Friday, June 7, 2013

Penguins Off-Season plan 2013.

One serious team played results in a sweep with no power play goals and combined score line of 12-2.  Here now the off season plan for the 2013 Pittsburgh Penguins.

Coaching:  Dan Bylsma, you're fired.  I cover why in a previous entry.  Available are Paul Maurice, Tortorella, Guy Boucher, and Lindy Ruff.  Potentially available is Dave Tippett, my #1 choice.  You know what?  There's no salary cap on coaching.  Tom Renney is Mike Babcock's assistant in Detroit.  If you can get Dave Tippett and Lindy Ruff, go for it, because the roster overhaul combined with the cumulative age of the team going way down means that the team needs a completely new identity if CONSOL Energy Center is going to inspire dread in other teams the way it was intended to.

Goaltending:  Marc-Andre Fleury lost his job after the 4th straight year of totally unacceptable play.  Pittsburgh has a compliance buyout if there are no takers in a trade.  I think having only two years left at a $5M cap hit is benefit that kept more than a few teams out of the hunt for Luongo last summer.  Next year's starter is Tomas Vokoun, who has 1 year remaining at $2M.  Backup can be literally anyone in the system; new signee Eric Hartzell in particular.  

Defense:  Paul Martin and Brooks Orpik have trade clauses in their contracts and they're very valuable to the future of the defense core.  Matt Niskanen has been underwhelming during his tenure, and with one season remaining at 2.3M, could be a bit contributor as a bottom six, although it wouldn't shock me if he was not on this team next season.  Pittsburgh has approximately 7 NHL caliber prospects and I'm positive it would be better served for one of them to get that NHL ice time instead.  Simon Despres is a top-four defenseman, and if he's proven not to be, we need to move along.  Equity, yo.  Deryk Engelland and Robert Bortuzzo will more than likely be back, whereas I doubt Mark Eaton and Douglas Murray will be offered new contracts.  

That leaves Kris Letang.  Is he going to be worth what he'll command on the open market to Pittsburgh?  What's with shooting the puck wide all the time?  Is he therefore good enough on the power play?  Is his overall mercurial play in the playoffs worth tying up the cap space?  What would he be worth in a trade as a Norris candidate with a year remaining on his contract at $3.5M?  The answer to the last question is something I would love to find out, because I don't think the answers to the other questions are good enough to warrant that kind of contract.  This upcoming draft is uncommonly deep and Letang was a 3rd round selection.  Sometimes you have to treat an asset like an asset, great hair or no.  Buy low, sell high.

Wings: James Neal is signed at $5M through 2018.  This is great news as he is the real deal.  Chris Kunitz has 1 year remaining at $3.725M and it seems like he was the most popular linemate on this team.  Beau Bennett is going to have 2 years remaining on his entry-level contract starting next season and he is a top-six wing.  These are the easy ones.

Harder are Dupuis, Cooke, and Kennedy.  Pascal is probably going to cash in somewhere as he well should.  I didn't begrudge Scuderi and I won't begrudge Pascal.  I feel like the time is right for Cookie to move along.  He's a valuable PK player and is always dialed into the game but at a cost of possibly incurring the violent, blind wrath of other teams.  Tyler Kennedy really got the shaft in the last few series in these playoffs and I would suspect isn't in the future plans of the Penguins, although he is a RFA this summer.  

Tanner Glass has a year left on his deal.  Yeah, we still have Tanner Glass, and no, no I don't think it matters what happens to him.  Did I say Tanner Glass?  I meant Steve MacIntyre.  Actually I meant both. 

Jarome Iginla and Brenden Morrow.  What can I say except that they didn't have very big impact when shit got serious, and I never imagined that that would be the case.  Iggy was very dangerous on our power play until of course he wasn't on the power play.  He got 1 game with Sid, won that game, and then was again misused; that doesn't excuse the inability to make plays and be consistently physical.  I don't think he waived his NTC to join Pittsburgh to play LW on a line with negative levels of chemistry, but that's a coaching critique.  Morrow finished as a 4th line player, Iginla a 3rd.  I do not expect either of them to be on the 2014 roster unless they are prepared to take a 50%+ pay cut for short term.  The idea that they have too much pride to accept that dollar amount sure wasn't evident in these playoffs.

Center:  Sid is signed until the Mahdi reveals himself.  He's the best player in the world and is the face of the NHL.  Hopefully he can stay healthy late into seasons and start the playoffs at full conditioning and weight, &c.  

Brandon Sutter had a pretty solid first playoff run.  He was on the ice for, I think, 2 even strength goals against and even scored one of our two goals in the Bruins series.  I'm pitifully drunk.  He has one year remaining on his entry level deal and I think Sutter will excel in a  more structured system.  I'm really counting on that system being installed if you haven't noticed.

Jussi Jokinen and Dustin Jeffrey were on the taxi squad and will compete for the same role of jack of all trades forward on the 2014 Pens.  JJ has 1 year remaining at 2.1M, DJ is a RFA who will probably seek arbitration.  

Much in this same way, Craig Adams and Joe Vitale are 4th line centers who do 4th line type shit.  Vitale is a UFA after next season; Adams is a UFA this summer.  I really like what Adams brings to the team in all its' facets as the NHLPA Rep and as a 2-time Champion.  He's an uncommon commodity and he had an excellent series against the Bruins.  

Thus brings us to the hardest decision, Evgeni Vladimirovich Malkin.  His contract is up at the end of next season, and he has a No Move Clause that I think goes into effect July 1, 2013.  That means that before/at the draft on June 30, he could be traded for what I would expect to be an overwhelming trade package, especially given the rating of this year's draft class.  I think it will depend on his taste for a contract similar to that of Sid Crosby and the direction of the team.  Moving Fleury one way or another potentially frees up the cap space to resign Malkin and Letang to long term deals.  

I'm really on the fence about Geno.  His wingers this season were the stuff of pure folly and whimsical flights of fancy, yet he was futile and frustrated.  He's undisciplined.  He's been a big part of the Pens' lack of focus and conviction in the post-season.  Malkin (and Letang) in the Islanders' and then Bruins' series made so many ill-advised and ridiculously bad plays that did directly result in goals against that I'm open to the idea that we have already gotten the best out of them.  

Franchise centers are rare things.  Great teams of the past have typically had two centers that were outstanding.  We've been one of those teams since the 05 lockout; yet teams that have significantly less high end payers like Boston, Detroit, and Chicago have been more successful (or will be after this season).  The Crosby/Malkin/{Staal}/Letang/Fleury core, as young as it is, has underachieved in a pretty weak conference.  I think the rarity of a player like Malkin is the reason to trade him.  In fact, if Pittsburgh does the prudent thing when it comes to the coaching staff and the direction and identity of the team, the Penguins could be in a much stronger position in a season or two with the assets Malkin brings in.  Doubly so if the Penguins trade Letang at the height of his value.

I would suggest then at this point to trade Fleury or use one of the two compliance buy out clauses to extirpate his contract.  I would seek a trade before or at the NHL entry draft for Evgeni Malkin.  I would also seek a trade for Kris Letang.  At some point these players are assets owned by and controlled by the Penguins organization; I think the Penguins are in a rare position to liquidate for extreme value two very rare assets; at least as rare as the chance to compete for Lord Stanley that these players just threw away.  

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