Wednesday, June 17, 2009

You thought it was all said and done

While hockey season is over (I think Pittsburgh won the cup), the off season is here. The NHL entry draft takes place on June 26th and 27th. Less than a week after that is the beginning of the free agency period.

This is the time of year when trade rumors swirl just as much if not more than right before the trade deadline. Who wants to pick up a few more draft picks? Who wants to trade some away in hopes of landing that one player who will help lead their team to Stanley Cup glory?

All this (and lack of true employment) have led us to take a look at the numbers and crunch some ideas for what could be the Pittsburgh Penguins of 2009-2010 and beyond. We'll start off with cap numbers:

While it is not set in stone (the collective revenues of the league have not been tallied yet) the league cap number should be right around $55 million so we will stick with that number.
As it stands right now, the Pittsburgh Penguins cap number will be $47.3 million for 2009-2010. That is of course if we drop all our free agents and their salaries which isn't going to happen.

Much has been made about the amount of money tied up in Crosby (8.7 mill), Malkin (8.7 mill), Fleury (5 mill), Staal (4 mill) and even Brooks Orpik (3.75 mill). Well this is the year when that will all come to fruition with Malkin, Fleury and Staal all starting their new contract numbers.

At the same time we lose the big numbers of Sykora (2.5 mill), Guerin (4.5mill), Miroslav Satan (3.5mill), Ruslan Fedetenko (2.5 mill), Phillippe Boucher(2.5 mill) and Hal Gill (2.1 mill). Lost yet?

Also on the unrestricted free agent list is Rob Scuderi. The authors of this blog have thought highly of Scuds for quite some time now and his performance in the Finals put him in to another pay scale. He is a clutch shut down defensemen and is only getting better.

Along with those boys are a bunch of AHL'ers, some of whom will be given every shot to make it to the big club in the fall. Of interest is Alex Goligoski, Ben Lovejoy, Paul Bissonnette, John Curry and Tim Wallace. These guys are all restricted free agents and we fully expect them to be Pens again next year.

Moving along... Fight me if you will but here is what I see happening over the summer to our beloved flightless birds. Sykora, Satan, Boucher, Gill and Garon will all leave. That frees up $11.6 million in cap space from those players alone. We have been saying for some time that Sykora is going to finish up his career in Russia and while his agent is saying otherwise Petr may head back home to play out his twilight years. Either way he and Satan will not suit up for the Pens next year. Sad to say in Sykora's case.

Boucher is expendable and will be replaced by Alex Goligoski in the fall. He is much younger, cheaper and far more talented in the offensive zone, and has shown flashes of being able to confidently stand people up at the blue line. Gill is a bit more of a loss in this author's opinion (notice I did not say we as some authors of this blog disagree with this sentiment). Yes he is slow, yes he put a few goals in behind MAF himself, but he has excellent reach, is great on the PK and spends the majority of his ice time in front of the net. He will be missed when he is gone which most likely will be now rather than later. Ben Lovejoy will be used much like Goligoski was this year to replace the injured and shake things up when necessary.

In goal John Curry is more than capable when it comes to backing up MAF. He will sign another deall and Caron will hit the road to go find some other team to back stop for a bit. While not quite as experienced, Curry has shown he is solid between the pipes the past two years in Wilkes-Barre Scranton and posted a 2.38 GAA with a .913 save percentage last season.

Now that our blue line back to goal is set...

As far as Fedotenko and Guerin are concerned I can see them both coming back to wear the black and gold. Tenk will most likely get a slight bump in his $2.25 million salary and sign for 2 years. Bad ass Billy G on the other hand is the tricky point. He is far from young, but seems to have picked up one hell of a step playing along side Sid this post season. Not to mention the fact that if you were at the parade or watched it on TV, both fans and Geno alike were cheering for "one more year". I could see Guerin taking a slightly smaller deal to play one more year on Sid's wing in hopes of back-to-back cup runs. Or maybe I'm just fucking nutty.

When it comes to replacing Sykora and Satan, this falls squarely on the shoulders of some AHL'ers first. Luca Caputi, a 2007 draft choice, will more likely than not make his way to the steel city in the fall. He is a power forward, and in his brief stint with the parent club this past season, he showed fans just what he is capable of doing when thrown on a line with Crosby. In our opinion he will see time on Geno's wing instead with Fedotenko on the other side. The question mark is Eric Tangradi. The 6'4" winger that came over as part of the Ryan Whitney deal and while he is still getting comfortable in his own skin he put up 88 points in 55 games this season playing for the Belleville Bulls of the OHL. He was injured in the playoffs this season when his hand was lascerated and required surgery. What happens next with him is up in the air until he is fully recovered. Satan's replacement will most likely come in the form of Ryan Stone, Tim Wallace, Conner James or Pittsburgh's own Bill Thomas. Time for these prospects who have been in the system for a few years to have a real shot and with Danny B. as coach, I'm sure he has one or two in mind.

To throw another wrench in the works, the NHL draft is another time of trades and deals that could change everything in a heartbeat. The latest news out of Ottawa is that Dany Heatley wants out... now. GM Bryan Murray is working the phones to try out this trade and see what can happen come draft time, which brings me to an interesting thought... Heatley in a Pens sweater.

Now before you start screaming at your computer just wait... I know we're right up against the cap... after crunching the numbers on the list of players I just gave you it'll be tough to bring everyone back let alone add someone, but let's look at this from a hypothetical view point. Besides we have Ray Shero on our sides and who knows what that man has in the works. Heatley has 4 years left on his six-year, $45 million contract which will hit at $7.5 million next year. Ouch. But this guy also had 39 goals and 72 points last year... nothing to just pass off. Here's the deal. Jordan Staal has a VERY nice $4 million a year cap hit... something this author has considered trade bait from the moment he was offered the contract. While he is a good forward with great potential, do we really need $22 million tied up down the middle? I think not. Jordan Staal and a conditional 2nd round pick in the 2010 draft for Dany Heatley. Not nearly as crazy as it sounds, and if this happens you can plug him in with Geno or Sid and not bring back Guerin or Tenk, and the best part is we'd have him for 4 years!

The downside to this idea? The cap. While it seems the NHL has weathered the storm for this year, that is because the economic downturn happened late enough in the season that sponsorships and company suites had already been purchased. That will not be the case for this coming season which could spell disaster for the 2010-2011 season. A drop in cap space would make this deal an utter disaster and would be troublesome for the Pens and a good majority of the teams in the league with little to no space (see also: Detroit Red Wings). This can possibly be avoided by re-opening the Collective Bargaining Agreement and fudging with some of the Player's Association rules, all of which can happen at any time, but we won't get into that long and complicated mess right now.

Also on draft weekend Penguins fans will get to see Shero make choices in each and every round... yes, that's right... we actually have picks this year! Seven of them to be exact. Hopefully we'll stockpile a few forwards (see also: WINGERS DAMMIT!) and anything else GM Ray Shero sees fit. It will be nice to see Shero use a full draft again and pick up some talent for the future. We have some great, young talent waiting in the wings (pun unintended) but we always need to keep the flow alive.

That's it for today... a look at the 2009-2010 Penguins... please note the author of this post, while a hockey fanatic, has no ties to the Pittsburgh Penguins and talks out of his ass more often than not. Stay tuned up to and including the draft and free agency for more looks inside the Penguins organization.

**EDIT** The Pittsburgh Penguins and Alex Goligoski have agreed on a three-year contract worth $5.5 million. Gogo's new cap number is $1,833,333. Jesus couldn't they have fucking rounded that?

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