First, take a look at the latest Q&A from the Pen's website, by Bob Grove. Specifically, read the first question and answer.
Read it? Good. Let's take a look at what he's detailed.
Basically, the Pens have (or will have) about $22 million committed to 19 players. The roster size for the NHL club is 24. Let's look at the breakdown of players by position on the Penguins currently (these are players under contract, as well as restricted free agents, who are highly likely to sign contracts, plus Malkin):
C - Sidney Crosby
C - Evgeni Malkin
C - Maxime Talbot
C - Erik Christensen
W - John LeClair
W - Jarkko Ruutu
W - Colby Armstrong
W - Ryan Malone
W - Andre Roy
W - Michel Ouellet
Marc Andre Fleury
First, let's deal with the players that we know are in the picture, from Wilkes-Barre. The only major one I haven't mentioned it Noah Welch, who certainly seemed NHL ready in his brief time here last year. If Welch makes the club, expect it to be at the expense of another defensemen, as the Pens already have 7 on the roster. I wouldn't be surprised to see Cairns, Scuderi or even Melichar not be here next season. Gonchar, Whitney and Eaton are untouchable, and I think Orpik is their best physical presence on the blue line. As a quick footnote, remember that the Pens signed Micki Dupont. He'll likely have a chance to make the roster too.
Talbot, Christensen and Ouellet certainly aren't guarenteed to make the roster, but I'd say all have a good chance, especially given the shortage of players up front right now.
Another wild card in all of this is Jordan Staal. He could have a strong camp and make the team either as a center or a winger. If it's as a center, it would probably spell doom for Erik Christensen (which is a shame, as I really like Erik).
So, what we're looking at is that the Pens have 4-5 slots to fill, and about $7-8 million to do it with, as the Pens will likely open the season with a payroll around $30-31 million. They'll probably pick up (through varying means) another 3-4 forwards, probably wingers, and maybe a defensemen, depending on what they think of Welch.
Having said all of that, who is currently available to be signed? Grove mentions Anson Carter as a potential candidate. Here are some other unrestricted free agents that are still out there... (I'm focusing mainly on wingers):
- Peter Bondra - too old?
- Brad Isbister - used to have a scoring touch - he's big (6'4") and you could get him cheap
- Mark Recchi - not sure I want to go back down that road again...
- Eric Daze - can certainly score, but he was hurt all last year (back problems) and has yet to prove he can play in the new NHL (he's huge - 6'6")
- Radek Dvorak - had one great season with the Rangers - after that... not so much
- Valeri Bure - good scorer - much injured - would have something to prove
- Jan Bullis - can chip in some goals here and there - not really a top two lines kind of guy
- Viktor Kozlov
- Martin Rucinsky - he's a bit older, and not really a prolific scorer
- Petr Sykora - will score - will be paid well - probably the best of the bunch remaining
- Oleg Kvasha - still relatively young - has scored sporadically - has size (6'5")
That's all I have tonight - more later in the week. Feel free to add your own thoughts in the comments.