What does the future hold for the Pens?

With several reports that Mario Lemieux is returning, a new arena closer than ever (thanks to Ted Arneault), and a surplus of young talent the future looks bright in the ‘burgh. The best thing that could possibly happen for this franchise is for the league to go on strike (which is expected) and for Gary Bettman to put in a salary cap (also expected, supposedly at $35 m). Paul Kariya, Teemu Selanne, Sergei Fedorov, Brian Leetch, and many others have all been available this offseason (some still are), and the Pens don’t have a shot at any of them. Instead of us watching Mario send saucer passes to the Golden Brett (like it was reported two seasons ago), we’re watching Le Magnifique get hacked while Rico Fata misses his passes.
We could argue for hours trying to find out who’s fault it is, but the truth is it’s nobody’s. The economy just sucks. Having said that, smarter moves could’ve been (and still could be) made (trading Robert Lang). We’ll find out this season what our young talent is going to be able produce for the next couple of seasons. When I look at this season for the Pens, I get this weird feeling like I don’t know what to expect. This team is suffering because Craig Patrick has made numerous blunders recently. One of them, which I don’t think is getting looked into enough, is that 1/2 of the return that we got for Alexei Kovalev is gone. We traded Mikael Samuelson to the Panthers to move up to the first overall pick, and Joel Bouchard signed as a free agent with Buffalo Sabres. In both cases both head coach Ed Olczyk and GM Patrick said that neither player fit in the system that the Penguins wanted to run, or something like that. Well let me ask you this Craig, who does fit? You trade arguably the best player in the NHL, in Kovalev, and in less then 6 months you’ve already lost 2 of the 4 guys you got (f.y.i we got Joel Bouchard, Mikael Samuelson, Richard Lintner, and Rico Fata in return).

If these guys don’t fit in your system, who does? If you knew that these guys weren’t the right guys for your team why trade for them? Why not go for draft picks, or maybe, now I know this is surprising, trade for guys who fit your style of play? In the Jaromir Jagr trade we got in return Kris Beech, Michal Sivek, and Ross Lupaschuk. Not one of them have been able to crack the line-up consistently (with the exception of Beech in his first season here). Now as I say that, I must also say that he’s made several smart moves. Recently he hired Michel Therien (who most recently led the Habs to the playoffs two seasons ago) to coach their minor league affiliate in Wilkes-Barre. This was a smart move, no doubt.

What Craig needs to do now is tell Michel to have his Baby Penguins run the exact same system as the real Penguins. I believe it’s New Jersey who does this (I’m sure there are other teams), and they have been at the top of the league for almost a decade, and they haven’t been signing big name free agents. Craig also made some beautiful trades at the trade deadline, he brought in Ramzi Abid, Guillame Lefebvre, and Dan Focht for Jan Hrdina and Francois Leroux. Hrdina was way too inconsistent and Leroux never played a game last year. We also got Mathias Johanssan (who played for Sweden in the most recent Olympics) and Micki DuPont for Shean Donovan. I liked Donovan a lot, but he couldn’t do anything except skate. He traded Marc Bergevin to he Lightning for Brian Holzinger, now this trade wasn’t such a big deal, but he then reacquired Bergevin for a draft pick. So, he has done some things right. our future goaltender, and the savior of this franchise Marc-Andre Fleury came to Pittsburgh for the first time yesterday for rookie camp. He said he liked the city and was impressed. Patrick needs to keep this guy impressed. Get him some defenseman, don’t rush him in here, and he could be the next Brodeur or Roy. Goaltenders are very sensitive mentally, and just as quickly as they can become a success, they come become a failure ten times faster. The Islanders rushed Rick Dipietro into the NHL in his first season, and he still hasn’t done anything. The Penguins have a surplus of talent no doubt, Aleksey Morozov, Ramzi Abid, Rico Fata, Guillame Lefebvre, Tomas Surovy, Kris Beech, Michal Sivek, Mathias Johanssan, Konstantin Koltsov, Richard Lintner, Brooks Orpik, Dan Focht, Ryan Whitney, Ross Lupaschuk, Sebastian Caron, and Marc-Andre Fleury. So the future is birght, but it’s up to Craig Patrick how bright it’s going to be.

13 Responses to What does the future hold for the Pens?

  1. Kraftster says:

    Good article, but dude, you didn’t mention Kraft at all!! It’s great to finally have some feeling that a new arena will actually happen!

    here’s my take on the Pens up coming season…

    As far as goaltending goes, a lot will depend on MA’s showing…say he makes it, there are 4 goalies that can play in the NHL. You don’t want to see 2 of them in WB, and I don’t think you will. If MA makes the pens, look for a goalie to be dealt early in the season. Either to a team who really has struggling goaltending out of the gates, in which case it would be Hedberg most likely, or to a team looking to solidify a back up in their system (or for injury), more likely Aubin…

    I don’t think it hurts the team to much to trade either of these guys, MA is obvioulsy the goalie of the future, and saying he makes it, 4 goalies is too many if we could get something in return. I don’t really like idea of MA making the team, but I kinda have this feeling that he will.

    If it ends up that Cechmanek isn’t working out in LA, they may pull the trigger for another goalie, I think their current back up would be the guy from france whose name I can’t recall….With so many draft picks this season, maybe LA would be willing to part with one of their older prospects/young nhlers, they have pretty many. Could always bring Jason Crain back toward the burgh along with a draft pick too.

    The defensive corps are very interesting….I don’t know what to think…

    First of all, I think Lintner is awesome, I don’t really know where his huge defensive faults that everyoen talks about are?? I think he is super quick with the puck, and remember he doesn’t have much NHL experience, he’s only 25 I believe, he’s got lots of time…I am royally pissed about Craig’s position change suggestiion!!

    That being said, from what I’ve read, Lintner will not be a Dman on the Pens, so I guess with him out it looks like this:

    Tarnstrom and Bergevin are pretty much locks…

    Ian moran would be a lock, but I think that is a bad move, don’t get me wrong, I love Ian, but it’s time for the young guys to step in…and adding ian would leave pretty much one spot…

    Rozsival and Melichar should be partnered up…good dpartners in my mind…I think Melichar is very promising, I expect a HUGE step up season by him considering he stays healthy.

    This leaves 2 spots for tons of guys….Last year’s pick ups in Focht and Dupont, Former draft picks, Orpik, Lupaschuk, Whitney…

    Orpik I feel has to do what it tkeas to make the team, I think he’s ready, I think he will have a solid season, and prove to be more than just a physical presence.

    From there I don’t know…I think lupaschuk has the least chance of all to make the team, because if CP doesn’t want Lintner back there, he sure won’t want Lupaschuk…personally that seems like more of an Edzo call to me, but so did the Lintner BS!

    I’d like to see Whitney make the team, I think a sixth overall pick has gotta be NHL ready after a year (excluding goalies).

    Oh the Offense…hmm…what a mess this will be.

    I am actually really looking foward to this season, I think it is going to be very enjoyable to see who steps it up. I expect there to be tons of energy on this team, because with the surplus of fowards, you don’t perform with at least some desire, you should be sent down quickly! here are my predictions for line combinations opening night….

    Abid – Lemeiux – Morozov

    – this line might surprise some people, I think this is by far the best combination, I really expect a lot out of morozov and Abid this season, and if Mario centers either of them for any considerable amount of time, they should be doing quite fine…

    *watch for Meloche or Lefebvre on that line instead of Abid, Mario has a thing for Lefebvre and Meloche caught my eye at the end of last year, as a possible mario type of line mate….

    Straka – Kraft – Fata

    Could be a solid combo…I see all these guys being on the roster…

    Surovy – Beech – Lefebvre

    this line wouldn’t be to gritty of a third line, that’s for sure, I don’t like Beech being the leader of a line either, as far as experience, but I think these guys will be on the roster too…

    Meloche – Holzinger – Murley

    tons of *’s on ths one…

    1…Lintner will be here on the 4th if he makes the team, unless mario falls in love with him, he’ll be #1 line, but if he isn’t on here, he’ll be in Slovakia, because he wants to be in the NHL or Europe, not the minors…

    2…Steve Mckenna, damn he doesn’t fit into rebuilding, but he signed an extension, and will probably make the team…

    3…Holzinger may be considered to old to be in the rebuilding process and be WB, but he may be considered a good veteran guy to have around…

    4…I think Murley will be lights out in pre-season earning him a spot…

    5…Meloche performs anything like the ned lf last year, I see it being very tough to turn him back to WB…

    6…Hell anyone could be here….this roster is very up in the air, look for any number of guys, Koltsov, Sivek, Endicott especially to fight for one of these last spots…

    I am upset at the releasing of Matthias Johansson, I really liked him, I thought he fit with the Pens will, and was looking forward to seeing him this season, although I’ve heard they might try to re-sign him…

    …finally a breath….geeze….that’s a mouthful, hopefully this season will be that breathtaking…I am honestly excited to see these young guys finally have the FULL oppurtunity to show what they’ve got….

    while I’m at it, why not make a prediction for the record…

    I see the record being similar to that of the Flordia Panthers last year, LOTS of ties…I think this pens team will hang around in a lot of games, and force OT often, but struggle getting that push to get the w’s…


    MA makes the team…

    Edzo stays coach…

    Aubin traded…

    Breakout year Abid….

    Finally comes around Kraft…

    Morozov shows some good stuff…

    Proves to be a bust–Beech…

    Surprisingly decent D…

    here’s to a good season


  2. defenestrate says:

    I always lose my pens – so, chances are, the guy in the next cubicle will steal them, or they will end up in the same “black hole” that one of your socks falls into every time you do your laundry.

  3. cgolding says:

    i haven’t seen the rumors on what the actual cap will be, but there is NO WAY the cap will be 35 mil. even with the assumption that the Rangers salary is grossly overweight that is still only half of it. i feel for the pens and other nhl teams that have this issue, simply cuz it is bad for the sport that the finances have gotten this out of control, but the players union as well as teams with large payrolls already will not allow a cap to be set so low. you look at teams like NYR, Flyers, Red Wings, Dallas, Toronto, Avs, Blues among others that are capable of getting into the 50 mil range and there is no way they gonna sacrificy talent they have already been paying simply because other teams can’t.

    this is the same problem as baseball, player salary is sort of like jumping out of a plan, you can’t go back in. at this point what they probably should do is simply set a cieling, prolly at the 50 mil range and just keep the big salary teams there and let the inflation of the market catch up. it is a gamble since the other teams(NHL) may never be able to catch up in the current climate where the NHL is getting destroyed on TV ratings and pay. another option would be to slowly bring it down with a luxury tax situation(more probable) but if anyone is paying attention to the yankees, it isn’t having much of an effect on those with deep pockets. Especially in an NHL where the playoffs generate so much revenue for the teams that the gamble could be worth it. hell, you pack the FU center/Wachovia center at 20,000 souls at avg. 90 bux a ticket you do the math, and none of that going to players.

    the cba gonna be ugly. it will help no teams, the players will win because the owners may be able to eat it for a bit but they won’t be able to for long. the hockey teams do not have the TV money to fall back on, so without ticket revenue they dead in the water. both baseball as well as hockey are reaping the rewards of not having gone to battle over salaries 10 years ago and the result is that they can’t do much about it at this point.


  4. cgolding says:

    i don’t want to scare you guys, but there is a reason goalies are not really taken in the first round. and it isn’t because they are soft mentally, that is one of the largest BS statements that they give to goalies and pitchers. the simple truth is no one really knows how a goalie will turn out, you can look at how fast they are, how good they did in juniors and everything else and it will probably count for nothing. there are so many examples of the “great ones” in goal who were drafted in later rounds and happened to turn out. Roy wasn’t a first rounder, pretty sure brodeur wasn’t, think eddie the eagle was a FA signing.

    the only goalie i personally have heard about that was the ‘big deal’ when drafted that worked out was barasso, so maybe the pens have some luck there. g’luck with him though, i love flyboyz v. pen games and it would be fun if they get to be a bit more competitive in the future. when the pens were good the flyers were bad, and when the flyers are good generally speaking the pens are bad… sad thing really.


  5. DevilJ says:

    Brodeur was drafted first round, 20th overall by the Devils.

  6. Just-Checking-In says:

    Going along with what cgolding stated, I think you are really naive to think the NHL will have a salary cap around $35 million. I could more easily see the minimum spending amount per team at $35 million than the ceiling at $35 million.

    That kind of salary would be like the Big Three going to the UAW and asking the union to work for $8 an hour.

    The union just would not agree to that kind of deal.

    As for the next part of your article, your mistake is in believing that Craig Patrick and Mario Lemieux made those deals for any other reason than pure salary. I can’t believe there was a single talent angle associated with any of those deals. It all came back to see how inexpensive a contract they could pick up.

    The cold truth is that Pittsburgh used to be a somewhat exciting team to watch. The team is running on life support and there is no way that the new CBA is going to help save that franchise. Suppose there is some type of “tax” on teams and more money sent to teams like the pens. Where do you think that money is going to go?

    It’s going to be used to plug the holes that are bleeding red. The Pens more closely resemble a IHL team than a NHL team and they still are not on strong financial footing.

    Cheerish every game that the Pens do play because they may not be in Pittsburgh that much longer.

  7. jofa says:

    Yeah, I kind of on the same page with the Pens. They have a great heritage and have put out some amazing teams, but this year is going to be embarrassing. Maybe in two/three years this team will compete IF the prospects develop according to plan, but right now, this is basically a farm team with an on-ice coach (Lemieux) they are putting out.

    The thing that confuses me with the Pens, is if they are rebuilding, why didn’t they try to get better return for their players when they traded them all away? I don’t know, it looks like some dark days ahead for Pens fans, and a season or two of losing will really test the team and the city’s ability to keep the Penguins in Pittsburgh.

  8. guinsfan4life says:

    I don’t think the cap will start at 35 mil. the first season. Perhaps it starts at say 40-45 mil for each team maybe as high as 50 mil. But gradually each year it decreases to help teams that have spent enormous amounts of money on player salaries figure out ways to drop those players without taking much of a hit.

    A new CBA alone will not save the franchise here in pgh, however I want to be clear that if the penguins can get a CBA geared toward the NHL actually making money and working collectively towards improving the game AND if they can get a new arena the penguins can survive here and will.

    Let’s face it, the way the game is economically right now parallels the world’s economy–they both suck.

  9. Just-Checking-In says:

    I think what we are going to see happen is a mixture of cap and tax. Expect player contracts to still be guaranteed (this will be a concession that the owners will give, otherwise the NHL would have NFL type contracts that really are only good for three years or less)

    However, expect some type of cap with a minimum and maximum amounts (player concession and some ownership concession). For teams going over the top end, instead of making it null and void, expect some type of luxury tax of a $1 per $1 amount over the cap. That money would probably be resdistrubuted among the teams under the cap. (Don’t be getting any ideas that the amount is going to “save” any team. A team would have to be $29 million over the cap just for each team to get a million dollars.)

    Also don’t expect players to be restricted free agents until they are 31. Teams would probably get to get draft picks for three years and then the player would be a restricted free agent (ie team could match any offer) and then after that all free agency.

    This would give teams a finanical frame work in which to work with. It would have a bottom figure teams would have to spend and for those that want to spend, they still can, however there is a finanical penalty for doing so and most would not.

  10. Tradedude says:

    Dan (is) Focht. AHAHAHA that still cracks me up.

  11. guinsfan4life says:

    The only problem I have with that is that player contracts being guaranteed. I think that is where the NHL really backs themselves into the corner. I see no problem with contracts that are three years or less, which holds the player accountable for his performance. Now a days a player plays out of his mind for one or two seasons, hits the FA market and lands huge contracts in excessive amounts of years and money and then drops off the face of the earth. Why not give them smaller contracts, which this may force teams to do or allow the team to cut the player and take a small cap hit. I believe that if you are being paid a certain amount of money based on your performance and your performance slips, you have no reason to be still collecting that money, so why should the money be guaranteed?

    Sadly, I see your idea in your second paragraph being more realistic than a hard cap at this point. That is similar to mlb player agreement, eh? I don’t really believe it is prohibiting teams from spending money so I am not sold on its’ effectiveness. With this, you still are going to have teams spending enormous amounts of money on players who are undeserving and because they will have money to throw away, they will largely go unpenalized. Therefore this does nothing to level the competitive balance (each team spending the same amount of money on player salaries). I am not sure if there should be a minimum amount a team is allowed to spend on players, though. I mean if I can build a team with a lower payroll like the WIld did this season, then why should I be penalized?

    I think the restricted FA thing will be tied into a draft age. I think players are going to have to be 20-21 to be eligible for the draft. This will decrease the amount of younger players in the league to don’t pan out for whatever reason and it also will save some jobs for veterans. Therefore, more teams will be forced to resign their RFA and URFA to deals.

    I still think teams like the Rangers, Flyers, Wings, Stars, and Avs would spend over the cap on players and pay the penalty.

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