I will be previewing all 30 NHL clubs. I will be looking at their available salary cap room, the additions and deletions from the 2008-09 rosters, and where I think they will stack up in their division and conference for the 2009-10 campaign.
Let's get a move on with the Pittsburgh Penguins, who play in the Atlantic Division of the Eastern Conference.
The Pittsburgh Penguins and the Detroit Red Wings accomplished something that hasn’t happened in the NHL since 1984. Over the past 25 years, there have always been at least one different team in the Stanley Cup finals and not unlike 25 years ago, the Penguins were able to beat the Red Wings, just like the Oilers defeated the then-four-time Stanley Cup champions, the New York Islanders.
The Red Wings were not unlike the Islanders, a veteran group of players that had been very successful for a long period of time before meeting the Oilers during the 1984 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Just the season before, the Islanders defeated the Oilers in the 1983 Stanley Cup Final four games to zero.
The Penguins also compare very well to the Oilers, led by a young duo of superstar centermen, the franchise had been built primarily through the draft and it took a couple of years for the Oilers to achieve success during the playoffs.
Only time will tell if the Penguins will have the same success as the Oilers did in the ‘80s but the similarities between the two franchises is striking. Led by Sidney Crosby, Marc-Andre Fleury and Evgeni Malkin, the Penguins appear to be set for years and years to come.
This will also mark the last season for the Penguins in the famed “Igloo.” The Consol Energy Center will be ready for the Penguins to move into the 2010-11 season and the experts believe that the home opener next year will also see an another Stanley Cup banner raised to the rafters.
Let’s take a look at what moves G.M. Shero made and see which players will be a part of the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2009-10.
Some of the significant additions that the Penguins have made during the off-season are as follows: Wade Brookbank (Carolina), Chris Conner (Dallas), Nate Guerin (Philadelphia), Brent Johnson (Washington), Chris Lee (NY Islanders), Jay McKee (St. Louis), Mike Rupp (New Jersey) and Wyatt Smith (Colorado).
Some of the significant roster deletions that have moved on from Pittsburgh are as follows: Philippe Boucher (Retirement), Mathieu Garon (Columbus), Hal Gill (Toronto), Connor James (Germany), Chris Minard (Edmonton), Joey Mormina (Philadelphia), Janne Pesonen (Russia), Jani Rita (Finland), Rob Scurderi (Los Angeles), Jeff Taffe (Florida) and Andy Wozniewski (Boston).
There are seven former Penguin Players that have yet to sign deals with another franchise. They are: David Brown, David Gove, Adam Heinrich, Miroslav Satan, Petr Sykora, Bill Thomas and Mike Zigomanis.
The Projected 2009–10 Pittsburgh Penguins roster
The Penguins currently have 20 players under one-way contracts; 13 forwards, five defensemen, and two goaltenders. The three players that are most likely to fill out the roster that are on two-way contracts are as follows. It would most likely be a forward and two defensemen. These players are:
Kristopher Letang is a native of Montreal, Quebec. The 22 year-old defenseman is entering his third NHL season, all with the Penguins. The third round pick (62nd Overall) in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft has appeared in 144 games, scoring 18 goals and adding 34 assists.
Wade Brookbank is a native of Lanigan, Saskatchewan. The 32-year-old defenseman is entering his sixth season in the NHL. Brookbank initially was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Ottawa Senators in 2001. He has appeared in 127 games, scoring six goals and adding three assists.
Chris Conner is a native of Westland, Michigan. The 25 year-old right winger is entering his fourth season in the NHL. Conner initially was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Dallas Stars in 2006. He has appeared in 71 games, scoring seven goals and adding 14 assists.
With these 23 players, the Penguins’ Salary Cap would sit at $56.2 million. If you take the bonuses off of the calculation, it would only give the Penguins approximately $811,000 in cap space.
Tangradi is a native of Philadelphia, Penn. The 20 year-old centerman is entering his first professional season and will like start the season, down in the AHL with the Wilkes-Barrie/Scranton Penguins. He was Anaheim’s second round draft pick (42nd Overall) in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft. Tangradi was acquired along with Chris Kunitz from Anaheim for Ryan Whitney.
According to Hockeysfuture.com,
“He's still finding out, and we're trying to convince him every day, just how good he can be.” That quote from Tangradi’s coach with the Belleville Bulls tells a lot about the Philadelphia native. He features all the tools to be a dominating force on the ice, from size and strength, to offensive ability and vision, to strong skating ability and a rough-and-tumble style. The only missing piece with Tangradi is putting it all together and continuing to fill the role of a power forward on the ice.
Despres is a native of Laval, Quebec. This 18 year-old defenseman was the Penguins’ first round pick (30th Overall) in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. He has yet to sign his first entry level contract so look for Despres to return to Saint John of the QMJHL.
According to NHL Central Scouting’s Chris Bordeleau, "I think for a potential pro player, he's got the size and mobility. I've seen him many games, and he never seems to make a bad play. He's never going to get 100 points, but definitely, when you want a guy to play defense, he's your guy. He does it all, he'll block shots and he moves the puck at the right time.”
According to Saint John Sea Dogs head coach Jacques Beaulieu, “Simon is a very good skater with and without the puck. He has good hands for a big man and he has outstanding vision as well as hockey sense. To make it to the next level he will need to improve his upper body strength and his shot, but overall Simon is an outstanding person on and off the ice. He loves the game. He is without a doubt an NHL prospect.”
Strait is a native of Boston, Mass. This 21 year-old defenseman was the Penguins’ third round pick (65th Overall) in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft. He has signed his first entry level contract so look for Strait to spend the season down in the AHL. He has spent the last three seasons with Boston University in the NCAA.
According to Hockeysfuture.com, “Strait is a smart defender who prefers to play a simple game focused on his own side of the ice. More than any particular skill, Strait brings leadership, grit, and a steadying presence to the blue line. Strait’s skating ability lacks explosiveness, but the 200 pound defenseman makes up for his weak first step with strong backward and lateral skating. Strait is also very good at picking angles and is rarely caught out of position. Although not known for his physicality he will not hesitate to clear the front of the net and is willing to pay the price along the boards to protect the puck. The 6-foot defender does a good job of locking up opponents along the boards, separating them from the puck, and removing them from the play. He does not have a particularly hard or accurate shot but is capable of corralling the puck and making a crisp first pass.”
Caputi is a native of Toronto, Ontario. The 20 year-old left winger was the Penguins’ fourth round pick (111th overall) in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft. He is entering his second professional season after spending time last year between the ECHL, AHL and the NHL. It is likely that Caputi will start the season in the AHL, with the Penguins. During his NHL career, he has appeared in five games, scoring his first NHL goal on Feb. 3 against the Canadiens.
According to Hockeysfuture.com, “Caputi has all of the physical tools to develop into a power forward at the NHL level. At 6 foot 2 inches, 184 pounds, Caputi's game is based upon paying a price physically. He scores a lot of his goals from in front of the net and is more than willing to muck it up in the corners. One area where Caputi must improve is his skating, where his initial stride is not as quick as it needs to be.”
Jeffery is a native of Sarnia, Ontario. The 21 year-old centerman was the Penguins’ sixth round pick (171st overall) in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft. He is entering his second professional after spending time last year split between the AHL and the NHL. During his NHL career, he has appeared in 14 games, scoring one goal and two assists.
Recap of 2008-09
Penguins finished the season in second place in the Atlantic Division and finished fourth in the Eastern Conference with a record of 45-28-9, good for 99 points. Keep in mind this was a team in total disarray in early February, prompting general manager Ray Shero to relieve Michel Therrien of his coaching duties. In came former Penguins player, Dan Byslma.
The wake-up call prodded the Penguins to complete the season on a roll of 17-3-3, moving from 10th to fourth in the Eastern Conference.
The Penguins had four players that broke the 20-goal plateau and they had 11 players in total that finished with double digit goals. Last season the Penguins were lead by Art Ross recipient Evgeni Malkin (35 goals, 78 assists and 113 points) and Sidney Crosby (33 goals, 70 assists and 103 points).
The Penguins` offense was sixth in the NHL with 258 goals for and defensively, the Penguins were 17th in the NHL giving up 233 goals.
The Penguins` powerplay was 20th in the NHL last season, clicking at 17.2 percent and they were eighth in killing penalties (82.7 percent).
Outlook for 2009-10
I foresee a first place finish in the highly competitive Atlantic Division and I think they will finish third in the Eastern Conference.
Has much as the coaching got the blame for the slow start to the season last year, the truth of the matter is, the Penguins started the season without their top two offensive defenseman. Sergei Gonchar and Ray Whitney both miss significant time to start last season. Whitney was subsequently traded to the Ducks for Tangradi and Chris Kunitz. With the emergence of Letang on defense, G.M. Shero used Whitney to obtain an offensive winger to play alongside Sidney Crosby.
I look for the Penguins to continue on where they ended last season. Byslma instilled a new system that seemed to lend perfectly to the Penguins' personnel. Including the playoffs, the Penguins, under Byslma had a record of 33-9-3.
It will be interesting to see what kind of affects the short but spring break like offseason had on the young Penguins.
On Sept 13th, I will be reviewing San Jose Sharks as I continue to preview each of the 30 NHL clubs. Look for my four-part article on how I would improve the NHL and my other previously published articles on bleacherreport.com.