Penguins Free Agency, Uneventful but very effective.
While many thought that the Pittsburgh Penguins, including myself, were going to make a move for another top 6 winger, Ray Shero had a different plan in mind. This free agency period for the Penguins was simple; they resigned Tyler Kennedy and signed veteran right winger Steve Sullivan.
Sullivan is a smaller forward known for his great speed and great hands, but Sullivan is 35 years old and has a big history of injuries. In a recent interview with Pittsburgh’s 93.7 The Fan, Sullivan stated that he was “healthy” and that the injuries he sustained over the past two seasons were nothing that would linger, but a back surgery three years ago can re-aggravate at any time. Sullivan will most likely see plenty of top 6 time and a good amount of powerplay time. His quick hands and right shot are a much needed addition to a Penguin power play that only has lefties. Sullivan signed for a small amount, just 1.5 million, for two time 30 goal scorer and potential 50 point player on a line with Crosby or Malkin.
In comparison to last season, where Pittsburgh spent 9 million on Michalek and Martin, the Penguins barely made any moves. They have just over 2 million in cap space, but according to Ray Shero, no one should expect another move. Why? Well it is simple, Ray and coach Bylsma believe that this roster is set to win a championship and if anything should happen this season, they will have the money on trade day to make a move. Also, Ray is planning ahead, far ahead.
Within the next two season, the Penguins will see free agency hit hard and to key players. In the summer of 2012 the Penguins will see Kunitz and Neal become UFA’s. Unless both players make huge strides this season, they will not be getting a raise and possibly no offer. In 2013 the Penguins will see both Sidney Crosby and Jordan Staal become free agents. Both of these players are must signs for the Pens and will most likely be signed way before free agency. The reason is simple, the center depth for Pittsburgh is second to no one in the NHL and is one of the biggest reasons for their success. Shero is willing to lose free agents over the next two seasons in order to keep his core intact.
One of the biggest reasons Shero will spend more on Staal and Crosby and not any free agent wingers is the depth at AHL affiliate Wilkes-Barre Scranton. Players such as Nick Johnson, Eric Tangradi, Dustin Jeffrey, and last year’s first round pick Beau Bennet will all be NHL ready and can sign for small amounts. This is a big plus considering the season after Crosby and Staal become free agents, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang, and Brooks Orpik also become free agents.
So it should be taken into consideration that Pittsburgh is more than confident with the units they place on the ice every night and they will not stretch the bank for free agent wingers. The moves made last Friday were simple, get another winger without putting the Penguins in cap trouble for years to come. It may not have been a flashy free agency for Ray Shero, but considering what is ahead and Shero has planned, this free agent period was exactly what Pittsburgh needed and nothing more.
A quick look at the Penguins lineup:
First Line – Chris Kunitz – Sidney Crosby – Pascal Dupuis
Second Line – James Neal – Evgeni Malkin – Steve Sullivan
Third Line – Matt Cooke – Jordan Staal – Tyler Kennedy
Fourth Line – Arron Asham – Mark Letestu – Craig Adams, with alternates Eric Tangradi and Nick Johnson.
The Defensive Pairings with look like – Michalek – Martin, Letang – Orpik, Niskanen, Lovejoy, Engelland, and Despres all up for the final pairing.
Goaltending – Marc-Andre Fleury, Brent Johnson
The Penguins are building for now and the future. With organizational depth at coaching and AHL and prospect depth, the Penguins have created an organization that will compete for years to come.
AHL updates – The Penguins did make some moves in free agency for their farm club this season. The Penguins signed big defensemen (6’7) Borris Valabik, D Alexandre Picard, and last season’s AHL goal leader Colin McDonald. The Penguins have made it clear with these moves that they want depth, that they want a solid organization, and that their NHL core is set for the long haul.