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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Penguins Sign Matt D’Agostini to One Year Deal

 

 

 

A couple of hours ago I completed a long analysis that I turned in over at The Farm Club on potential free agent “values” that could come in and play on the third line for the Penguins for the coming season. I’ll be the first to tell you that I had no idea that Matt D’Agostini was (a) a free agent, or (b) looking for such a small money deal. If I did I likely would have included the one time 20-goal scorer, but I didn’t.

Matt_DAgostini-234x300Here’s what we know about D’Agostini: he was a 6th round pick in the 2005 draft (Crosby’s draft) of the Montreal Canadiens. He’s from Sault Sainte Marie, Ontario which is where Wayne Gretzky played his Junior Hockey. It’s also the same hometown as Tyler Kennedy. Like Kennedy D’Agostini is a right-handed shooter, however, he’s a natural right winger, which just happens to be a hole the Pens need to fill. Fortunately for the Penguins he is considerably bigger than TK standing 6’0” 201lbs. And now I’m done talking about Tyler Kennedy.

D’Agostini’s best season in the NHL came in 2010-11 when he scored 21 goals and 25 assists in a full 82 games season with the Blues. However, after Ken Hitchcock’s arrival in St. Louis D’Agostini plummeted down the depth chart until ultimately he watched most games from the press box. In March of 2013 he was traded to the Devils but failed to make a dynamic impact with them, as such, they did not offer him an RFA tender which would have seen him make at least $1.6 million (100% of the AAV of his last contract, which he signed after his 46 point season).

Check out this piece from Rossi and the accompanying tweet stream for some interesting news.

netwolf-rossi

 

So in other words it looks like Double-J will get a look at the second line before Beau Bennett. Just saying but that probably means the Penguins have plans of trading Jokinen, otherwise they wouldn’t give him an opportunity to prove how good he can still be. If they wanted to keep him for a while they would likely bury him on the third line so they could re-sign him for lower money after this season.


Goodbye From Pittsburgh Matt Cooke and Jarome Iginla

This is a story about two players. In fact, it’s really directed at these two players.

I certainly won’t claim to speak for the whole City of Pittsburgh or the whole of Penguins-nation, but I think I speak for a lot of us and I want to say thank you Matt Cooke and Jarome Iginla. You’ve both left for greener pastures now: Cooke has signed a 3-year, $7.5 million deal with the Minnesota Wild. And that’s great, that’s one more year and probably a million dollars per season more than the Penguins would have thought about offering you. And you deserve it.

We in Pittsburgh know you better than probably any other team in the NHL. We know full well what you’ve done in the NHL, but we also know who you are outside of the NHL, you are a father, a family man, a humanitarian, and a leader in the locker room and the community. You were paid to play the game a certain way, that doesn’t define who you are. So we say thank you for all the great moments, all the horrifying moments, and everything in between. Thanks for the Cup.

For the Haters

For the Haters

Jarome Iginla: Iggy, we aren’t spiteful, even if you did sign a contract with Boston. You’re the only right winger on their roster right now, they need you more than we do, we in Pittsburgh need Beau Bennett right now. We’re just sorry we couldn’t get you that Cup. We’re sorry no one let you play right wing in Pittsburgh, but it’s just tough. We need to look at stats a little bit: James Neal has scored 61 goals in his last 120 games on Evgeni Malkin’s right wing. Over the last two seasons you only have 46 goals and you played 126 games. And then there’s Pascal Dupuis, maybe the Penguins should have moved him and Kunitz around to put you on Sid’s wing, but I mean Duper was the leading goal scorer for the Pens in the postseason, something just seems wrong to do anything to screw with your leading scorer on your top line. And I know you aren’t bitter. You said as much when you addressed the media after you signed with Boston, and we in Pittsburgh believe you.

(Peter Diana/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

(Peter Diana/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

It would have been nice to come to terms on a new deal with you, but it was never going to work out. This was a run at the Cup and you knew it. Neither you nor the Penguins are getting any younger and that’s the biggest reason why you need to move onto another team. It’s just too bad that you won’t go down as a legend of Pittsburgh sports lore. And it’s too bad that everyone hopes you get “Hossa-ed” next season (including me), but, well, we do. You’ve moved on and there’s certainly no love lost for the Bruins, even if you play for them now.

So to Iggy and Cookie, goodbye and good luck.


The Piece Comes Home

The Piece Comes Home

The Piece Comes Home

Rob Scuderi is back in the Black and Vegas Gold and that has caused us lots of mixed emotions. On the one hand this is exactly the kind of move the Penguins have been struggling to make since they foolishly let Scuds walk away following the 2009 Stanley Cup win. Conversely, Scuderi is 4 years older, 4 years slower and his contract: $3.375 million over 4 years, is no real bargain for his former team.

Don’t get us wrong, as long as he has a pulse he will help this team and he can serve as a stabilizing and aspirational mentor for the myriad of young defensemen the Penguins will hope to develop in the next several years. He’s a great veteran leader and he simply understands his job. As Kevin Allen said in regarding the Pens as one of the most improved teams through free agency:

The addition of defensive-minded Rob Scuderi is a specific, targeted move made to solve a problem. With Scuderi returned to the team, the Penguins should surrender fewer scoring chances next season. He keeps the puck out of his team’s net. It’s that simple.

As far as Scuds’ game is concerned, it really is that simple. He refers to himself as a “Defensive Plug” and basically all he does is block shots and kill penalties (he averaged 3:13 of PK time per game last year). That’s a lot.

The fear is still the length of the contract and the dollar figure. The Penguins have seemed to embrace a move towards more veteran players, but 4-years for a 34-year old is a long time. There was a time where Ray Shero wouldn’t have given a 4-year contract to a 30-year old (ahem, part of why Scuderi left in the first place) let alone a 34-year old, when you’re talking about a shot-blocker there’s always a possibility that he could wear out fast. And that would be bad news. It doesn’t really matter though, if the Penguins are smart in their handling of Scuds (which is of course a big IF today) then they have nothing to fear. There are two ways they can use Scuds and they are as follows.

  1. Play him with Letang. Scuds took a conference call with the Pittsburgh media yesterday. When asked what kind of role he could play in Pittsburgh he commented “I played with Doughty & Voynov, both world-class players with offensive upside. If that’s what they have planned then that’s fine.” That seems to suggest that some think he’s destined to play with Letang. Which is fine because it will definitely help Letang to have such a rock behind him. It will be like when Letang and Eaton played together during the regular season, except it will be better because Rob Scuderi is really good and Mark Eaton is a journeyman who never really played in a Top 4 role until he was 35. Of course if he plays with Letang the expectation will be that he’ll continue to play well over 20 minutes per game. That could cause some fatigue and even if he doesn’t show it this year, by the time he’s 38 there’s no chance that he’ll be able to keep pace with the pace of Letang and others.

  1. Higher leverage/lower minutes. Three and ⅜ of a million is a lot of money to pay a third pairing defenseman, but maybe it’s not so crazy to try to conserve Scuds’ ice time. During the Cup run years Scuds played almost exclusively with Hal Gill and they were the go to guys anytime the Penguins were in a high leverage situation (in other words, defensive zone faceoffs, penalty kills, and shutdown assignments). I see no reason why the Penguins cannot breed Robert Bortuzzo, who physically resembles Gill, and is the most deserving of a chance at the #6 spot, to fill those shoes. If the Penguins can go a long way to starting Scuds in the D-zone and having him end in the offensive zone his actual minutes likely won’t make a huge difference. He’ll have done exactly what he was paid for.

The Penguins have needed a stay-at-home Top 4 defender since Rob Scuderi left in 2009. As Shero said:

 

They’ve tried to replace him with Jay McKee, Zbynek Michalek, Jordan Leipold, Mark Eaton, Douglas Murray and more to no avail. For the first time since the Martin/Michalek signings in 2010 the Penguins have addressed defense first and this is a step that will likely see them compete at a level we haven’t seen since, well, 2009.