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.

23 Responses to The Final Cut, Staal Letang, Welch, Goalies…

  1. cups_n_burgh says:

    I think all things considered its been a horrible preseason for the Pens. With Malkin’s injury and Fluery’s, Welch’s, and Whitney’s awful starts. The defense and goaltending have proven they are not yet ready for ‘prime time’. The good news has been Moore and Gonchar’s play and the glimpses of Malkin.

    I can’t believe they kept Stewart in the line-up – its another alarming signal from the management that its going to be another bleak rebuilding season. Look for the next few months to be an extention of the pre-season complete with a revolving line-up and lots of AHL calibre performances. Here we go again…

  2. kamullia says:

    I have to agree that it has been dissapointing. Specifically Welch, who started off with a strong rookie camp and then dissapeared after that. I am not sure that I agree with keeping Stewart regardless. For everything I know about him, he is not an NHLer, and I agree that keeping him is alarming. If Carcillo, and especially Talbot cannot fill a 4th line winger role and Stewart is the answer there is a huge problem. The Stewart decision apparently was strongly influenced by the new scouting staff, therefore this cannot be pointed all on Shero, but frankly unless Stewart is a really good 4th liner (which I have yet to hear/read anyone suggesting such), there is no good justification to picking him up or keeping him.

    Fleury, I have not fully given up on him, but this is not a good start. This is odd for Fleury, because he typically comes to camp more than ready for action, and then starts to tail off. The way I see it he has about a week before Therrien decides to swap starters. If eventually Fleury gets demoted, unless Sabourin somehow explodes, the season is over because Thibault has improved, but he is far from #1 goaltender performance as of yet.

    I still expect to see several players leave Pittsburgh either via trade, but more likely via waivers.

  3. skandelousHABSfan says:

    Does anyone know how much Staal signed for? Was it the rookie max? What kinda bonuses? etc….

  4. skandelousHABSfan says:

    Just thinking, what will happen when Malkin is back in the lineup and him and Staal will both be looking to ancor the second line???
    Could one of them possibly be traded??? I know the Pens could use somemore D…Maybe a Pens fan could clue me in…

  5. OldGoalie says:

    I don’t think their plan is to trade Staal anytime soon. I think what you’re going to see out of the Pens is keeping Crosby, Staal and Malkin for a couple of years, then trading the odd man out (once their play determines who that is).

    Part of me thinks that the odd man will be Malkin. Crosby is more or less entrenched already…two #1 centers is a bit of a luxury, especially with a salary cap…and Staal is probably going to be a more affordable #2 center type guy.

    But whether that’s right or wrong…I don’t expect them to move any of them for at least a couple of years.

  6. Kraftster says:

    I was very excited to see Letang signed. At this point, the Staal signing seemed to be expected given Malkin’s injury (although I expect him to be back 10/14 vs. Carolina). I was pretty surprised at some of the demotions though. Namely, Talbot, Stone, Carcillo instead of Ouellet and Stewart. I really thought that Ouellet had a terrible camp. Stewart, well I mean, I went to the game on Friday and he looked like nothing more than a 4th liner, but reminded me way too much of Fata or Boguneicki. I just don’t really think Talbot will ever be more than the 4th line center and a top PKer on this team, and if he’s not ready for that role yet, then, I really think Talbot’s NHL career with the Pens is nearly over as Carcillo and Stone have a bit more upside at this point and each would likely see their start on the fourth line. That is pretty disappointing given Talbot’s play last season, which I thought was very solid, and I really think he has a perfect mindset for playing the role that he would fill on this team.

    I really was surprised to hear so many people complain about Welch’s play this preseason. I definitely thought he stood out in rookie camp, and I thought there were certainly some shining moments in some of the preseason games as well. I really can’t see how this guy doesn’t turn into a top 4 NHL blueliner at the very least, and to have him back in WBS at age 24 is a little curious to me. But, I understand that its all about numbers and with the signing of Letang especially, there was really no room for him on the Pens at the moment. I am really torn about the Defense right now. I myself and many others I know feel that Scuderi is really the perfect 6th defenseman for the league. He lacks a little footspeed at times, but is a very smart player who won’t take too many bad penalties, and who is normally in decent position on every play. Melichar will likely be waived or traded in the coming weeks, I believe, as Scuderi is more attractive to fill that 6th spot (or Letang if he were to stay around). Letang would be the “new NHL” way to go, and I wouldn’t mind seeing that move as Letang has been thoroughly impressive (save for a few bad beats he took in some of the games).

    I really do expect a trade or two by Thanksgiving. As much shedding as Shero did, there are still too many guys at the AHL cusp of NHL stage and too many players of similar skill sets. Expect one of Welch (who up until a recently was the can’t miss, stud, unavailable guy), Letang, or Goligoski to be thrown into a deal to help with getting a more substantial return — unless the return sought is/are draft pick(s).

    As far as the Fleury rumors — I just can’t see it happening. If it were to happen, I think you would see at least one move, but probably two indicating a more “let’s win now” approach. I really think that trading Fleury runs counter to all of the work that Shero has done to this point, ie slow, patient team building.

    Beyond that, I have to say that I think the third line of the Pens has looked spectacular. Ruutu, who I wanted so badly to criticize at every stage of this preseason, has done everything right, and looks like he will prove to be a great third line, penalty killer addition. Moore, all I can really say is, what the hell were the Rangers thinking? I mean for a team in their situation, who looked like they were finally taking things in stride and going at the right speed, to deal a great two-way guy with a bit of offensive upside to get a slow poor man’s power forward is puzzling to say the least. Looks like Leclair will stay on that third line now and staal will either center Malone and Recchi or flank Malone on the left side. Here’s hoping we have a lot to cheer about Thursday night.

    Let’s Go Pens!

  7. PensinWpg says:

    The question of whether it’s Malkin or Staal at centre on the 2nd line is already made. Malkin is a top end talent already and has shown he could very well be a 1st line if Crosby was not there. Staal however, he is a very talented player without a doubt, but needs quite a bit more work on his play at the NHL level. Although Staal’s potential is very high he would currently be considered a fringe Nhler at this point in his development. Whether or not he remains with the Pens after 9 games or if he is loaned back to Peterborough is up in the air. He could very well stay with the Pens, if that happened he would either develop slower on a 4th line/minimal ice time role at centre or as winger on the top two lines. I really don’t see him pushing any of the top 6 forwards unless there is a trade in the works that sees one of them moved out of the top 6.

    The top line of Ekman, Crosby and Armstrong seems to work very well so far. The 2nd line of Malone, Malkin and Recchi shows promise as well. Malone is the only one of these I could see as the oddman out to be traded or otherwise. So when Malkin returns from his injury Staal would realistically have no spot worth his time and talent and without someone being moved out to make room for him so he would be better served to spend another year developing in the juniors.

    Stranger things have happened, he could fit in well this year, possibly. But I have a strong feeling that there is a substantial trade(s) in the near future that might change things around in a few areas.

  8. Williams1505 says:

    staal will be sent back down when…malkin comes back…i’m pretty sure…and I don’t think they should of Sent down Welch and Talbot…..just because…i think welch…has it…and talbot is a good penalty killer….but thats about it…..and i think they should of kept…stone!

  9. kamullia says:

    Both Staal and Letang will be going back to Juniors (and this roster is a lock for that), unless in the next few games they completely blow away everyone by being twice as good as they have been thus far, which is unlikely.

    Something that I left unsaid, but I thought that people would pick up upon, is the fact that I mentioned it is a 25-man roster. There is no such a thing in the NHL. There is a 23-man roster. Two of the players are on IR, and Cairns should be returning fairly quickly, with Petrovicky being an unknown as of yet. Therefor you have a 23 +2 injured roster, with Malkin not put on IR although hurt. That basically means that when Malkin returns, and he will be the first to return, there is space for him. However, when Cairns and/or Petrovicky return, someone has to go. If they were really set on retaining Staal and Letang, they would have at least left one position open.

    On top of that, Ouellet made this team apparently by the sole reason that he is favored by his coach. However, unless him and Whitney start producing, and rapidly, I do not foresee how Shero will keep either in the roster. Welch did decline and did not so good in the regular camp, but never as terrible as Whitney. Ouellet for all intensive purposes sent in a double for camp, we are still waiting for him to check-in. Look for Welch to be a lock to be recalled. In fact, one of my media resources emphatically assures me that Penguins’ management will be recalling just about every single player that was demoted in this last cut, and that Sabourin will cease to be a Penguin soon.

    In fact, that is the scariest idea of it all: Having to go through the year with what Thibault and Fleury have shown so far. With the performances of Thibault (who is not dismal like last year, but only OK so far), and with Fleury who has taken several steps down from last year’s performance. His last game was called solid by Therrien, but he was not that solid (especially that game-winning plump and juicy rebound he left out there for the Sabres). He did improve from what he had done in camp up to that point, but he has still to show his form from last year, which was not the greatest of forms to begin with. No Sabourin, and no improvement from those other two and you can have Pronger, Niedermayer, and time-warp Larry Murphy, and Ray Bourque all playing at the same time and pilling up fence style around the net and the Penguins will still come in last in the NHL.

    In the end, Shero will be trying to trade some of the players in the present roster, otherwise people like Ouellet (when he shows up) will be picked up via waivers by other teams.

  10. kamullia says:

    Read my reply under the thread of “skandelousHABSfan”. A lot of it applies to what you posted. In fact, my reply to the first post here, also applies. I would cut and paste, but then I’d have to put in all the HTML tags to make it readable.

    By the way, the more I talk/correspond with my Pittsburgh media sources, the more I am convinced that a lot of the people who in fact did not make sense to, keep but are on the present roster, will not finish their season in Pittsburgh, let alone be there by Xmas or Hanukkah. Either by trade or waivers (clearing or not), get used to the idea of 3-4 people on this roster to be packing their bags from Pittsburgh soon.

    And if I was a betting man, I would bet on several of the names you mentioned surprised you by making the roster.

  11. kamullia says:

    Read my other replies further down. I am assured by people close to management that you will see all those names in Pittsburgh soon.

    Keep in mind, some moves are probably made to let Shero have room to trade with other teams. We are certain to see activity up and down in this roster soon.

  12. kamullia says:

    Staal got $850,000 for salary, which is the max he was allowed. I do not know yet what he has on bonuses.

    I do not know on Letang, but the Shelly Anderson from the Post-Gazette says he “got slightly less than Staal.”

  13. goalieman32 says:

    As far as goaltending is concerned, i expect to see Fleury in the minors if he plays like that for the stare of the season. To replace him, the Pens may turn to wavers with some teams carrying 3 quality netminders, such San Jose, who I heard (not sure where) were trying to move Schaefer so the get something in return for him, since he wouldnt clear wavers. The Pens should try and add some dept to the goaltending, because with the loss of Caron and the poor play of Fleury and Thibault, if Sabourin goes down this team is in real deep. They could possibly swing a trade for Nastiuk with Carolina for a minimal loss of a pick. Other possibilities include Telqvist from Toronto (even though he is terrible, but I would love see maybe a 5rd round pick and a prospect for Telly and Earl), Aebischer (for possibly a mid level pick, like a 3rd and Talbot), Labarbara (unproven, but cheap), and MacDonald (detroit is currently carrying 3 goalies and he could be had for little as well)

    i would like to see Shero make a push for Aebischer (simply because he has experience, is cheap, still relatively young, and has something to prove) or Schaefer (also cheap, young, and showed a lot of promise in his brief stint with the main club last year)

  14. kamullia says:

    Let me tell you, I am very concerned about how the Penguins are going about their goaltending. For one, the fact that they are starting Fleury is simply a cheap way to hope he gets back on-track on his own. I am convinced that Therrien’s comments and the move to start him on Thursday are all designed to boost his confidence and hope that such boost will put him back on track. These are moves that Therrien is well known for, appealing to the player’s emotions for reaction, of which I have never been too fund of. I know demoting him would be damaging to his psyche, but do they not run the a bigger risk by potentially having him get blasted away in the NHL?

    This group of defensemen will change by year’s end and then I believe they have the potential of being much better, but presently they are not the best unit to minimize shots on a goaltender who is presently obviously struggling. Sabourin had an amazing show against Buffalo, but he had to do it by facing 46 shots, and that does not count the shootout. I can not picture what the damage would have been if Fleury would have been on goal, not to the team or the score, but to his confidence.

    On top of it all, I have it on good account that Sabourin, even though the best man thus far, is very probably soon to be the odd-man out. And for a goaltender who has had a good showing thus far, plus was voted best AHL goaltender last year, you can bet someone will take a chance on him and will be picked up via waivers. Trading him (which I am told is the aim of management), I do not see how it would garner a better goaltender to fix the present situation or the future at goaltending, but I hope I am wrong at that.

    Meloche is not what I was expecting as full-time goaltending coach either. And by the show of this group, he has not done much either. Fleury has taken a step back, Thibault is better than last year, but my grandmother with a bad hip can be better than him last year, and he is not #1 goaltender material from his showing thus far. Sabourin has come to his present standing without intervention from Meloche, but rather on his own. I was skeptical on Shero’s decision to hire Meloche back when he did so, and I am even more skeptical now. One thing is certain. It is time for Meloche to earn his money, and in a real hurry!

    I apologize if my frustration on how things have been handled by management shows through, but I will venture to say some of you can sympathize.

  15. BruMagnus says:


    dave molinari from p-p-g said that Terrien really likes Ouellet (from previous seasons out of NHL) and would keep him even if it cost someone else, like Pivko, a spot. Dave said that Shero may step in if Michel was using heart over head.

  16. BruMagnus says:

    You can add forward Chris Thorburn whom the Penguins claimed off waivers from the Sabres.

    I’m liking all the steals Shero’s making.

  17. kamullia says:

    I like this pickup MUCH better than Stewart. In fact, I would have picked him up and placed Stewart on waivers, instead of Sabourin. It makes no sense to me that they went through the roster and sent several players down that should have made the team in part to keep three goaltenders, and that Shero values Sabourin less than Stewart, and Melichar for that matter.

    I like the pickup. Hate the way Shero went about it. My sources were definitely right about Sabourin being the odd-man out soon, although I doubt they foresaw he would leave from the Pens picking someone on the waiver wire.

  18. kamullia says:

    It has been no secret Therrien’s love for Ouellet ever since the lockout year. As far as Shero stepping in, I think he will eventually have to, and I question why did he not step in already to begin with. Ouellet finished last year with a bad showing, and he has done nothing this year. No reason to have him on this team, unless it is for trading purposes, but if he doesn’t score some goals any possible interest in Ouellet will diminish so keeping him in Pittsburgh might be futile.

  19. cups_n_burgh says:

    That was a good call on Sabourin. Its a shame that the team politics trump camp performances. That must be hard on the players to realize that draft pick number determines who makes the cut. Sabourin should have been rewarded for his hard work. I highly doubt T-bone would have been claimed off of waivers but I get the feeling Sabourin will get a call this week and be on a plane.

  20. kamullia says:

    I think Sabourin is done with the Penguins. He might get through waivers, only because it is the beginning of the season and everyone just got done submitting rosters and they probably do not want to deviate from their goaltending (although JFJ would be dumb not to pick him up, because I feel he is much better than Seabass).

    But if Sabourin does get through waivers and later gets called up by Pittsburgh, especially if it is a bit into the season where teams are starting to second guess their goaltending decisions and depth, Sabourin is gone via re-entry waivers and to add insult to injury the Penguins would have to pay half his salary and carry half his cap hit for the entire season.

    As far as the call on Sabourin, do not thank me, I simply passed on what my friends closer to management shared with me.

  21. OldGoalie says:

    I don’t know that there would have been a huge amount of interest in trading for Ouellet even when he was playing at his best last year. He’s basically a power play specialist…of his 16 goals, 11 came on the power play. At even strength, he scored only 5…and none of his 16 total goals were game winning or tying. I think what you’ve basically got in Ouellet is a guy who’s skating is enough of a liability that he’s not effective at even strength, and because of that, he doesn’t get used when the game is on the line. If I’m another GM, why would I trade for that?

  22. kamullia says:

    I completely agree with you in Ouellet’s worth. He is not much more than an AHLer because of his skating. But keep in mind that GMs do not necesarily agree with either of us and many times think that a change in environment/instruction will pan out for the player. Who would be interested in Ouellet? Obviously someone who is looking for more offense, probably in the power play, and thinks Ouellet will be effective enough in their system. And from our point of view, trading Ouellet would be worth it.

    I also have been told that Shero has been inquired about Ouellet already, and personally I was hoping for an exchange back then. But Shero obviously does not agree with me either, or the return was not of his liking. I would have been happy that someone was inquiring and a pick would have been enough for me to let Ouellet go.

  23. kamullia says:

    As expected, Dani Sabourin did not clear waivers on opening day and was claimed by the Vancouver Canucks.

    That means that the Penguins top of the depth chart at goaltender is now Fleury, Thibault, and Andrew Penner.

    The Canucks, who had always had goaltending issues, now look fairly solid at the position with Luongo, Flaherty, and Sabourin.

    With the move, the Penguins went from having decent depth and plenty of choices at goaltender last year, to simply running a bare bones goaltending project. I think picking Thorburn was justified, but Shero better hope that Stewart is more than worth it, because now he has to re-inforce the organization’s goaltending.

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