such a fast rate.

*Those cornerstones, of course, being Crosby and Malkin at $8.7 million a piece, Fleury's $5 million and Ryan Whitney's $4 million*

In the end, everyone wants that flashy super-star winger for Crosby. We believe Pens fans are mainly bitter about Hossa leaving is that he is an awesome player and if he was willing to take less for a contender, why wouldn't he chose Pittsburgh to be that place? However Hossa turning his back on the Penguins, while disappointing, isn't the end of the world. Compare the top 6 forwards at the beginning of last season to how it'll look going into training camp and the forwards ARE improved; even with the defection of Ryan Malone. The sky is not falling, the world will still move on. And the Penguins still ought to be one of the, if not THE team to beat in the East again next season.

The ultimate answer to Wyshnyski's question is that it's just time to move on. The Pens didn't get Hossa, but time will tell if they can use his money to keep support players that want to be here (like Cooke and Miroslav Satan) to come in and get the team to it's ultimate goal. tPb had a good point in today's post: every team that's ever won the Stanley Cup has found a way to do it without Hossa. He's great, but not a prerequisite
So don't go away from this Hossa situation mad, Pens fans, just go away. It's time to move on.

Conklin to play outdoors again

Something interesting as news is broken that Chicago and Wrigley Stadium will officially be the next host of the NHL's biggest sideshow, err regular season event of the year.

This will mean of the three regular season games (Edmonton/Montreal in 2003, Pittsburgh/Buffalo 2008 and now Chicago/Detroit 2009) will share Ty Conklin as a common link in them all. Conklin, you'll remember, is the Pittsburgh free agent who went to Detroit that hasn't drawn disdain.

If Conkblock had signed to NYI is there any doubt that the rumored early favorite for the outdoor game (Islanders/Rangers at Yankee Stadium) would have happened? Ok, maybe not but it's summer and not much is going on right now.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Pens sign Cooke

Subtract like likes of Gary Roberts, Georges Laraque, Ryan Malone and Jarkko Ruutu and a club loses a lot of size and toughness.

The Penguins took a step to add some back by signing free agent Matt Cooke. The contract itself appears to be a cracker-jack one for the team, if initial reports are true (two years, $1.2 million per season). Cooke made $1.5 million the past three years and seemed to earn that. He's a scored 10+ goals in six of the past seven seasons (and the missed season was injury shortened to 8 goals in 45 games). Compare that to Ruutu's 2 career ten-goal seasons.

Cooke has been said to have received more money elsewhere (Ruutu got more per year from Ottawa and an extra year) but chose the Penguins. A good sign, as the Pens can certainly use the grit and the addition of a reliable penalty killer. Cooke doesn't have the yapper that Ruuts does, but then again hardly anyone chirps as much as Ruutu. Cooke is very uptempo, very aggressive and still a pesty player that gives a lot of effort and seeks out hits.

Roberts and Ruutu emerged as cult heroes and it seems like Cooke is destined to follow, given his style of play. That and there's already a nickname: the Cooke-y monster. It's a competitive world to start a trend, this blogosphere.

Twist our arm for a roster outlook and here's what we've got in early July, all very subject to change...




Obviously the forward lines could be different, Max Talbot probably isn't a consistent top 6 NHL winger, Janne Pesonen may or may not be the answer there. But it's looking like the 3rd line that will have a lot of energy to go with some size and skill some with whatever combination of Pascal Dupuis/Tyler Kennedy/Talbot/Cooke emerges to go with Jordan Staal. But there's plenty of time for those questions.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Penguins sign Janne Pesonen

..To which should immediately asked "who the f is Janne Pesonen".

Well, he's 26 year old Finnish player that's played in Finland his whole career. He plays for the powerhouse team Karpat (along with former Penguin property goalie Andy Chiodo] and has won the champion four out of the past six seasons. Last season Pesonen lead the Finnish league in goals [34], points [78] and plus/minus [+39]. He's listed as a 5'11, 180 pound winger.

Thanks to the magic of youtube, here's a Pesonen highlight reel. The guy is definitely Ovechkin-esque when it comes to celebrating goals--we especially like the "drop to your knees and slide" routine when the score of the game is now 4-0 at the 0:41 second mark. (Warning: there's a funky sounding Finnish song in the background, check your speakers..)

Who knows is Pesonen will be able to hack it in the NHL, a highlight reel from the Finnish league doesn't necessarily mean future success in the difference of style of the North American game. However skilled wingers don't grow on trees and the guy did just win a scoring title, so he has to have some amount of talent. It'll be interesting to see if maybe the Pens scouts have pulled a rabbit out of their hats on this one.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Pens sign Satan, Fedotenko

The Pens have reportedly signed Miroslav Satan (1 year $3.5 million) and Ruslan Fedotenko (1 year $2.25 million) to contracts.

Satan is a skilled winger who's 33 years old but seen his points drop each of the past three seasons since the lockout. To his defense, he was with the mostly hapless New York Islanders the whole time. Satan's scored 29 goals in seven seasons, he knows how to put it in the net. He's likely your Sidney Crosby winger.

Fedotenko is more in the mold of a Ryan Malone. He had that great playoff run with Tampa Bay (scoring 12 goals in 22 games on the way to a Cup) and is pretty consistent as a 15-20 goals and 15-20 assists guy.

This likely means no Jaromir Jagr or Markus Naslund signing, but you never know.

By our calculations Pittsburgh has now spent $50.6 million on 20 players (10 forwards, 8 defensemen, 2 goalies). There is some room for another forward, but now we start to wonder if a defenseman coughSydorcough might be traded, if possible.

See you tomorrow for "Worst Satan newspaper headline puns"...If you want to submit any, drop a line at hooksorpik at gmail

MAF gets paid

From the PG:
The Penguins have finalized a seven-year contract with goalie Marc-Andre Fleury.

The deal is believed to be worth $35 million, which translates to an annual salary-cap hit of $5 million.

The year-by-year breakdown of his salary is not yet known

Big time money. But Fleury has been a big-time player ever since coming back from an ankle injury. Some might wonder the wisdom in giving a seven year contract to a goalie so young and still prone to inconsistencies...A close observer will tell you that Fleury has proven himself to be the real deal. His talent and quickness has never been in doubt, but he's thought the game better during his 14 win playoff run (something not many goalies can say).
Look around the league at some of the other premier goalies..JS Gigeure got $6 million a year, Cris Huet just got $5.6 million on the open market, Bobby Lou's making $6.75 million and Henrik Lundqvist (who MAF and the Pens easily eliminated) is making $6.875 million.
Fleury is considerably younger than all those players and now locked in for a fairly reasonable term for player and management.

Great comparison

From the man who doesn't miss, Seth Rorabaugh at Empty Netters:
Ray Shero made it clear who really mattered to the Penguins during his press conference yesterday:

Sidney Crosby
Marc-Andre Fleury
Evgeni Malkin
Jordan Staal

We're kind of repeating ourselves from a post we made yesterday, but if the Penguins were a movie, these four are the stars. Everyone else is an extra.

If the Penguins were "Goodfellas," Crosby, Fleury, Malkin and Staal would be Robert DeNiro , Ray Liotta, Joe Pesci and Paul Sorvino. Colby Armstrong, Michel Ouellet, Marian Hossa, Gary Roberts, Georges Laraque, Ty Conklin and even Brooks Orpik, who signed a big deal yesterday, are bit players.

We'd probably argue that by virtue of his long-term contract that Ryan Whitney is in the core as well, but unlike the others he's not really on the plane of "we absolutely can't lose this guy". The Pens can't afford to lose any of Crosby [signed for five more years], Malkin [signed for six more years], Staal [signed for one more year but talk expected soon] and Fleury [just signed for seven more years]

Independence Day

A day early, but we don't care. Hockey takes a backseat to those who stand up for our rights and all those who, over the years, haven't come home.

And everytime I hear 21 guns, I know they brought another hero home to us

picture credit the New York Times....From Capt. Shane Adcock's funeral 10/27/06

You think Marian Hossa signing with the Red Wings is bad....Imagine your boy gets pulled behind a bunch of horses and gets laid up in Arlington on a cold, rainy October day. Nothing, and we do mean nothing, could be worse than that. But it's reality. It's perspective. We're really not trying to play any sympathy cards or anything but deep down this platform is always our place to remind our readers to think about the sacrifice. And say thanks. So thanks for everything and RIP Shane-o, the guy who took us under his wing and personally taught the editor of this blog how to be "a fucking man". Some things you'll never, ever forget.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Key quote by Shero...

From the Pensblog who linked the Shero presser...

"Come training camp we're going to be than we were [at that time] last year."

--Last year's top 6 entering training camp:

Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Mark Recchi, Colby Armstrong, Petr Sykora and Ryan Malone.

This year:

Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin [a year stronger, smarter and better], Petr Sykora, and three unknowns.

How Shero fills those unknowns will decide the outcome of the year. But it's very like he can fill those holes better than a 38 year old Mark Recchi, a glorified checker in Colby Armstrong and Ryan Malone.

A lot of Pens' fans are acting like Chicken Little, but the sky is not falling. Marian Hossa is gone and that does suck, but it's not the end of the world. The Penguins still have the absolute best caliber of players from about the age of 19-24 in the league. No other team has the base of Crosby, Malkin, Jordan Staal, Marc-Andre Fleury and Ryan Whitney. Relax. Free agents come and they go, it's a business. The main thing is retaining the core and surrounding it with talent. See how Shero fills things out before slipping it out.

Hook 'em Brooks....Orpik stays!

A steep price to pay for the Penguins to retain Brooks Orpik at $22 million for six years, but worse would have been losing the team's only legitimate physical defenseman (excuses to the USS Hal Gill).

We're happy. This move couple with the Mark Eaton re-signing gives the Penguins significant defensive depth. There may be rumors about a trading of Gill or Ryan Whitney, but we wouldn't put too much stock in them. Whitney is young and has room for improvement if he can stay consistent. Gill is under a managable salary and set to be a UFA after next season. Trade him and if Orpik was hurt and the Pens would be under the same situation.

Sadly Jarkko Ruutu went to Ottawa and we all know Georges Laraque is a goner so Ray Shero's focus is now upon replacing the two top-6 forwards he lost (Hossa and Malone) and then getting Marc-Andre Fleury under a long-term contract before his arbitration.

Malkin signed to 5 year extension

Right now it's difficult to be too happy with all the losses to free agency the Pens have suffered, but there's light at the end of the tunnel that really isn't a train (honest).

Evgeni Malkin officially signs for five years and the Crosby-esque number.

All the experts had whispered gleefully such stories as:

  • Pittsburgh can't afford him
  • Malkin will demand close to cap max ($10-11 million) to consider the Pens
  • Malkin wants a trade to get out of Crosby's "shadow"
  • Malkin wants to "be the man" in a different team
  • Malkin preferred a flashy market like LA to Pittsburgh
  • Pittsburgh didn't like the way Malkin didn't "show up" for the SCF finals.

Well, once again they were proven wrong. Evgeni Malkin is certainly in any argument for the best offensive player in the game right now. And he's just about to turn 22, only going to get better as the big guy fills out and learns more about how to win faceoffs.

Great deal for the Penguins to get him in at the Crosby contract level too. They've got two "max" talents signed for the next five and six years respectively for just 76% of this year's max. Got to be happy about that.

Hossa to Red Wings

It's not surprising at all that Marian Hossa chose to join another team, but the one he did join (a contender) the amount (less than the maximum offer) and the term (1 year) might have indicated he'd return to the Penguins.

Or maybe not. Hossa is a member of the Detroit Red Wings, thanks to signing a one year $7.4 million deal. $7.4 million is the most Detroit will pay another player, they want their captain Niklas Lidstrom to be the highest paid player.

We're shocked, no stunned, that Hossa accepted a one-year deal. The financial security he could have gotten from a 5, 6, 7 year deal from no limit of teams could have set him up so much more securly. Clearly $7.4 million dollars is nothing to scoff at, but if Hossa suffers any number of potentially career threatening/limiting injuries (like blowing out a knee or suffering a concussion) the amount of money on the table won't be great.

But then again he's going to the defending Stanley Cup Champions and is in a great position to try and win a Cup. Can't fault him for that.

Can apparantely fault him for not thinking that situation is in Pittsburgh. We have nothing to back this up, but clearly if he offered to let the Pens match Detroit's offer, they would have done it. Hell they might have even added in an extra 3% to cancel out that tax Hossa didnwas weary of.

For the Penguins it's time to switch gears and switch them quickly. Hossa has moved on and so must they. The names heard the most seem to be Markus Naslund, Jaromir Jagr, Pavol Demitra....Watch for Kristian Huselius as well.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Day One Aftermath

Culled from many sources and sorting through the rumors, here's where we're at...

``Marian Hossa won't decide on a team tonight. His closest suitors are believed to be Edmonton (who's rumored to have offered the most money), Montreal and Vancouver (who are both hoping on Mats Sundin) and Pittsburgh. It seems like Montreal and Vancouver may drag their feet since Sundin is in no hurry. No doubt Edmonton has offered more money than Pittsburgh, but they are way out there in the Western Conference and haven't exactly been a steady locale. Chicago (by signing Huet and Campbell), New Jersey (by signing Rolston, Salvador, Holik and Pandolfo) and the Rangers (by getting Redden and Rozsival) all were previous destinations that seem to be out of the running.

``Brooks Orpik supposedly has been offered more money by any number of teams (San Jose, NYR, Buffalo, Atlanta, LA). Anything can happen and it seems like the Pens are still very interested in retaining him and he obviously hasn't jumped ship to the first team that came a-calling so stay tuned.

``A lot of whispers are rolling around about Jaromir Jagr (!!!) and Markus Naslund. We see these guys as being contingency plans if Hossa signs somewhere else. But never under-estimate the ties between Mario Lemieux and Jagr.

``Someone named Jeff Finger (who's played 94 career NHL games) got $3.5 million and Michal Rozsival got $5 million. That just goes to show the craziness of the UFA market for defensemen and why Orpik's still on the market.

``Reports are Evgeni Malkin is about to sign almost the exact same contract that Sidney Crosby signed last year ($8.7 a year for five years). If so, this is a great thing for the Pens. Either/both could have demanded up to the maximum ($11.34 million this year) and both would have probably been obliged. But the both ponied up in the July as soon as possible--unlike Washington's Alex Ovechkin who waited until his last entry level season was nearly half over....As we've pointed out, that's a total savings for the Pens will be at least $5.28 million this year, which will only keep rising with the salary cap.

``The Pens didn't make any sexy signings today, but the combined $2.4 million they spent (on Mark Eaton and Pascal Dupuis) are the savvy kind of deals that provide of depth and set the stage for success later on in the year. Believe that.

See you tomorrow when the Penguins will (hopefully) fill some skill winger positions...Whether that means Naslund, Hossa, Jagr or Huselius we will see.

Pens keep Eaton, sign a fighter, lose two more UFAs

The Penguins signed Mark Eaton, two years $2 million (source: TSN). A great signing if Eaton can stay healthy. Eaton played well with Sergei Gonchar on the top pairing before his knee injury, so one has to wonder if the Pens intend to stick him back there with Gonchar and come to terms with Brooks Orpik going somewhere else. The Pens now have seven defenseman on the roster and that doesn't even count Alex Goligoski who tore through the AHL playoffs.

The Pens also signed Eric Godard. He's regarded as a pretty solid fighter, but his hockey skills leave to be desired. This probably means the end of Georges Laraque's stint as a Penguin. Godard doesn't have to play much, even if dressed he won't take the ice much which could mean more opportunities for Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin to double shift and increase their own ice time.

Tampa Bay, in their continuing effort to sign every free agent under the sun (especially if they're from Pittsburgh) signed Adam Hall, three years $1.8 million. Can't really blame Hall, as I'm sure the Pens contract wasn't three years. But still Hall owes something to his former aGM Ray Shero for inviting him to training camp last year when it seemed his NHL career was over.

Also, it's somewhat sad to report the Conkblock has moved on, signing a one year deal with Detroit. We wish he could have gotten the shot to be a number 1 goalie somewhere (like Colorado) but in the end he's going to a great organization. Also Conklin should fit in well with Detroit with how he handles the puck and can hold a team in the game.

A lot of rumors flying around as to who's fielding offers from where. Stay tuned.

And no, we're not even going to touch this one with a stick.

Beard growing capabilities retained

When a player traded to a team at the deadline goes through the trouble to painstakingly spell out in hockey tape "Talbot #1 Fan" on the back of his under-shirt (for the "shirts off our back" promotion", it's a pretty good sign that player is enjoying his new team.

Pascal Dupuis signs three years with the Pens.

We love this contract. Dupuis a versitale, hard-working winger. Even better, what James Mirtle projected as a $2-2.5 million dollar contract, is for reportedly an average of $1.4 million. Good move for Ray Shero.