Penguins do not want Scuderi to test market, will let Thibault become UFA.

In an article from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, it is stated that after giving qualifying offers and still having 16 players that can become free-agents, Ray Shero is only trying to sign defenseman Rob Scuderi from the list of 16, before he tests the free-agent market.

The Penguins qualified their only RFA defenseman, Ryan Whitney, with an offer yesterday. Now Ray Shero is trying to make sure he keeps his best defensive utility defenseman in Rob Scuderi, while at the same time not ruling out signing Nasreddine and Melichar back after they become free-agents depending on the price. And the same goes for goaltender Joceylyn Thibault.

The fact that Thibault might not be back, makes more perplexing that the article states that goaltender Nolan Schaefer (who was explicitly acquired during the trade deadline by Shero for a 7th round-pick in this year’s draft) will be let go. The article states that not only will Shero let Schaefer go into the free-agent market, but he does not plan to sign him from the market. This makes you wonder what was the purpose of Shero seemingly wasting a draft pick for no apparent reason, other than having Schaefer play during the WBS Penguins AHL playoffs.

That seemingly leaves the Penguins with only Marc-Andre Fleury in the system as a signed goaltender. Which means Ray Shero must sign at least three more goaltenders in order to fill the vacancies for NHL backup, plus both farm teams. Therefore look for Pittsburgh to suprisingly be a minor player in the goaltending market starting Sunday, as opposed to many analysts views that the Penguins would keep their main goaltending positions intact (i.e. re-signing Thibault and Schaefer).

The article also states that none of the following will be back in the Penguins organization next season: Eric Cairns, Wade Brookbank, Matt Carkner, Micki Dupont, Joel Kwiatkowski, Richard Litner, Wade Skolney, Nils Ekman, Niklas Nordgren, Ronald Petrovicky, and Libor Pivko.

I understand the moves as to signing Scuderi, and forcing Thibault to hit the market (with the intent of lowering his asking price). However, the entire goaltending situation is perplexing to say the least considering that: 1. Thibault is viewed as really good with Marc-Andre Fleury (teaching and supporting), and therefore most around the organization expected him back for the benefit of Fleury. 2. Shero wasted a pick, even if the lowest pick on a weak draft, on a rental goaltender whom people in the organization seemed very happy to have originally. At the time it was felt that Schaefer would as a minimum also bring a healthy spur of competition into the fold for the NHL backup position, or alternatively be the fall back NHL backup if all went wrong with Thibault or if Shero could not land a capable free-agent if he decided to let Thibault go.

All in all, I am not sure that the move to let Thibault hit the market, which seems to aim at lowering Thibault’s price, will work at all. All due to the fact that now Shero finds himself with an obvious need for goaltenders after letting Schaefer go, and undoubtedly Thibault’s agent will be aware of the fact.

There is the possibility that Shero simply wants to sign someone else altogether as a back-up (and therefore Thibault would be a “plan B” if it all fails), since plenty of non-prominent goaltenders will be available in the market (including Curtis Joseph), but if such is the plan, the big question mark will be if the next back up will work just as well as Thibault has worked with Fleury.