Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Players not tendered qualifying offers

According to this article in the Post-Gazette, the Penguins issued qualifying offers to six of their restricted free agents. They include:
  • Colby Armstrong
  • Ryan Malone
  • Brooks Orpik
  • Marc-Andre Fleury
  • Jani Rita
  • Niklas Nordgren
More surprisingly, the players they didn't tender offers to (thus making them unrestricted free agents) include:
  • Andy Hilbert
  • Konstantin Koltsov
  • Tomas Surovy
  • Andy Chiodo
along with players acquired via late season trades:
  • Krys Kolanos
  • Petr Taticek
and some minor leaguers:
  • Ben Eaves
  • Cam Paddock
  • Drew Fata
  • Alex Rouleau
  • Andy Schneider
Now, what is noteworthy about all of this? Well, here are a few things I've come up with:
  1. Any of the guys that were non-tendered could be back. The only thing this means is that they're unrestricted free agents and free to sign with anyone (including the Pens, should that be mutually agreeable).
  2. I'm pretty surprised they're letting Hilbert and Koltsov go. Both of them seemed to really hit their stride late in the season, and Koltsov especially seems suited to the new NHL with his speed and tenacity. According to the article, Hilbert isn't against coming back.
  3. Surovy didn't show too much while he was here, but he seemed to have a strong Olympics, and he is relatively young. Hopefully he'll come back, but his agent said he might go to Europe.
  4. Some of the moves were admittedly because of financial constraints.
  5. Most sickeningly (is that a word?), the Penguins have absolutely nothing left from the Mark Recchi and Ric Jackman trades. I know they tendered Nordgren, but from what I understand, he's playing in Europe. They probably tendered him as a formality to keep his rights. Craig Patrick really didn't do very well on his trade deadline moves.
Free agency is right around the corner. It will be interesting to see how things shake out. Don't expect the Pens to do much of anything early on, but if they see a chance, I wouldn't be surprised to see them jump at it. They have some definite holes on their roster to fill.

Shane Endicott, Sebastian Caron released

The Penguins bought out the contracts of Sebastian Caron and Shane Endicott for 1/3 of the value of the contract, per the NHL rules. Thibault could have been bought out as well (or instead of Caron), but it would have cost the team 2/3 of his $1.5 million salary for next year, or $1 million.

I'm disappointed to see them cut Endicott, since guys with size like his are hard to come by (though they just drafted a player with his size in Jordan Staal). The team is really solid at the center position, though, so I guess it's not that big of a loss.

Caron has proven that he is a capable backup in the NHL. I think he'll catch on somewhere. This could open the door to Sabourin to be the backup if Thibault doesn't return from his injury as expected, or repeats the performance of last year.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Penguins draft Jordan Staal

With the #2 pick in the draft, and a no-nonsense introduction (thankfully), the Pens picked Jordan Staal. From what I've heard, he'll likely not be in the NHL this season, but you never know with the way the Pens situation is at wing.

A few other things I noticed in the first round:
  • Do all of the teams have to give those long winded introductions? They were old when the Blues were doing it at #1, and you still had guys in the second half of the first round trying to have something new to say... just make the pick, guys! Maybe the should have the commish announce all the picks like the NFL does.
  • Did Kessel look pudgy to anyone else?
  • One other thing on the teams - just send a representative or two to the podium - we don't need to see a bunch of guys standing up there - it just slows things down and really doesn't add anything of value that I can see.
I'm glad the Pens went with the obvious pick and took Staal. No reaching, and no trades (so far).

Will be interesting to see what kind of coverage this gets in the Sunday Post-Gazette tomorrow, since they've been horribly sparse in their articles for Sunday editions.

NHL Draft - Penguins style...

So what are the Pens likely to do tomorrow for their first pick in the NHL draft? Well, one rumor heard just about everywhere has the club trading the second overall pick to Carolina for last year's third overall pick, defensemen Jack Johnson. From what I hear about Johnson, this would be a steal for the Penguins. Carolina would then use the pick on Jordan Staal.

What if the Pens don't pull the trade (which I think is likely, because Carolina would be dumb to give up Johnson just to have the Staal brothers play together)? Then I'm hoping we'll see the Pens draft Kessel or Staal. Kessel has played some wing along with center, which is something that would benefit the middle-heavy Pens (they have Crosby and Malkin up the middle right now on the top two lines). If for some reason Erik Johnson is sitting there at #2, then it's a no-brainer - the Pens will take Johnson.

From what I've read, none of the top guys are ready for the NHL next season (which is not to say that some teams won't try to bring these guys in early). Look for whoever the Pens pick to crack the roster in 07-08. Let's hope the Pens are in Pittsburgh so we can watch them play then...

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Ovechkin wins Calder trophy

Alexander Ovechkin has won the Calder trophy as the top NHL rookie.

This really isn't a surprise to me. I do think Crosby will be the better player in the long run, but both guys are going to be stars for a long time to come.

Let's see if Malkin can win the Calder this year - his competition certainly won't be as stiff!

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Lots of Pens stuff in the news + player contract status!

Don't look now, but there was actually an article that was related to the Penguins in the Post-Gazette this past Sunday. It was about Erik Johnson, who will likely be the #1 pick in the NHL Draft. The Draft is taking place this Saturday night at 6:00. I hope to have a little more about that later in the week.

While we have an abundance of riches, I'll also mention that Dave Molinari had a great Q&A this past Friday. I'd recommend reading it - at the very least for his list of which players are under which contract status. I'll reproduce it here so we have it for posterity once free agency opens:

Players under contract for next season:
  • Jocelyn Thibault
  • Sebastien Caron
  • Sergei Gonchar
  • Ryan Whitney
  • Josef Melichar
  • Rob Scuderi
  • Eric Cairns
  • Sidney Crosby
  • Erik Christensen
  • Shane Endicott
  • Maxime Talbot
  • John LeClair
  • Andre Roy
  • Michel Ouellet
  • Noah Welch
  • Micki DuPont
Players who will be restricted free agents, provided the Penguins give them a qualifying contract offer by June 26th:
  • Marc-Andre Fleury
  • Colby Armstrong
  • Andy Hilbert
  • Konstantin Koltsov
  • Ryan Malone
  • Tomas Surovy
  • Brooks Orpik
Players who are free agents:
  • Eric Boguniecki
  • Matt Murley
  • Ryan VandenBussche
  • Lyle Odelein
Players who have already signed to play in Europe:
  • Lasse Pirjeta
  • Jani Rita
  • Niklas Nordgren
I'm a little bit surprised that Jani Rita left the NHL to go to Europe, though I guess not getting much playing time for the worst team in hockey (almost) is not a good sign for your career.

I can't see any of the potential restricted guys being let go, except maybe for Surovy. I guess guys like Koltsov aren't that hard to come by either, though he seemed to find his niche playing alongside Malone and Leclair at the end of the year.

The regular free agents probably won't be back, in my opinion. I guess the might bring back a few if they make some moves that open some holes, or some other guys get hurt, but I can't see any of them having much impact on what should be an improved team this season.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Some player news

According to an article by Dave Molinari in the Post-Gazette, Aleksey Morozov is going to play in the NHL this upcoming season, after playing quite well in the Russian Super League. The article doesn't really say anything new, other than Ray Shero has said that the Penguins are interested, but will be conscious of the cost. Morozov's agent, for his part, has said that they're not against playing for the Penguins, but they want to be paid.

Alskesy, in my opinion, is the kind of player that could thrive in the new NHL, providing he has worked out his issues with confidence and consistency. His results in the Super League would seem to indicate that he has. This could make him quite popular on the free agent circuit.

What does all of this add up to? Unless there is no substantial interest in Morozov, thus allowing his asking price to slip quite a bit, don't expect to see him in a Penguins uniform this season.

One other tidbit - the Pens signed someone named Micki Dupont, whose rights they held. I can't see this being anything other than another player for Wilkes-Barre.

Exhibition schedule announced

The Pens will play a seven game exhibition schedule, against Buffalo, Philadelphia, Ottawa and Washington. The games will be played starting September 19th and ending September 30th, including five games in the first six days.

Two of the games will be at the Mellon Arena - against Washington and Buffalo.

This pre-season figures to be interesting. The Pens are loaded at the center position, especially with Malkin seemingly on his way over here. They aren't so strong on the wings. There will be some good position battles, as Michel Therrien tries to put his stamp on this team from the outset. Of course, it's still too early to be talking about the upcoming season. After all, there are 97 days until the first exhibition game.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Evgeni Malkin on his way!!

So evidently those exhibition games with the Russians were a precursor to something bigger and better for those of us in Pittsburgh. According to this article by Dave Molinari, the Russian Federation has agreed in principle to sign the transfer agreement (it will be formalized next week), which will open the door to allow Evgeni Malkin to come over to the NHL.

Sergei Gonchar has offered to have Malkin stay with his family, as he (Malkin) speaks very little English.

This is terrific news for the Pens, and really bodes well for the season. We can't expect big things out of Malkin right away - he'll have some adjusting to do (unlike Crosby, who seemed totally ready to step right into the NHL). He'll have to learn the language and culture. He'll also have to adjust to a smaller rink size. I can't see that being too much of a problem for him, given how he performed at the Olympics and the World Championships.

Let's go Pens!

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Russian exhibition games

According to this article, the NHL has agreed to play exhibition games against Russian Super League clubs. The article mentions that the Russians are considering signing the transfer agreement that would allow the Pens to get Malkin over here in time for the new season.

This can only be a good thing - anything to build momentum towards signing that trade agreement!

This one was for you, ees - ask and I'll try to deliver... (or something along those lines...) :-)

It's my new arena... No! It's MY new arena...

The lovely political infighting has begun. Accoding to this Post-Gazette article, Allegheny County Council has officially criticized the county Chief Executive Dan Onorato. What did Mr. Onorato do? He asked Gov Rendell to advance money to start the arena-building process now. Read the full article here.

My take on this is that if it's simply County Council trying to put the brakes on this to see where the slots license will fall, then that's great. However, I've seen too many of these types of things in the Pittsburgh area to think that it's anything other than a "mine's bigger than yours is" type of deal. This is going to drag into quite a little mess before anything gets built, if everyone has to try to take control of the situation. You'll have Mr. Onorato, Mr O'Connor, Pittsburgh City Council and Allegheny County Council all trying to show they have the grandest... er... vision (??) for the proposed arena. If you can keep calm, it might be kind of funny. In fact, since we're talking about funny things, and you've read all the way to the end of this article, I'll give you this link. It's the type of thing we tend to see a lot of here in Pittsburgh... (and if you're unsure of the implications of the article, just leave a comment and I'll be happy to spell it out more clearly - it's really quite funny).

Friday, June 02, 2006

No news is Pens news

How long has it been since the last post here? Seems like forever, but it's only been a week. Not much happening in Penguins land, or even in casino land for that matter.

Sure, there are a few stories in the papers about another Gaming Control Board member getting arrested, and about some residents of the Hill getting paid $15 (or not) to come to the rally when the GCB was in town. Nothing that is terribly earth-shattering (as bad as bribing Hill residents sounds, we're talking about a grand total of 80 people).

Dave Molinari has a Q&A today in the Post-Gazette, and he does have a few interesting things to say. Take a look if you like... I'll wait. Here are the main points I got out of it:
  • Ziggy Palffy is thinking about playing in the NHL again, and he probably wasn't hurt when he "retired". The Pens would probably trade him, rather than have a quitter on their team, if public appearences are to be belived. Maybe the change of GM will have an effect here, but I can't see Therien reacting well to someone like Palffy wanting to come back.
  • According to Dave, one of the most mystifying things about last season was stripping Leclair of the A on his jersey. I don't remember that being a huge deal at the time, but I can see how it would be for Leclair. I give him all the credit in the world for playing hard down the stretch, as well as stating that he would return for next season.
Other than those two little tidbits, it's been a whole lot of nothing (the Pens won't go after any big name free agents, the scouting department might have some turnover after the draft, Shero will likely have some leeway with the team's performance this year, blah blah blah).

Over the next month, we'll have the NHL draft, along with the opening of free agency. The Pens will also be able to begin negotiations with other cities. Should be interesting...