Pens Re-Up with Robert Bortuzzo for Two Years

bortz-goal

Image from Wikimedia.com

The Penguins and Robert Bortuzzo were able to avoid arbitration (which was scheduled for August 1) when they came to terms on a new 2-year deal that will pay $600k annually. You have to figure that the Pens didn’t truly pay anything less for Bortz than he would have had they gone to arbitration. With a scant 21 NHL games under his belt it’s tough to know what Bortz is really capable of, and as I understand the arbitration process, the only basis for analysis would be his NHL play. Surely, we know what Bortz can become: he could easily mature to be a Hal Gill-type player. Really big, really physical, and just ultra-safe in his own defensive end, but again, I don’t necessarily think the arbiter would be assigning a contract value based on what he “can be.”

Nonetheless, $600k is not going to break any professional sports team’s bank and the fact that he’ll be back for 2 seasons is a major win for the Penguins. So who knows, maybe the Pens would have saved $25k if they had waited to go to arbitration (seems really weird to say that) but they also picked up exceptional value by getting Bortz locked up for 2 years. This is a testament to the notion that “value is a fluid term,” or whatever economists would tell you.

According to Josh Yohe, the Pens are actually pretty big on Bortuzzo, even though he was their least used defenseman in the regular season and playoffs.

 

If all is to be believed Bortuzzo really could have a shot at earning the final starting defense spot once the Penguins trade Matt Niskanen or some other defenseman to return to cap compliancy. That’s good because the limited doses we have been able to see of Bortuzzo have been very good. Consider this: for as much “potential” that is bandied about when talking about Simon Despres, he managed 7 points in 33 games with the big Penguins last year. Bortuzzo managed 4 (including the same goal output as Despres: 2) in 15 games. Oh, and Despres had the opportunity to play with Kris Letang for extended periods of time, Bortz was lucky to play 12 minutes a game with Deryk Engelland if he dressed at all. He’s also shown a willingness to stand up for any teammate at anytime, something the Pens have missed in recent seasons.

Now before you start blasting me for claiming that Robert Bortuzzo is a better player than Simon Despres stop. I did not say that. What I’m trying to establish is that Bortuzzo is no less deserving of more playing time than Despres, and that’s why the only logical solution for the Pens to get back to cap compliancy is to trade a defenseman, and frankly that more than likely has to be Niskanen. Against all odds Niskanen has been a granite-solid 4 or 5 defenseman in Pittsburgh, he went from probably crashing out of the NHL to a guy with decent trade value who would belong on any NHL team, but it’s also time for the Penguins to commit to finding out what talent they have in their system.

Although Development Camp has provided us with some encouraging signs about the future forward depth for the Pens, there would be a much bigger hole left in the lineup if the Penguins were to trade Jussi Jokinen or even Tanner Glass (yes that Tanner Glass). Sure Jokinen seems to stand in the way of Beau Bennett nailing down a full-time top-6 role, but what would the Pens do on the third line without Bennett and Jokinen? They would have to play Glass there, and the only thing worse than playing Tanner Glass at all is playing him on the 3rd line in high leverage situations. And with Glass, people like to hate him, but just remember, the guy who would replace him is the much more despised Harry Zolnierczyk.

And what’s worse is that if you had to move forwards up the depth chart like I just described you would notice the drop off in ability whereas with the defense things aren’t so desperate. Replacing Matt Niskanen with Robert Bortuzzo will result in less offense but who cares, especially with a promised bigger role for Simon Despres. At worst you’ll see a net zero exchange, at best Despres will be better in the offensive aspects of the game than Niskanen and Bortuzzo will be better than Niskanen in the defensive aspects. Change for the sake of change is dumb. Finding room for Robert Bortuzzo is not that.

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