$9,165,000 split nine ways, leaves an average of $1,018,333 the newly crowned Stanley Cup champions can spend per player to fill their roster this off-season.
Currently, the Pittsburgh Penguins' roster consists of four center's (as many as five if you count Tyler Kennedy or as little as three if you discount Maxime Talbot.)
They have three true left-wingers, one right-winger. four defensmen and a goalie under contract for the 2009-10 season at a cap price of $46,835,000.
First, identifying the Penguins unrestricted free agents is crucial. Who is a priority, who is not?
Without wasting time, based on play and salary among other factors, the Penguins should look to retain Bill Guerin, Ruslan Fedotenko and Rob Scuderi.
Guerin and Fedotenko will be offered similar deals to what they were as Penguins this year. The Penguins however, will look to keep those two at discount rates. This means signing Guerin for $2 million or less and Fedotenko for under three.
Fedotenko is clearly the better player and threat based on age and skill set. Guerin brings the continued veteran leadership to a locker room of young up-and-coming players which will have to include rookies brought up from Wilkes-Barre.
The "piece" to the puzzle is Rob Scuderi. As witnessed last year, teams will look to overpay, whether they believe it or not, for players who stood out during a Stanley Cup finals round, cue Ryan Malone. Can the Penguins afford Scuderi? Not if he goes for the money.
However, the Penguins may have the advantage knowing they salary cap for the 2010-11 season is expected to dip to near $50 million. Look for Scuderi to receive a sizeable raise from the $712,000 he made this past season. The question now is, will Scuderi accept $2 million a season?
If these deals can be accomplished, the Penguins still need to fill 6 roster spots. Look for as many as four or five rookies on next year's squad.
The obvious choices are the re-signed Goligoski (a $1.83 million hit on the cap per season) on defense, along with Ben Lovejoy (currently a restricted free agent.)
Goalie John Curry will almost certainly be called on to replace Mathieu Garon, unless another financially friendly option presents himself.
The final roster spots will go to wingers. If Guerin and Fedotenko sign, the Penguins would have enough wingers under contract to fill 3 lines. If you include Talbot as a day-to-day winger, the Pens will look to out their third and fourth lines.
Do the Penguins resign Janne Pesonen and let his one-year minor league apprenticeship pay dividends on the pro roster? Pesonen likes the experience he had with the baby Pens this season, and with his speed, could be a dangerous player alongside Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin.
Another option from the baby Pens is Luca Caputi, who is under contract for the next two seasons at a rate of $833,333.
If the Pens go outside the organization in the free agent market, they would have many big names to chose from. Marion Gaborik, who is injury prone is the top winger on the open market. Others who are unrestricted include Marian Hossa, Alexei Kovalev, Brian Gionta, and Eric Cole.
I don't see the Penguins signing any of those big names based on the fact they simply can't afford them.
If the above mentioned becomes reality and the Penguins resign Guerin ($2 million), Fedotenko ($2M), Scuderi ($2.5M), Goligoski ($1.8M), Caputi ($833K), Lovejoy ($875K), Pesonen ($1M), Curry ($500K), the team will have 22 players of a possible 23 under. That cap number would be $58,343,000.
That number puts the Pens over the cap roughly $3.5 million.
So the question then is, do the Penguins NOT sign one of their three priority free agents? Do they shed salary space by trading or releasing Chris Kunitz ($3.725M) and/or Pascal Dupuis ($1.4M) and bring in more affordable players?
General Manager Ray Shero will have his work cut out for him once he returns to the office sometime in July to begin assembling the team known as the defending Stanley Cup champions.
From the moves he made this season to win the cup, I like the Penguins chances to repeat!
Potential Penguins line combinations
The 4th line depends on Talbot becoming a full-time winger. If so, the 23rd and final roster spot may go to C- Keven Veilleux or Eric Tangradi.
In the words of DVE Mario, obviously you know...