Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Penguins sign F Jason Williams

It's a two-way contract for one year, worth $600,000.

Williams is not big (5'11"), but he can play several positions and is a right-handed shot.

Jason can provide some excellent depth at the forward spot. He has been a decent goal scorer in his career. In fact, he was a very good player for Columbus in 2008-09 for the second half of the year and then signed with Detroit in 2009-10. He fractured his fibula on November 9th of 2009 and his numbers haven't been the same since then.

He didn't sign a contract in 2010 until December, and then it was with Connecticut of the AHL. Dallas signed him last February and he played 27 games for them to close out the season.

When you see such a quick, sharp drop off for a guy, you have to wonder if it was the circumstance in Columbus that allowed him to succeed, or if the injury to his leg changed his game.

Either way, this is a great low-risk move by Ray Shero. Williams will have a chance to make the team in training camp, I'm sure, and will be one of the first considerations if there's an injury.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Draft picks on display at 2011 Development Camp

Of the 28 players that were invited to the 2011 Development Camp, 17 are draft picks from the past 5 drafts. That list includes the past three #1 picks (Morrow, Bennett and Despres), along with some guys that we could see in Pittsburgh over the next few years like Kuhnhackl, Veilleux and Petersen.

The entirety of the 2011 draft class will also be there, along with everyone from 2010 except Kenneth Agostino, who is enrolled at Yale, and (I believe) would have to pay his own way to the camp.

Here's a list of the draft picks attending, broken out by draft year:
2011 Round 1 - Joe Morrow
2011 Round 2 - Scott Harrington
2011 Round 5 - Dominic Uher
2011 Round 6 - Josh Archibald
2011 Round 7 - Scott Wilson

2010 Round 1 - Beau Bennett
2010 Round 3 - Brian Rust
2010 Round 4 - Tom Kuhnhackl
2010 Round 6 - Joe Rogalski
2010 Round 6 - Reid McNeill

2009 Round 1 - Simon Despres
2009 Round 2 - Phillip Samuelsson
2009 Round 4 - Nick Petersen

2008 Round 6 - Patrick Kileen
2008 Round 7 - Nicholas D'Agostino

2007 Round 2 - Kevin Veilleux
2007 Round 4 - Alex Grant

Penguins prospect Tomas Kuhnhackl to return to OHL

Tomas Kuhnhackl, a 4th round draft choice in 2010, is eligible to play in the AHL this season at the age of 19. He'll spend another season in the OHL, however, playing for the Windsor Spitfires, according to this article from the Windsor Star.

Kuhnhackl led the Spitfires in scoring last season with 39 goals, including 15 on the power play, and 68 points. He was just a +4 on the year, which suggests he may need to work on his defensive game. Overall, it was a nice transition from the European game.

Given the lack of scoring at the forward spot, you have to hope that Kuhnhackl can continue to develop all areas of his game since the scoring touch seems to be there right now.

Kuhnhackl will be in Pittsburgh for the 2011 development camp.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Penguins sign D Alexandre Picard

I'm a few days late with this, but the Pens added some more depth to their defense by signing Alexandre Picard to a one-year, two-way contract worth $600 K if he plays in the NHL.

I've seen a few folks writing that this makes the Pens likely to deal Matt Niskanen, but I don't see it. Picard, while still young (he's 26), has never been an every day player in the NHL. He has averaged just under 50 games per year for the past three years, and this is the second straight year he signed a two-way contract.

Sounds like he'll be the first call-up if someone gets hurt and the Pens don't want to play Engelland every game.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Penguins sign D Boris Valabik

The Pens added some depth on the blue line by signing D Boris Valabik to a one-year, two-way contract for the league minimum.

Valabik is a former top pick (#10 overall in 2004) who has great size (he's 6'7"). He spent 2010-11 in the AHL. He has 80 total games in the NHL over three seasons.

Valabik's profiles as a "mean" defenseman (meaning, he's a thug). He racks up penalty minutes like Sid racks up accolades.

He might not be the first call-up from Wilkes-Barre, but he's the first one to call if rough stuff is expected (like against the Isles or Flyers).

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Penguins sign F Colin McDonald

The Pens added some intriguing depth to their forward ranks by signing forward Colin McDonald to a two-way contract. He'll almost certainly start the season in Wilkes-Barre.

What makes Colin a really interesting signing is that he suddenly started to score goals last year - lots of them. He led the AHL in goals with 42 last season. In two previous seasons in the AHL, he managed 22 goals in total.

McDonald also has good size (6'3").

The Pens had someone that profiled in a similar fashion - Tim Wallace. Though Wallace never reached the 40 goal mark, and doesn't have McDonald's size, he did jump to 27 goals two seasons back. Unfortunately that didn't translate to any prolonged NHL playing time (or success).

If McDonald really has started to figure it out, it's not too late for him to contribute at the NHL level, but at the age of 26, he's going to need to take advantage of any chances he gets with the big club.

Given the Pens' need for size and scoring from the wings, this was a great move by Ray Shero.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Penguins sign F Steve Sullivan

The Pens added some scoring punch today with the addition of Steve Sullivan from Nashville for one year at $1.5 million.

Sullivan has had some injury issues the past few seasons, and he didn't play much in the second half of the season last year.

The Pens are giving Sullivan the chance to show he can be a healthy, productive player in the NHL for a few more seasons.

Sullivan is giving the Pens some proven scoring punch, especially on the power play.

I'm excited about this move from the power play perspective. If Sullivan can stay healthy, he has the chance to really elevate the Pens with the man-advantage. He's certainly one of the smallest players (listed at 5'8") and he's not physical, but he still manages to be a positive on the plus / minus and contribute on the score sheet.

Penguins re-sign F Tyler Kennedy

The Pens bolstered their forward ranks by coming to terms with RW Tyler Kennedy.

The deal is for two years and $4 million.

This is a quality, low risk move by Ray Shero, given how much of other scoring wingers received today on the open market (Leino, Upshall, Ryder, Cole, etc).

It's also a strong statement by Kennedy that he wants to be a part of what is happening here in Pittsburgh. I think he should be congratulated for it.

With the signing of Sullivan, Kennedy may be ticketed for the third line, where we know he's worked well in the past with Matt Cooke (and maybe Jordan Staal, depending on how the team deploys their lines).

#jagrfail - Jagr spurns the Penguins

After saying that his "heart is in Pittsburgh" and that it was a really tough decision and that it wasn't about the money, Jaromir Jagr proved that none of those things were true.

The best part is that I think the Pens dodged a bullet when they weren't able to sign him. If the drama quotient is already this high, and he's this completely indecisive, then power play benefits aside, I think the Pens are better off without him.

Having said that, it sure would have been nice to see him on that power play. Some things were simply not meant to be.

I still think Jagr deserves respect for his years of fantastic achievements here in Pittsburgh, though I'm sure his visits for the foreseeable future are going to be more painful.