NHL Free Agency: Grading Ray Shero's FA Strategy with the Penguins
When the summer of 2012 rolled around, the Pittsburgh Penguins quickly threw their hats in the Zach Parise/Ryan Suter sweepstakes. The Penguins tried to use everything they had to bring Parise and Suter to Pittsburgh but in the end, the draw of playing near home won out for both players.
With Parise and Suter off the board, the Penguins had lost out on the two top UFAs of the summer, but that did not stop GM Ray Shero from going out and doing what he needed to in order to strengthen his team.
After a disappointing first-round playoff exit at the hands of the rival Flyers, the Penguins knew they had a few holes they needed to fill. Shero wasted no time in filling a few of those holes, trying to prime the Penguins for another Stanley Cup run.
Despite losing out on Parise and Suter, as well as not retaining Jordan Staal, Ray Shero was relatively successful with his offseason free-agency plan.
Shero's first goal (besides Parise and Suter) coming into the summer was to make sure that Sidney Crosby would be around for a long time in Pittsburgh. He made quick work of that goal, as he quickly locked up Crosby with a long, lucrative contract extension. Crosby will now be in Pittsburgh through 2024-2025.
When the Penguins signed former Jet Tanner Glass on the first day of free agency, they effectively upgraded their fourth line. Glass is expected to replace tough guy Aaron Asham, who is now with the Rangers.
The skill set that Glass brings to the table in one that will allow the Penguins to have a little more faith in their fourth line. Asham was a liability on the ice most of the time, and while Glass is no superstar, he certainly is a more reliable player than Asham.
From the summer of 2012, Glass is the only new player signed who is expected to see much time in Pittsburgh. Shero had been hoping that his superstars would be able to convince Zach Parise to come to Pittsburgh to help strengthen their lineup even more.
By losing out on Parise, and not being able to lure Bobby Ryan away from the Ducks, Shero will have to hope his draft class can fill the hole left by the trade of Jordan Staal.
The Penguins attempted to fill Staal's void through trade and not free agency. Brandon Sutter, acquired from Carolina in the Jordan Staal trade, will have a lot of pressure on him once the season starts to produce. The Penguins are looking to this youngster right away to fill the hole Staal left.
In their first-round playoff series with the Flyers, the Penguins experienced more than a few defensive miscues and breakdowns. Coming into the summer, Shero put the top priority tag on Ryan Suter. However, when Suter ended up in Minnesota, Shero needed to look elsewhere, but he was not able to pick up a top defenseman.
The Penguins needed to sign a top-four defenseman this offseason and they failed to do so. While the defensive corps is solid, it is nothing out of the ordinary and needed to be upgraded badly.
Shero's failed attempts to bring in any top-tier defensemen is going to hurt the Pens this season. The Pens will gladly put All-Star Kris Letang on the ice against any team's top lines, but after Letang, someone else needs to step up in Pittsburgh.
When it comes to goaltending in Pittsburgh, everyone knows that Marc-Andre Fleury is, and will always be, the starter in net. That does not mean that Fleury does not need to be pushed, though.
In seasons past, the Penguins have struggled at times to find a legitimate backup option who can challenge Fleury and push him to his full potential. This summer, they were finally able to pull that backup by picking up Tomas Vokoun.
Vokoun, acquired in a trade with Washington before being signed, brings lots of experience and skill to the Penguins. The aging Vokoun is a player who can steal ice time from Fleury if the Penguins' incumbent netminder starts to struggle.
The Penguins are hoping that the addition of Vokoun will give them an additional safety net in goal just in case something should happen to Fleury. While Brad Thiessen was a more than competent backup, the addition of Vokoun strengthens the Penguins' goaltending greatly.
Ray Shero was able to fill a few holes this offseason through free agency, but after Parise and Suter signed in Minnesota, it quickly became obvious that he had been putting his eggs in that basket.
Shero was aggressive at times, but he needed to be more aggressive to upgrade the Pens as much as he could have through free agency.
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