Albeit not the season that anyone would have anticipated, Miroslav Satan could still fulfill the job that the Pittsburgh Penguins had in mind when he was signed last summer. That mission: Put the puck in the net in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
It was probably originally pictured that Satan would do this on brilliant feeds from Sidney Crosby. It was also considered that he could become a scoring specialist on a dangerous power play unit, filling the role vacated by Marian Hossa.
Neither of these is likely to happen, as Crosby is still centering the first line in Pittsburgh, and Satan is playing with another group of Penguins, in Wilkes-Barre of the AHL.
At the trade deadline, the Penguins acquired veteran Bill Guerin from the Islanders. Guerin is everything Satan was supposed to be, adding a veteran presence, and periodically finding his name on the score sheet while skating on Crosby’s line.
The only downside of Guerin’s venture to the City of Three Rivers is the $4 million per year contract that was stuffed in his suitcase.
This detail would have made the Penguins either release personnel, or make other moves to keep them under the salary cap.
The obvious casualty had to be Satan, who was signed for $3.5 million on a one-year deal. Satan, who had scored only 17 goals through 65 games, was an albatross that prevented any other signings to fill the glaring void at winger that the Pens lived with for two-thirds of the season.
With that said, since he cleared waivers, Satan would be eligible to return from AHL purgatory when the playoffs start. The NHL salary cap rules state that a team cannot be over the limit at any one time during the regular season.
Since they don’t apply to springtime hockey in a best-of-seven setting, Pittsburgh is likely to see a familiar face return to add depth to the roster.
While many veterans would not have accepted such an arrangement (according to some, many veterans find themselves “injured” when these situations occur), Satan seems to be willing to skate in front of small crowds, and wait his return to the NHL.
The 38-year-old hadn’t played in the minors since performing in San Diego during the 1994-95 season. Since, he has played in over 1,000 NHL games.
After a break as Satan, his agent, and Pittsburgh General Manager Ray Shero discussed Satan’s role, Satan has taken the ice in the smaller cities. In his first six games in Wilkes-Barre, Satan has seven points, including five assists.
It is unclear what role Satan would fill upon his return to Pittsburgh. Obviously, he will not return to getting "top six" minutes. He will likely play on the fourth line, when the fighting services of Eric Godard are rendered obsolete.
That would leave the Pens not only with what is perhaps the best third line in the NHL, but a fourth line of Satan, Pascal Dupuis, and Maxime Talbot.
This line is more than capable of generating offense, and gives Dan Bylsma the home-ice flexibility to get favorable match-ups for the top two lines featuring Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
Whether the Penguins can generate the excitement of last season’s playoff run remains to be seen.
What also remains to be seen is whether the contributions of a player who went from prize acquisition to first-line scorer, then to limited ice time, waivers and the AHL are the final ingredient to post-season success.