Recap: Draftday #2: Fundamental Changes, Admitting I Was Wrong

I guess I need to fess up and say that everything that I hoped and predicted was completely wrong on the Jordan Staal issue. Also, because of a lack of close fact checking, I have finally realized that I screwed up the contract situations for Ryan Suter and Shea Weber. As it turns out, Suter is an unrestricted free agent this; Weber will be a restricted free agent. What it ultimately comes down to though is that they are both physically intimidating defensemen with offensive upside, they both play for the same team, and they’ve both expressed the same interest to leave that team because it’s located in Nashville. What is also true, and what I correctly identified, is that the future of said defenseman was inextricably linked to one of two things: the desire to pick up the mantle left behind by Nick Lidstrom in Detroit, or if the Penguins could dump the high salaries of their underperforming defensemen. According to a major stream of tweets (which of course may or may not be true) Suter is only allowed to sign a contract with the team called Detroit or the team called Pittsburgh. I honestly don’t like to brag every time I make a random prediction that ends up coming true or is supported, at a later date, by official commentary from the “pros,” and as I said, I totally got the Staal case wrong, but the simple fact is that as I build this blog and attempt to form a core of dedicated readers I need to show that the trust you place in me is justified. I’m not an expert, I haven’t even played competitive hockey since I was in eighth grade, but as I’ve tried to demonstrate, when properly guided I can hit the mark a lot. Get more by clicking on the HyperText Markup Language link.

Anyway back to hockey. Jordan made a statement yesterday about the trade. I feel more emotionally torn about the whole situation now given that apparently the news reached him in the middle of his wedding reception and that in sharing the news “With my teammates in the back corner there, it got a little emotional. But they knew a lot of good things could come out of this.” But if you read the article, it really seems like in all likelihood Jordan wouldn’t have been especially happy as a third line center in Pittsburgh, and that his heart really was set on expanding his role, and he’ll have a great opportunity in Carolina. I still think that everyone involved in this trade has won, and you even get the same feeling from Jordan.

Josh Yohe had some interesting things to say about Brandon Sutter. It started when he seemed to make a fuss that Sutter hadn’t addressed the media about the trade yet, and that he was apparently “devastated” to have been dealt. Because it is completely inexplicable for a 23-year old to feel sorrow that he had all of a sudden been separated from the people he had been closest to for the previous 4 years. Yohe did backtrack from his statement and provided literally dozens of character references about how good Sutter should fit in here.

Again, there has been a steady buzz that wherever Parise goes, Suter might also follow, and further it is thought to be down to the Pens and the Wings. To be blunt, the Pens can’t do both unless Suter, Parise, and Crosby all agreed to sign for way less than they would get elsewhere. Yes the Pens currently have nearly $15 million against the cap right now, but this could quickly change, and not just if the owners decide to show up to collective bargaining agreements and demand more revenues (which they probably will and I don’t even blame them really). Assuming the Penguins can find a home for Paul Martin and receive non-roster players in return you can put the number at $19.6 million in cap space. The thing to remember though is that there are probably 5 or more players that were part of the Penguins organization last year who do not count against the cap presently but ultimately will resign with the team. First and foremost among them is Matt Niskanen who will command a salary that I expect to be somewhere between $2.5 and $3 million a year. After that you have to consider that the Penguins will still need to fill one defensive spot. At this exact point the situation seems to come down to either Brian Dumolin or Simon Despres, neither of whom are counted against the NHL roster yet and will add approximately $1 million against the cap. Thus, realistically speaking Z’s entire contract will be appropriated into filling out the roster. Beyond that the Penguins will need to decide the futures of Steve Sullivan, Arron Asham and the other UFAs. Sullivan and Asham seem to be the most likely to get resigned, assuming each player comes back for approximately the same dollar figure as last year, Sullivan: $1.5 million, Asham: $600,000, that’s another $2 million dollars away from the cap. Further, decisions will need to be made about the RFAs that the Penguins have made qualifying offers to. I don’t doubt that Veilleux, Grant, and Sneep can be resigned and play all season in Wilkes-Barre. I do think Strait and Bortuzzo will be getting traded. I think they could be enough to entice someone to take Paul Martin, or if the Penguins aren’t able to land Suter, could be used in a trade to acquire another top flight NHL defensemen. That still leaves Eric Tangradi. I fully expect the Penguins to resign him and for him to be part of the NHL Penguins for the entire season. He played the best games of his career in the ill-fated playoff series this year, and he will help to satisfy one of Shero’s offseason goals: find big forwards. Again, I’ve said it a lot, I really like Tangradi, and I have to be one of his biggest fans, despite that, I don’t think I’m talking out of my ass to say that with increased shifts and increased minutes down the stretch and into the playoffs, Big Dawg really started to show that he could make and take hits, his productivity wasn’t good but he won’t produce so long as he’s playing on the fourth line. If he can just spend all this summer conditioning and working on skating, there is no doubt that he could be a difference maker for this Penguins team. I don’t expect he will be expensive to resign. Something similar to Dustin Jeffrey’s current contract, fairly short term, low numbers, but then again the league minimum contract is still $500,000 a year.

So let’s do a quick tally: assuming the Penguins can find a taker for Paul Martin AND the salary cap remains at $70.3 million that will leave them with $19.6 million in free space. Subtract from that $3 million for Matt Niskanen. Further, even if the Pens acquire Suter, that will still leave one defensive starting position up for grabs, early evidence suggests that it would go to either Dumolin or Despres, both of whom make nearly the maximum rookie contract salary, so for all intents and purposes that’s another $1 million to subtract. Assuming the Pens sign Steve Sullivan, Arron Asham, and Eric Tangradi that’s another $2.5 million. In other words, the Pens are really looking at $13.1 million in free space if they’re lucky. From what I can see, Parise will be looking for a fairly long term solution and a dollar figure between $6.5-7.5 million, I think Suter would likely garner about $5.5-$6.5 million. Given that we’ve heard all about Parise’s special friendship with Crosby maybe he could come at the low number and Suter could be persuaded at the high number. Of course you would still be playing with fire assuming that the cap will stay at $70 million and you would be running awfully close to that number. I hope the Penguins and Ray Shero don’t approach July 1st believing that they’ll get both players. A focus should be made on one or the other, but that begs the question, who do you choose?

Another excellent article on the Penguins by Dejan Kovacevic, by and large my opinion is his opinion. But let’s explore the reasoning a little bit more.
Parise: The Penguins cannot rely on the exact same level of output from James Neal again this year. He won’t be able to sneak up on teams anymore, he was the top vote getter in the entire league for wingers in the end of year all-star voting, further, personal motivation has to be viewed as a factor in his breakout year last year (it was a contract year). I don’t expect Neal to drop off that much and certainly continuing to play and develop with Evgeni Malkin can only be a good thing, but the Penguins will need to broaden their options. Parise is a perennial thirty-goal scorer when he’s healthy and he can be pretty physical despite his smaller stature. This would free Chris Kunitz up to continue to play with Malkin and Neal making two incredible lines. Further, Parise is a big time leader and he can fill any of the void the Pens might be feeling from Jordan Staal’s departure (although, apparently so can Brandon Sutter). Lastly, he wants to win and the writing on the wall in New Jersey is apparent, Parise has never been considered as important to the team as Kovalchuk or Brodeur, if he wanted to win that bad he was always going to have to take less money. Personally, this is my pick. If the Penguins young defenseman are ever going to grow up, this might have to be the year, no more putting it off, no more excuses, both Shero and Dan Bylsma have to be willing to throw them to the wolves, only then will we ever see if all of those picks have been worth it.
Suter: It is really hard to say no to him. He would make literally the perfect foil to Kris Letang, both have good offensive sense, both have great skating ability, and both can be absolutely punishing. The only thing I fear is that he’s played his entire career next to Shea Weber and there’s no doubt that has helped him to look perhaps just a little bit better than he really is. Of course it might not matter. Standing on his own there is no doubt that Suter is an elite defensemen who can do everything. I think it could have been argued that if the Penguins had one more defenseman like Letang the Penguins never would have considered Martin and Michalek. This could be the chance to rectify the situation. Suter could prove somewhat more difficult to sign though because he has allegedly expressed an interest in remaining in the Western Conference. I really think Detroit is his ultimate destination. It should be noted that the Pens have expressed a willingness to trade in order to find a top d-pairing partner for Letang, they’ve suggested that the cornerstone of the deal from our side would likely be Simon Despres, we shall see what happens.

You might have noticed something really interesting by now: I haven’t actually written anything about the second day of the draft. Sorry that other news has become more interesting if not more important. I think the Penguins had an astounding draft beyond just the trades and the things that could be set up for July 1 now. As we said yesterday, the Pens addressed their latest positional needs by taking two more stout defensive prospects. In the remaining rounds the Pens drafted a fairly highly touted goalie and quite a few international players (although most of these international players either have or will be playing in the CHL).
• Theodor Blueger: the team’s second round choice. He was born and raised in Latvia but English is his first language. This past season he shined as a center at Shattuck-St. Mary’s, I think the last time the Pens drafted a center from that school, it turned out okay.

That would be me.

• Oskar Sundqvist: he has to be the first Swedish player the Penguins have drafted in a decade at least. He’s another forward, as far as I know he’s one of the few players the Penguins took who isn’t playing in the CHL.
• Matt Murray: at the half-way point of the year he was the second most highly rated goalie prospect behind Malcom Subban (who went in the first round). He had a rough second half of the season and ended up dropping to the third round where the Penguins took him. Is a very wiry goalie just like MAF when he was first drafted. He plays for St. Sainte Marie in the OHL. He’s a native of Thunder Bay, Ontario, the same place that Jordan Staal is from.
• Matia Marcantuoni: another forward, another player from the OHL, no details were given about his country of origin but he doesn’t exactly sound to be from North America. First pick of the Penguins in the fourth round.
• Sean Maguire: another goalie. Probably a long ways off because he spent his most recent year in the BCHL which is one of the leagues that comes before the CHL in terms of development in Canada.
• Clark Seymour: a defenseman from the OHL. I haven’t found anything more on him. Went in the fifth round.
• Anton Zlobin: native of Russia currently playing in the QMJHL. Should play the role of a bad guy in James Bond movie.

The biggest news to come from the second day of the draft was that the Flyers traded James van Riemsdyk to Toronto for Luke Schenn and some draft pick I think. This is good news. It is an acknowledgment that the Flyers were outclassed by the Penguins and Wings and had no real way to actually pursue either Parise or Suter. Funny though because thanks to the Pensblog, most people I know had started referring to Brayden Schenn (who already plays for the Flyers, in case you’ve forgotten) as Luke Schenn’s Little Brother. I guess they felt the need to imitate the Hurricanes.

Go Pens!

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