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Pittsburgh Penguins

Pittsburgh Penguins: Off-Season In Review

Pittsburgh PenguinsWell, it has been a longer off-season for the Penguins than the past two years which I am hoping is bringing much needed rest to all of the players. As we all know, the NHL Draft has come and gone and so now as the opening of Free Agency. Most Pens fans knew that when it came to prospects, what the Penguins really needed were wingers as there was a huge difference in talent from their top forward prospect Eric Tangradi to the rest of the forward in Wilkes-Barre. So, with the first round pick in the 2010 NHL draft, the Penguins picked Beau Bennett from California. Many (myself included) were actually hoping to see the Penguins pick up 6′6 defensemen Jarred Tinordi. Instead, they went with a much needed forward and I am not complaining about that pick at all.

The entire list of draft picks are below.

Overall Name Pos
20 Beau Bennett RW
80 Bryan Rust RW
110 Tom Kuehnhackl RW
140 Kenneth Agostino LW
152 Joe Rogalski D
170 Reid McNeil D

Prior to Free Agency starting, the Penguins traded their 2011 3rd round pick to Philadelphia for the rights to defensemen Dan Hamhuis. In the end, nothing came out of that and the Penguins lost their 3rd round pick. I was a little disgruntled at this decision, but after reading many other people’s comments determined it was worth the risk.

The Pens made one of their best moves, at least in my opinion, by re-signing Matt Cooke to a 3 year contract at a very reasonable price ($1.8 million/yr).

The Penguins lost their power play quarterback Sergei Gonchar to Ottawa almost immediately after the start of Free Agency. General Manager Ray Shero made two giant splashes in the Free Agency market shortly after by first signing Zybenek Michalek to a 5-year $20 (4/yr) million dollar deal. Michalek had played for the Phoenix Coyotes and Minnesota Wild previously and is considered to be a physical defensemen. Next up, Ray Shero signed Paul Martin formerly of the New Jersey Devils to a 5 year $25 (5/yr) million contract.

The Penguins were reported as making the best moves in free agency by many news outlets. Now, on to my analysis.

Losing Gonchar hurts, but I believe both Martin and Michalek make up for it and actually make the Penguins a better team. Gonchar took a 3/yr $5.5 million/yr deal from Ottawa and I would much rather see the Pens spend that kind of money on a younger player with much less risk. I completely agree with Ray Shero’s stance on not wanting to sign more than a 2-year deal considering the consequences of the salary cap if Gonchar was to retire early.

What the Penguins lacked this past year was a physical defense and I feel like that has been upgraded significantly. I expect to see Ben Lovejoy brought up from Wilkes-Barre as another defensemen. Lovejoy was an RFA who signed a 3-year deal which included a 2-way contract for the 2010-2011 season for $525k/yr and then a one-way contract for the following 2 years. Lovejoy did play a few games in the NHL this past season and showed promise.

The Pens had approximately $11 million in cap room prior to making the moves for Martin and Michalek. Because of those signings, the Pens will once again have to work with mediocre wingers. There is also talk of moving either Evgeni Malkin or Jordan Staal to a winger position rather than their natural center position. I am not necessarily a fan of this, but I put trust in management in making the right decision. Personally, I find having three lines with extremely strong centers a benefit that very few teams (if any) get to enjoy.

At this point in time, the Penguins have lost the following players with some who still might resign (Bill Guerin).

Ruslan Fedotenko, Bill Guerin, Jay Mckee, Sergei Gonchar, Mark Eaton, and Alex Ponikarovsky. Bill Guerin definitely appeared to be slowing down even more this past off season, but I would not rule out the Pens resigning him if he signs at an even more discounted price than before (probably in the $1 million/yr range).

With all of that said, now comes the real waiting game. Waiting until October 7th when the Penguins get to open against their arch-rival Philadelphia Flyers, in their brand new home, the Consol Energy Center.

What will the lines look like?
How much will the defense improve?
Will Tangradi fill one of the winger positions in the big club?
Will the Stanley Cup return to Pittsburgh?

Does it sound like I am excited? Absolutely!

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