While the regular season doesn't begin until Friday for the defending Stanley Cup champions, the Penguins have already trimmed their roster down to sufficient size.
But the some of the cuts seem a bit, well, fishy.
Only a few days ago, the Penguins signed training camp tryout Ryan Bayda to a one-year contract. Although Bayda had been experiencing groin problems in camp that held him back from being at 100 percent, he impressed the coaching staff enough to award him with a new deal.
The Penguins also liked what they saw from free agent addition Chris Conner, a scrappy forward who came over from the Dallas Stars after playing around half a season in the NHL last year. The common assumption was that with Tyler Kennedy moving up to play on the Evgeni Malkin line, Conner could fit on the shutdown third line.
Defensively, there have been a few more questions, mainly surrounding the point of the seventh defenseman.
While the top six appeared to be set in stone, the reserve was hardly a given. Derek Engelland and Nate Guenin, the prime contenders, both lost out earlier.
General Manager Ray Shero felt it was that time again to wheel out the old Triton VT17 and go fishing.
He realized in camp that although Guenin, Engelland, and Conner were solid players, they might not be what the Penguins need to contend for another Stanley Cup. So, to Shero, it was best to give the waivers a test.
With many teams making final cuts in the next few days, many potential NHL players promise to be sitting on waivers before they are cleared to head to the minors. And quite often, one man's garbage is another man's treasure.
And so far, fisherman Shero has already brought home one catch in former Cup winner Martin Skoula.
Skoula was on a tryout with the Columbus Blue Jackets, but they simply had no room for him and cut him loose. The 29-year-old from the Czech Republic won the Cup with Colorado in 2001 and has spent the previous four seasons with the Minnesota Wild.
Known for his offensive capabilities, his career high of 31 points came eight years ago—a season in which he tallied 10 goals. While he provides size and skill to the blue line, Skoula will play the role of seventh defenseman. Not bad at all for Skoula.
Dan Byslma has used seven defensemen in a lineup before, most notably in the playoffs against Washington when Sergei Gonchar was not at full strength and could only give 10-12 minutes of ice time.
So, a swap of unwanted players. The Wild get Petr Turbo and the Penguins get Skoula.
But Shero isn't done fishing yet. His final roster only includes 12 forwards, which happens to be the absolute minimum. That number would see designated fighter Eric Godard on the ice every single night, a troublesome thought for Penguin fans and coaches alike.
There will be many fish flopping around in Waivers Lake over the next few days, and there's no knowing what Shero might catch. But we know he is looking. There's no way the Penguins go into the regular season with only 12 forwards, especially since Bayda (two-way contract), Conner, and Paul Bissonnette were all sent down.
Any way, three more days until the Rangers come to town.
And get well soon, Max Talbot.
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