As the end of June approached, Pittsburgh Penguins fans everywhere were anxious to see what would happen to their favorite players.
"I heard Shero offered seven years, $56 million to Hossa," one whispered.
"Malone is staying. He's taking less to play for the Pens," was another grumble.
"Roberts is going to retire, he loved Pittsburgh that much," overheard during another conversation.
"Orpik is gone. He's going to Boston or back home to San Jose," was also popular.
Then it all fell apart.
Malone and Roberts to Tampa for a pick. Adios.
Hossa had endeared himself to the Pens and their fans so quickly. He was the toast of the town, could have had a free drink anywhere in the city.
Then he committed the ultimate stab in the heart. He signed in Detroit. For one year. At slightly more money than the Pens offered, but with far less stability and assurance.
Also among the exodus?
Ty Conklin, who went in a similar kick-to-the-gut route to Detroit. Adam Hall, who bolted for the Lightning. Big Georges, who powerlifted back home to Montreal. Jarkko Ruutu, everyone's favorite agitator, who went to the equally-hated Ottawa Senators.
Many Penguins fans were stunned. Saddened. Betrayed. They didn't know what to do.
Then came the signings as they trickled in.
Orpik is staying. And for quite a while, as it were. Six years in Black and Vegas Gold, barring a trade.
Malkin is sticking around for just as long, at $8.7 million. Another bargain for an MVP candidate.
Welcome back, Pascal Dupuis! Good to have you for three more seasons!
Mark Eaton, hopefully your bones are now coated with adamantium for at least two years.
Fleury? Locked up long term at only $5 million a year.
Then came the new names.
Miroslav Satan? He's got potential.
Ruslan Fedotenko? Nice Malone replacement.
Matt Cooke? Ruutu, only younger with more offensive upside. A steal at $1.3 million a year.
Eric Godard? Okay. We'll take a face puncher.
If there had been applause for all the following moves, this one would draw the proverbial crickets.
Janne Pesonen. Former ninth-round draft pick by the Anahiem (then Mighty) Ducks. A Finnish left winger whose point totals have steadily increased over the last three seasons in the Finnish Elite League, SM-Liiga.
A collective silence fills the room still.
Finns are known for their two-way play. He is no exception.
Okay...? the crowd says.
In 2004, he was SM-Liiga's rookie of the year.
Get to the point, they say.
He and his teams won the Finnish league championships in 2004, 2005, 2007, 2008.
Well, at least he knows how to win.
Oh, did I forget to mention he lead SM-Liiga in scoring in 2008 with 78 points (34+44) in only 58 games, and was voted the leagues MVP in 2007?
Why yes, yes you did.
Well it's all true. The guy is a solid talent. And at 26 years old, he's just starting to peak physically.
There are concerns about several things with Janne:
1.) Will the smaller ice effect his game?
2.) How will his skill with his size (5'11" 180 lbs) translate?
3.) Has everyone forgotten Vladimir Vujtek?
Without a doubt, No. 1 and No. 2 are key to his transition. I do have a feeling that there will be a period of time where he is out of place.
However, I would venture a guess that his skill and intelligence will make the transition a lot easier. Pesonen is extremely smart. If you don't believe me, click here.
As for No. 3? Yes. I've done my best to do so. Let us never speak of it again.
As far as his size, I don't think it would be too much of an issue. Pesonen seems to be a fast, shifty skater. Most of the goals I've seen of his from YouTube come from in front of the net—and not a Ryan Malone "Stand In Front and Get Beat to Hell" way. He will appear in the slot at the last second, somehow in position to put the puck in the net.
So what can we expect from Janne Pesonen? Well, you can't expect Olli Jokinen, Teemu Selanne, or Saku Koivu. I will tell you that right now. Otherwise he would already be over here.
Worst-case scenario for Janne Pesonen? Well, he's on a two-way deal for one year, as per the CBA's demands. He will likely start out in WB/S (unless his camp and pre-season games blow everyone away) to get acclimated with the North American style and ice.
Worst-case is he is never called up and he goes back to Finland at the end of the season. No harm, no foul. It was worth a shot.
The best case scenario? To me, at least, it seems that Pesonen's best upside is Pascal Dupuis—with better hands and finishing abilities.
If you go back to Games One and Two of the Cup Finals, you will see that the Red Wings were focusing all of their players on Crosby and Hossa. This left Dupuis wide open. In Game One, he blew at least three chances because he didn't have the ability to put the puck in the net.
Now go back to those YouTube videos. Notice his break-away skills and hands in front. If Pesonen is able to convert his game, the best-case scenario (and what I could easily see happening) is Pesonen burying those chances.
He is, essentially, a more offensive Dupuis. Perhaps the perfect compliment to Sid's left side, in that he can play a two-way game, has above-average hands and shot, has that fine muscle twitch reaction that is needed when playing with Sid, and will jump into the play.
Who knows how many goals he could score sliding into the slot, as Sid fires a pinpoint pass off of his stick? Or how many could go vice versa?
Don't get me wrong here—I'm not proclaiming him to be some offensive juggernaut. In this best-case scenario, he'll put up 40-50 points, with 50 being extreme.
However, with his shootout abilities, defensive capabilities, and the potential he brings, Janne could either be a no-cost experiment who didn't pan out, or a fine compliment to Sid and Satan.
Only time will tell. Until then, Pens fans, I hope you're seeing Janne Pesonen in a new light.
Or, perhaps, for the first time at all.