The Final Cut, Staal Letang, Welch, Goalies…

Ray Shero, General Manager of the Pittsburgh Penguins, was able to beat a 5 p.m. deadline Monday and sign forward Jordan Staal and defenseman Kristopher Letang to entry-level contracts. This does not mean that Staal and Letang will play the entire season with Pittsburgh, because they are able to play a total of 9 NHL games and then be returned to their Junior teams. Noah Welch, a defenseman who had a great showing in 5 NHL games last year, was cut and sent to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins of the AHL. Dany Sabourin who has had a strong camp was kept with the team. Sabourin the AHL’s Aldege “Baz” Bastien Memorial Award winner for best Goaltender for the 2005/2006 season would have had to clear waivers to report to the Baby Penguins, and his strong showing through camp compiled with not so strong showings from Jocelyn Thibault and Marc-Andre Fleury, compelled the Penguins to carry 3 goaltenders on opening night. In total, 5 players were demoted to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton: Forwards Daniel Carcillo, Libor Pivko, Ryan Stone and Maxime Talbot, and defenseman Noah Welch. Pivko who was acquired during the off-season in a trade with Nashville has said on prior interviews that if he did not make the team, he would not report to the AHL, but rather would play in Europe. The Penguins have also elected to carry 8 defensemen for the time being.

The Penguins 25-man roster for opening night is as follows:

    Forwards (14)

    Colby Armstrong

    Sidney Crosby

    Nils Ekman

    John LeClair

    Evgeni Malkin

    Ryan Malone

    Dominic Moore

    Michel Ouellet

    Ronald Petrovicky (IR)

    Mark Recchi

    Andre Roy

    Jarkko Ruutu

    Jordan Staal

    Karl Stewart

    Defensemen (8)

    Eric Cairns (IR)

    Mark Eaton

    Sergei Gonchar

    Kristopher Letang

    Josef Melichar

    Brooks Orpik

    Rob Scuderi

    Ryan Whitney

    Goalies (3)

    Marc-Andre Fleury

    Dany Sabourin

    Jocelyn Thibault

I was expecting Shero to put Cairns and Petrovicky, who are both hurt, on IR and fill up those roster spots with Staal and Letang for the 9 games, and have Pivko and Welch make the team. However, apparently they saw something more from Ouellet and wanted to keep Stewart (whom they just got via waivers), plus Shero was pressed to sign Letang. Shero did say that he did not want to carry 23 people on the roster, therefore I expect that after 9 games Staal and Letang will be returned to Juniors with no call-ups from WBS, until someone gets put on waivers or injuried from the roster. Welch had not so strong showing in the main camp, after being very dominant during the rookie camp. I think after Letang is sent back to Junior, he will strongly consider calling up Welch, but that will mean putting on waivers one defenseman, unless Whitney (the only D with a 2-way contract) is demoted. Whitney reportedly has had a horrible camp, but apparently his strong showing of last year was enough to keep him in the roster.