Zbynek Michalek and Paul Martin Help the New Pittsburgh Penguins Get Defensive

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Zbynek Michalek and Paul Martin Help the New Pittsburgh Penguins Get Defensive
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

When about 15 minutes after noon went by, I refreshed twitter at work and saw about eight tweets discussing that Sergei Gonchar had been traded to Ottawa for a three-year deal. 

My immediate thought was "Our season is over." 

When the season ended, I immediately realized how many free agents we had. I knew we were going to lose players, that's a given. What I didn't expect was how many players we would be losing.

This whole summer I thought Gonch would be back, along with Eaton and Guerin. Now Gonchar is gone and Eaton and Guerin might be following suit.

Then 15 minutes after the Gonchar news, Shero once again proved that he was the best GM in the NHL

Signing Zbynek Michalek and Paul Martin? Are you kidding me? That is heaven.

It made the sting of losing Gonch easier to deal with.

Josh Yohe quoted Michalek as being excited for a new chance. 

"It was kind of a no-brainer for me," Michalek said. "Let's be honest, the situation in Phoenix is unstable. Getting a chance to come here, with a new arena, a team that's always contending for a championship, having Mario Lemieux as my owner and getting to play with (Sidney) Crosby and (Evgeni) Malkin ... it was a once-in-a-lifetime thing for me."

Martin was right behind him in his own excitement to play in Pittsburgh, as quoted by Josh Yohe. 

"I couldn't turn down the chance to play there," Martin said. "I was talking with the Penguins, Devils, and a couple of other teams, but to play in Pittsburgh is just so great. I know how great the crowd always was at Mellon Arena, and I can't wait to feel the atmosphere at the new barn."

I'm not happy that Gonch left, that was also a given.

Shero has stated time and time again that he wants players who want to play in Pittsburgh. 

Crosby started the trend of "hometown discount" by taking $8.7 million and in his final year of his contract, he's only taking $7.5 million. He will be in his prime during that year and will be making a significant decline of what he should be. That's a captain for you.

Malkin soon followed taking the same steps as Crosby. That's the alternate captain for you.

Oprik soon followed with $3.75 million against the cap. That's the future second alternate captain for you. He'll most likely replace Gonch with the "A" next season.

Cooke has been the only signing this season from a roster player. He took less money. He could have easily made more on the open market but he made it clear that he wanted to be in Pittsburgh with this team and this fan base. So Shero gives him a limited no trade clause instead of the extra cash. 

It hurt when Gonch left. Shero wanted him back for two years, but he wanted three. So he left and will retire as a Ottawa Senator. 

That being said, Gonchar has played in Pittsburgh for the last five years. He was here through the bad and the good and helped mature Evgeni Malkin into the player he is now.

Look for him in the Hall of Fame soon; mark my words.

Now that everything is done and Penguins have about $2.4 million range after bonuses and so on, here's the list of what the Pens have for this season and upcoming. 

But first some simple facts: There are 11 players on the roster that are signed past this upcoming season.

Brooks Orpik—signed through 2013-2014 (3.75 million each season)

Alex Goligoski—signed through 2012-2013 (1.833,333 million each season)

Paul Martin—signed through 2015-2016 (5 million each season)

Ben Lovejoy—signed through 2013-2014 (525,000 each season)

Zbynek Michalek—signed through 2015-2016 (4 million each season)

Sidney Crosby—signed through 2012-2013 (8.7 million, 7.5 million 2012-2013)

Evgeni Malkin—signed through 2013-2014 (8.7 million, 7.5 million 2013-2014)

Jordan Staal—signed through 2013-2014 (4 million each season)

Matt Cooke—signed through 2013-2014 (1.8 million each season) 

Eric Tangradi—signed through 2012-2013 (845,333 each season)

Chris Kunitz—signed through 2012-2013 (3.75 million each season)

So that is five defensemen, three centers, and three wingers. 

That's a good balance. Now that we have our defensive core locked, we will see how the offense pans out. 

As long as the three centers, Crosby, Malkin and Staal, keep up with their scoring touch and the wingers contribute some, I see this being a very good year for the Penguins in the new arena. 

I do think Shero needs to resign Guerin. I'm surprised he didn't take whatever Shero was offering him. It will definitely be his last year and I would love for him to retire as a Penguin and have a shot at the cup for the third time. 

Here is what I think should be the line combinations for next season.

Guerin—Crosby—Kunitz

Tangradi—Malkin—Talbot/Dupuis

Cooke—Staal—Kennedy

Rupp—Adams—Dupuis/Talbot

Godard is the odd man out for me. He gets paid too much to play so few games and so few minutes.

I'm keeping the first line together at the beginning of the season but do see Guerin moving back and even being a healthy scratch at some point.  

The second line is all speed. Tangradi is going to fair well on Malkin's line. He's a big body that hits and Dupuis and Talbot are the same. 

I'm keeping the best third line together. I wouldn't be mad if Shero traded Kennedy this off-season because he's inconsistent but if he stays, he'll be on the same line.

Rupp is a big body and if you haven't read, he pretty much sold Pittsburgh to Paul Martin. He could see time on the second and third line. 

Adams is a player that I loved last season. He was goal-less but his checking abilities is incredible and he is good on the penalty kill. 

I see Michalek with Letang on the first defensive pairing and Martin with Orpik on the second. 

To see these two new additions excited to play in Pittsburgh is one thing for a fan, but to see that they turned down higher offers is another. That is what makes Shero special: he signs players who want to play. 

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