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In what hockey fans in the Ottawa area would call an inevitable move, the Senators waived perennial underachiever Jonathan Cheecho today.
The right winger, who was a key player coming back to the Sens in the Dany Heatley trade, was scheduled to make $3.5 million next season. Cheechoo is expected to clear waivers and when that happens, the Senators have the option to buy him out for two thirds of that price.
If and when that happens, he could be the scoring winger the Pittsburgh Penguins have been longing for. The Pens have many holes to fill on the wing with the inevitable departure of Alexei Ponikarovsky and Ruslan Fedotenko, and bringing in the former Rocket Richard trophy winner, to me, is a no brainer. Cheechoo has struggled mightily over the past 3 seasons. Since his breakout year in 2005 of 56 goals and 93 points, and the following season of 37 goals and 69 points, Cheechoo has had 3 straight campaigns of 23, 12, and 5 goals and 37, 29, and 14 points. These dipping stats will ensure that he will not receive a contract anywhere near the range of $3.5 million per season. It is my estimation that he would probably receive offers in the $1 - 2 million range.
What other options are there? The Penguins could resign Bill Guerin but their are questions abound regarding how much gas is left in the proverbial tank for Guerin, who turns 41 on November 9th. Cheechoo could step right into the role Guerin filled so well and if he can regain his form, would provide the Penguins with a legitimate scoring winger who could potentially stay with the club for 3 to 4 years.
Other UFA right wingers include:
Ilya Kovalchuk, who will command a salary in excess of $5 million, obviously would not be a good fit economically for the Pens, who have big money tied up in their core players already.
Colby Armstrong. A fan favorite who left after the 2007-2008 season does not have the scoring pedigree that Cheechoo has.
A few former Penguin castoffs in Petr Sykora and Miroslav Satan. Players who underachieved with the Pens and will not be back.
Alexander Frolov, Ray Whitney, Alex Tanguay, and Teemu Selanne will, like Kovalchuk, cost too much, Owen Nolan is almost as old as Guerin, and guys like Scott Walker and Arron Asham provide the grit that Guerin and Cheechoo have but lack the scoring touch.
Signing Cheechoo makes sense for the Penguins on two important levels. When on form, and there is no reason why he would not return to at least his 2006 form playing on a line with either Crosby or Malkin, he gives the Pens a legitimate scoring winger that they have searched for for so long. Guys like Pascal Dupuis and Chris Kunitz do not force the opposition to key on them like Cheechoo would.
Combine that with the likelihood that he will come on the cheap, which may in turn allow them to resign Gonchar for the 2 year term Shero wants and for a dollar amount to Gonchar's liking, makes this potential move a great one in this Penguin fans eyes.