Under the new CBA a player looking to sign an extension with his current team is limited to a term of 8 years. Under the new CBA the maximum value of a contract is limited to 20% of the value of the salary cap for the year in which the new contract will begin. That was all we Penguins fans knew for sure as Evgeni Malkin, his agent JP Barry, his Russian advisor Gennady Ushakov, and Penguins General Manager Ray Shero entered negotiations on a long-term deal earlier this week. Now we know a lot more, to the tune of 8 years, $76 million dollars, a $9.5 million annual cap hit.
And if you don’t think that’s a big concession on Geno’s part, then I’m sorry for you. We wrote all along that Geno’s next deal *OUGHT* to make him the highest paid player (at least cap number-wise) in the league. This deal does not, he will still trail Alex Ovechkin by nearly $40,000/year. This deal leaves more than $3 million on the table compared to what the league maximum $12.8 million/year contract would be for next year. It leaves $5.5 million on the table compared to what the Russian government had offered Geno and other elite Russian players like Ilya Kovalchuk, Pavel Datsyuk, and Ovechkin to return and play in the KHL. That is a major concession on Geno’s behalf.
Occasionally people seem to think that trading Malkin is a good idea. It’s not. I understand that people view him as quintessentially “Russian,” occasionally hot-headed, occasionally less than 100%. But the numbers don’t lie. Everyone says Sidney Crosby (we agree), he’s won an Art Ross, a Hart, a Ted Lindsay and a Rocket Richard Trophy. Evgeni Malkin is regarded as “one of only two players to challenge Sidney Crosby for the title of the best player in the world” and he’s won the Calder, two Art Ross’s, a Hart, a Ted Lindsay, and a Conn Smythe. Last I checked that’s more. And the most important one is the last one, the Conn Smythe. Think fast: name one really important, game changing playoff goal that Sidney Crosby has scored. Think even faster: name three that Geno has scored.
That’s why Geno got paid, that’s why the season wasn’t even over for a week before the Penguins worked out a framework to keep him in Pittsburgh for 8 more years. He’s the last skater to win the Conn Smythe (and that will definitely continue for another year, it can only either be Crawford or Rask this year) and this team lives and dies with him come playoff time. Since his rookie season in 2006-2007 the Penguins have not missed the playoffs. In that time the team has made three deep playoff pushes (including this year) in each of those efforts Geno has always been the best player for the Penguins (a trend that continued this year). That’s why it’s impossible to trade Geno. If you want to win the Stanley Cup, or at least compete for it year in and year out, you need a superstar game breaker in the playoffs. That is Geno Malkin.
There’s no question we are a little pissed off from Sunday’s game. Not because the Penguins made a 10 second lapse in ability and skill, mostly just because everyone is somehow viewing this game as a catastrophic ending to the season. We didn’t know that you could lose a best of 7 series 1 loss to 2 wins. Nonetheless, we’re going to have some fun to alleviate the stress of this week by playing our favorite game: Stud of the Week! This week with a defense-first tilt.
Paul Martin: If Paul-Mart had played the whole regular season, and if he had played it the way he’s played the last 5 games (minus the whole 28.6 situation, of which he was part of) Paul Martin WOULD BE the Penguins’ finalist for the Norris Trophy. I’m not kidding. So far this series he has earned almost three more minutes of TOI than Kris Letang, not an insignificant amount over a three game stretch. He’s produced the same 9 points in 9 games as Kris Letang and perhaps most tellingly, he’s a +8 (tops amongst all defensemen) compared to Tanger’s +3. Not bad for a guy who is half of the “shutdown pairing” for the Penguins.
Speaking of the other half, there’s no question that Brooks Orpik has been instrumental in helping Paul-Mart to such success and confidence. But you know what? Paul Martin has been one of the true superstars on this team all playoffs.
Brenden Morrow: man did he have a bad opening series. I nearly wrote a piece suggesting he be benched. Now we know that it had a lot to do with the Islanders, and not him, but he has rebounded nicely. He made his first goal of the postseason count netting the game winner in Game 2 off of a nifty redirect. Even more important, though, has been his play on the forecheck and in the d-zone.
There’s nothing else we can say about Morrow being a “heart and soul” player. But he sure is proving it. Has he been the best player on the ice? No. Has he tried harder than everyone else on the ice? Yes. I just like watching him play so here’s a video.
Brandon Sutter: as with Morrow, it’s hard to fathom how bad he was in the first round. Unlike Morrow, he didn’t have the excuse of age or diminished skating ability. All year we’ve used Sutter’s smooth skating and quickness as a distinguishing factor between him and the departed Jordan Staal. But he didn’t have it against the Isles. He was slow, he was lost, he looked weak, exactly unlike what we’ve come to expect.
It was nerves, playoff nerves for a 23 year old without any playoff experience. And that’s okay, because once he got his bearings he’s been the cornerstone of the Penguins’ late-game efforts to forecheck the game to a successful conclusion. And he’s been good at it.
But this week our Stud goes to the guy who has picked up the team in both ends of the rink, the guy who is most hungry for another Cup and another Conn Smythe.
Evgeni Malkin: he’s only managed three points this series after scoring 11 in round one, but he’s been a thousand times better in this series. His back pressure has been essential in creating the effective 1-2-2 which has totally stifled the Senators attempts to gain the zone. After a slow start, Geno is up to 7 takeaways, and nearly all of them have come in this series. That’s great for a guy who Mike Milbury once described as a “crack fiend” who can only play offense.
He looks like the best player in the world. A man possessed in every sense of the word. Wait, did I just call Geno the best player in the world? Yes I did. And I mean it. Who has been as great in both ends of the ice as Geno? I’ll be the first to tell you Sid hasn’t, especially with his plummeting faceoff percentage. The next two answers are also teammates: Hank and Datsyuk. Well they’ve defied the odds with their good play, but with 10 and 8 points respectively they aren’t in the upper stratum of offense. And who else even deserves mentioning? Geno has this team right now and he will carry them well. That’s why he’s our Stud of the Week.
We didn’t do Stud of the Week last week because nobody deserved it. This week there are several options so we won’t waste your time.
Evgeni Malkin: he ends the first round of play with 11 points, just under 2 PPG. And he hasn’t been very good. He looks injured, or tired, or something. But with the pressure on in Game 6 he took charge. He turned a 1-on-4 into a game-tying goal. Then he did it again in OT, in the process of making Paul Martin and Brooks Orpik into legends, let’s sit back and watch…
Tyler Kennedy: last Tuesday Mike and I were standing in my kitchen and we convinced ourselves that TK couldn’t do anything to help this team, that he was good at providing energy but the Pens needed defensive help or more offense, something outside of TK’s skill set. We were wrong. His goal in Game 5 changed the world. It’s been way too long since we’ve seen anything like it. He created a forecheck almost all by himself once he cracked the lineup and he really looks smart and composed. Hard to imagine any circumstance by which he comes out of the lineup. Oh and don’t forget he actually has the primary assist on Orpik’s game winner.
There can only be one Stud though and this should settle any debate as to who it is…
Tomas Vokoun: there is no question that this series looks a lot different without Vokoun’s arrival in Game 5. Whether his presence forced the team to realize what it had done, or whether the team subconsciously enters a more defensive posture with the less athletic Vokoun in net, it literally doesn’t matter. What matters is that Vokoun saved the Pens’ bacon.
He’s a calming presence, there’s no let down with Vokoun. He knows his responsibility and he does it. And before you attack Vokoun playing well because of his team in front of him, he still had to face 69 shots in two games. And he just made the saves. We always turn back to Jaro Halak in 2010, and the similarities to Vokoun. Halak ended up leading the Canadiens to the Conference Finals that year, but in that offseason the Canadiens decided, in no uncertain terms, that Carey Price was going to be their franchise goalie. The same thing can happen here.
Right now the Penguins are playing for the right to have their names immortalized on a big silver chalice. You have to play the guys who are the most hungry for that. That’s why Joe Vitale and Tyler Kennedy are in the lineup, they want it. That’s why Brenden Morrow and Jarome Iginla chose to come to Pittsburgh, they want it. I can’t fathom what else Tomas Vokoun would have to do to prove himself the hungriest of the two options? Everyone always complained that the Pens were misusing Simon Despres in the regular season, and Coach Dan always countered that by saying he hadn’t earned his place in the lineup. What has MAF done to earn a spot in the lineup tonight? Something that happened 4 years ago? And that’s why Tomas Vokoun is the Stud of the Week.
We created this award to recognize the best player for the Penguins in the past week. This doesn’t have to be the leading scorer or anything like that, this is the guy who contributes the most to victory–it could go to a guy who was dominant in the faceoff circle, who drew a bunch of penalties that resulted in goals, or laid some game changing hits.
Pens went 3-0 this week and, generally speaking, they won three games they should have won. Admittedly none of these were that simple: Ottawa, especially before losing their two best players, were occasionally dominant, and still ought to be considered a playoff contender. Playing the Jets in Winnipeg is never easy and coming from behind with less than 10 minutes left in the game is no mean feat.
With that said there does not seem to be one guy who stood above all others this week, so what follows are several strong candidates.
My how the tables have turned. Last week the Penguins’ world was ending, Bylsma was already fired, Fleury wasn’t even worth a bag of pucks on the trade market, and Geno was being incredibly “Russian,” this week they’re one point behind Boston for the overall conference lead. And you may not want to believe it, but it’s not too early to talk about rankings, the Pens’ next game will mark 20% of this year’s regular season, deal with it.
We created this award to recognize the best player for the Penguins in the past week. This doesn’t have to be the leading scorer or anything like that, this is the guy who contributes the most to victory–it could go to a guy who was dominant in the faceoff circle, who drew a bunch of penalties that resulted in goals, or laid some game changing hits. We all know who is putting the puck in the net, but hockey, perhaps more than any other sport, is a team affair and we want to recognize the unsung heroes that make the Penguins so great to watch and root for. After the first weekend of the season we gave the inaugural award to Paul Martin for blowing us away with his unreal play-making, skating, and defensive zone presence. Last week Sid earned the award for keeping the team from turning on itself despite some ugly losses to some traditionally bad teams.
This week the opportunities are limitless so come with us as we look through the contestants.
By no means can we explain the entirety of the Penguins troubles early this year. By no means do we even believe that we can identify all of the issues. What follows are three things that have jumped out to us and how we think they’re hurting the overall cohesion in the early going.
t’s finally here, we are actually previewing the actual guys who will be donning the Pittsburgh Penguins sweater this year. Back on Monday we previewed the goalies, on Tuesday we shifted our focus to defense, yesterday we covered wingers, and today the centers, before finally making our BOLD predictions for the year.
We’ve attempted to look at each player from a point/counterpoint perspective–that’s not to say that we are going to totally disagree on each player, far from it, we want to examine both the statistical expectations for each guy AND express our “feel” or read of the player.
We hope you enjoy and we would love for you to get back to us with your thoughts and feelings. If you haven’t read them yet, please check out our series on Advanced Hockey Statistics: Goals Versus Threshold, Points per 60 Minutes, and Player Usage Charts (including Corsi numbers). Get the business after the jump.