Pittsburgh Penguins: Projecting the 2008-09 Roster
With the first full week of the offseason officially behind us, a lot of things have happened in Pittsburgh.
As is standard early offseason procedure, rumors are circulating, contract negotiations have begun, and the picture of next season's roster has already begun to be painted.
Here's a look at every current player on the Penguins' roster, and what will likely happen to them before the puck drops to open the 2008-09 season:
The Penguins have recently announced that they have filed for salary arbitration with the Flower. This means that Fleury is guaranteed to be in a Penguins' uniform for the '08-09 season. The decision was likely to allow management to concentrate on signing the big-name UFAs this season, and give them more time to work out a deal with Fleury while ensuring that no other team would extend him an offer.
Conks' contract with the Penguins has expired, and he will become an UFA on July 1. While his Fleury-less performance this season was stellar, it seems doubtful that the Penguins will elect to re-sign Conklin, largely due to the fact that their third goalie, Dany Sabourin, is still under contract for another year.
Conks, who possesses veteran leadership and is coming off of the best season of his career, will likely land a deal as a backup goaltender somewhere.
Sabou will most likely be Fleury's backup next season. He still has one year left on his contract and has shown that he can be a legitimate backup goaltender in this league.
If Fleury goes down with another freak injury, however, Sabou proved this season that he can't, and shouldn't, be relied upon to carry the load as a starter for any length of time.
The Sarge will once again be the Penguins' number-one defenseman next season. Despite the Norris Trophy snub he received this year, Gonchar posted some of the best stats of his career—and earned the "A" on his jersey.
Whits has always been a guy that I have questioned. Although the Penguins have locked him up for the next five seasons, he is the only player that I wish would be traded. His lack of physicality and inability to score an even strength goal has left a sour taste in my mouth.
Although management has seemed to crown Whitney as Gonchar's successor, he still has a lot to prove. However, there is a 99.9 percent chance that he will be with the Penguins next year.
Syd has one year remaining on his contract, which indicates that he could remain in Pittsburgh for another year. However, Syd was consistently the odd-man-out among the defensemen. It wouldn't surprise me to see the Penguins test the trade market in an attempt to pick up a draft pick or two, in exchange for the veterans' $2.5 million cap hit.
When Gill was acquired at the trade deadline, I didn't know much about him besides the fact that he was "that big dude who played for the Leafs." His speed, or lack thereof, gets him in trouble at times—but all in all, he is a solid defensive defenseman. He has helped the Pens' penalty killing tremendously, and if everything goes according to plan, he will be back next year.
Tanger hasn't received the accolades I feel he deserves, since the end of his rookie campaign with the Pens. Letang showed not only that he can handle the puck extremely well, but that he can play a physical brand of hockey as well. Although his offensive statistics and power play performance both leave something to be desired, the kid still has a lot of growing up to do. The Pens have him locked up for another two seasons.
Scuds is entering the final year of his current contract with the Penguins. He was by far the most improved player on the Penguins' roster this past season. He is a penalty killing specialist and a guy who always seems to be in the right place at the right time.
Eaton has missed more games than he has played over the past two seasons—but when he did play, he was outstanding. Eaton will become an UFA on July 1, and his susceptability to injury could be the reason for his exit out of the 'Burgh.
Although Eaton is as good as they come in the shot-blocking department, that alone probably won't be enough for the Penguins to re-sign him.
Orpik has me puzzled. His relationship with Michel Therrien is questionable, but everything he has said through the media seems to indicate that he wishes to remain a member of the Penguins.
Orpik's signing, I feel, largely depends on what the Penguins decide to do about Ryan Malone. If Malone stays, Orpik goes, and vice-versa.
Sid the Kid is the face of the Penguins. He's not going anywhere.
Gino is a restricted free agent this offseason, but the Penguins have already begun negotiations to work out a long-term deal with him. His MVP-worthy performance this season for the Crosby-less Penguins was something that will be remembered for as long as he is playing in this league.
It seems that Gino is looking for a five-year deal, in the ballpark of $7 million per season. Believe me, he'll get it.
Sykie has been Ray Shero's greatest accomplishment as Penguins' GM. Shero signed Sykora for a mere $2.75 million per season, and the forward has turned out to be worth every penny. Sykie has become Malkin's right-hand man, and he will be wearing the black and gold for at least one more season.
Staal is entering the final year of his rookie contract. He will be a Penguin next year—but after that, his status is questionable.
The Penguins already have two top-line centers. However, Staal's defensive prowess and penalty-killing savvy will make a strong case for a new contract before he becomes a RFA next summer.
Mad Max will be a Penguin next season. He, like Staal, is also entering the final year of his contract, but he will not demand near as much money to re-sign as Staal. Talbot is a dedicated, hard-working, gritty forward that has earned favor in the eyes of his coaches and the fans.
The Penguins' newest "spark plug" will return for another season in the 'Burgh.
Kennedy started out this year in the AHL. When he was called up to the big club, he did not disappoint. He scored some big goals, provided some much needed energy on the third and fourth lines, and even dropped the mitts a few times.
Kennedy will be a RFA next summer. If he improves on the numbers he put up this year, the Penguins will likely want to keep him around.
Let me put it this way—if the Penguins re-sign UFA Kris Beech, I will buy a Flyers T-shirt and wear it everyday until the season starts.
Dupuis is another one of the 16 UFAs on the Penguins' current roster. Dupuis was "the other guy" in the Hossa trade, but he has since proved that that title is very undeserving.
Though he didn't have much success on the teams' top unit, alongside Crosby and Hossa, Dupuis helped out on the penalty kill and provided somewhat of a more veteran presence among the teams' young core of forwards.
It is hard to tell right now whether the Penguins are interested in keeping Dupuis around. My guess is as good as yours.
Hall's performance in the playoffs may very well have secured him a new contract. He will become an UFA on July 1, but I feel that the Penguins will re-sign him. He can kill penalties, he's good on the draw, and he chips in some clutch goals. Every team needs a guy like that.
The biggest UFA on the Penguins' roster, Hossa will be back. Ray Shero has said that signing Hossa is among his top priorities this offseason.
Early talks indicate that the Penguins are looking at a seven-year deal, paying somewhere in the ballpark of $7.5-7.9 million per year. Hossa and Crosby meshed extremely well during the playoffs, and that kind of dynamic duo on a team's first line is a tough thing to give up.
Big Georges may have played his last game in a Penguins uniform. This enforcer will become an UFA on July 1, and I feel that his return to Pittsburgh is highly unlikely.
Laraque's contract will likely be out of the Penguins' range considering that they need to re-sign a lot of core players. Guys like Kennedy, Ruutu, Orpik, and Roberts have shown that they are willing to drop the gloves when need be.
It's sad to say, but it doesn't look like Bugsy will return to Pittsburgh next season either. Columbus has shown the strongest interest in signing Malone, who will become an UFA on July 1.
Malone is coming off of the best season of his career, and though he won't be the first to admit it, he wants to take full advantage of the financial benefits that kind of performance entitles a player to. Bugsy will always be a Pittsburgher, but he probably won't continue to play as one.
Not since Mario Lemieux have Penguin fans dreaded hearing the news of a player's retirement as much as Gary Roberts. Roberts has become a bit of a folk hero since arriving in Pittsburgh at last season's trade deadline. It's hard to say if the 42-year old will return for one final go-'round in a place where he could win a primary election by a longshot.
WWGRD? Come back for one more year...
Ruuuuutuuuu is another guy that is a bit of a fan favorite in Pittsburgh. The Penguins' agitator is set to become an UFA on July 1. I don't see any reason why the Penguins wouldn't re-sign him.
Taffe rounds out the list of UFAs on the Penguins' roster. He was another AHLer turned NHLer who put in some solid minutes on the teams' third and fourth lines. Taffe did his job, but not to the point that re-signing him is a priority. I don't foresee Taffe remaining in Pittsburgh.
There you have it. I'm usually not one for predictions—but during the offseason, what else is there to do? It's going to be an interesting next three weeks. Stay tuned, and as always...
Let's Go Pens.
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