The “New” Alternatives, Pt. 2

All right earlier today I outlined some good and perhaps reasonable trade scenarios that the Penguins may consider. Now I’m back to consider some of the remaining free agents still on the market.

Earlier today Matt Carle signed a $33 million dollar deal over 6 years with the Lightning. In other news, the Lightning continue to sign horrible defensemen. In light of that, Shane Doan is the only remaining free agent from my original list and I’m really feeling confident that if he doesn’t resign with Phoenix he’ll stay in the West and either go to Detroit or Los Angeles so I’m not even really considering him any more.

I also realize that I never really explained my passive aggression with Zbynek Michalek in the last post. Here are some statistics that really prove that Michalek was in fact more expendable and slightly worse in Pittsburgh than Paul Martin has been. Outside of the limited number of really talented offensive defensemen, looking at production isn’t particularly illuminating, so my emphasis isn’t on that (although for the record Martin’s 51 is a lot more than Michalek’s 32 over the last two years). I can’t really look at hits either because first, the way the NHL records hits is entirely subjective, and second, neither of them hit anybody so it doesn’t matter. What I’m interested in then is plus/minus and time on ice. I feel like these are two of the best statistics to judge the overall effectiveness of a defenseman. Plus/minus asks if the guy is keeping pucks out of his team’s net and if he is contributing to production in the other teams zone. Time on ice is a vital statistic for a defenseman because teams only dress three pairs of defensemen instead of 4 lines of forwards. Whoever the team is counting on most is going to get the biggest minutes. So then on to the stats themselves.

  •   This past season Paul Martin was a +9 and logged an average of 23:00 minutes per game TOI. To break that down a little more, he averaged 1:49 per game on the PP and 2:36 per game short-handed.
  • Michalek was a 0 this past season while averaging 21:38 TOI per game. His power play time somehow averaged :14 seconds and his SH time was 3:38 per game.

In other words, Martin was on the ice significantly more than Michalek, and despite that helped the Pens to a combination of fewer goals and contributed significantly more to the Penguins offense. You might be tempted to say, well that’s just because Z spent that much more time on the Penalty Kill and if you say that you’re wrong. Special teams don’t count against +/-, if you score on the power play you don’t get a plus, and if you allow a goal on a penalty kill you don’t get a minus. For the record if you allow a short-handed goal you do get a minus, and if you score a short-handed goal you do get a plus.

So that’s that, Martin is better in every way except maybe blocking shots. Deal with it.

Now finally, onto the new list of available free agents.

Forwards:

Alexander Semin: before you laugh, hear me out. Over his career Semin has averaged .870 points per game, that’s not bad. In fact, it is noticeably higher than Zach Parise’s career PPG average of .817. His 21 goals and 33 assists are nothing to laugh at and he’s twice reached 30 goals and once topped 40. The only time he failed to score at least 20 goals was in his rookie campaign. Further, you have to consider that his goal-scoring prowess has come on a team that doesn’t have anyone who can pass as well as Evgeni Malkin. That brings me to my next point: yes there are a lot of talks about his work ethic and his will to win, but I think that comes from playing most of his career for Bruce Boudreau on a team captained by Alexander Ovechkin. Boudreau couldn’t get tough with his players and they ran all over him. Ovechkin was benched on multiple occasions by interim coach Dale Hunter for not caring. If Semin played on a line with Malkin, with Sid as his captain and HCDB as his coach, I’m not quite as worried about his ethic. I think this is why Detroit is interested in him, he would play with Datsyuk under Mike Babcock, they would take no shit and I believe that Semin would be fine. Of course the issue with Semin would be contract, he would probably want numerous years and a cap hit in excess of $5 million. If he doesn’t get it, he could easily return to Russia and probably get a lot more. As a result I think this is a total longshot, but then again, I thought the same about the Pens trading for Marian Hossa…

Wojtek Wolski: he gives Zarley Zalapski a run for his money for best hockey name ever. A 26 year old with massive upside, and a massive history of injury, Wolski (pronounced with a “V” sound) could be an ideal high risk/high reward scenario for the Penguins. Another former Avalanche player who played under Tony Granato, his best years came in the high-paced system that saw Chris Stewart excel as well. He twice bested 20 goals and produced career high 65 points in 2009-10. If you click his link you will see that he’s moved around a bunch in recent years and he only managed 31 games and 12 points last year. As I say, this is high risk/high reward scenario, as such though; he will likely be cheap and not expect a long-term deal. If he can’t stay healthy or he’s lost his touch, you can move on at the trade deadline, however, if he could get back to his Colorado levels of production this could be a massive jackpot for the Pens.

Defense:

Scott Hannan: not a point producer but solid as they come in your own zone and known to lay a little lumber. Coincidentally, yet another player who played under Granato in Colorado. Could possibly slot in next to Brooks Orpik to form a new shutdown pairing, however, I think it might be better to view Hannan as a much more experienced version of Deryk Engelland, not that that’s a bad thing either. The only thing that worries me is that he’s changed teams three times in the last 2 seasons. Clearly he isn’t “sticking” anywhere as well as he once did when he played almost an entire decade with the Sharks.

Matt Gilroy: won the Hobey Baker Award as the top collegiate hockey player in the US in 2008-09. Since then though he’s actually struggled to really gel with a system in the NHL. The assumption here is that the Pens can recreate the magic they’ve found with Matt Niskanen again. Personally I believe they can and I think that Gilroy could be a good fit. Will the Pens spend on him, I have my doubts, but he does have a real cannon for a shot which could help to simplify the point situation on the power play in Sully’s absence.

So that’s the new list. Really, things aren’t anywhere near as bad as they seem. As I’ve said before, even if the Pens do nothing between now and the start of the season, that’s actually not a bad thing. Stockpiling money assets for the trade deadline might be the best decision out there.


The “New” Alternatives, Pt. 1: The Trades Baby

Alright, I’m happy for the Wild, but get real…

So the Pens missed out on Suter and Parise, that’s what happens when you have the two best players in the world on your team. This wasn’t a failure of Ray Shero, he simply didn’t have the power and authority to spend another $100 million dollars on one player, and let’s be real, the next time he will spend $100 million on a player it will be Evgeni Malkin, not some dude who averages about 67 points a season (and I was gracious and I didn’t take his 6 points in 13 game total from two years ago).

I admit, there have been slight issues with the way that Shero has handled big time free-agency signings. Shero kept trying to force a long-term deal on Hossa rather than short, which is what he wanted. This year, he was able to clear some cap space, but he couldn’t deliver Suter to Parise, and as it really looks, that was the most important thing. But to say that the Penguins are doomed, or even to suggest that they’re really in a worse place is absolutely wrong.

All over the Internet and the talk radio shows everyone keeps saying that the Pens might as well give up now. Why? They keep saying “well just look at the way the Penguins collapsed in the playoffs this year. And all they’ve done is make the team worse.” Bollocks. I’ll remind you, it was a worn out Marc-Andre Fleury and horrible penalty killing that caused the meltdown in the playoffs this year. So what has Ray Shero done to address that?

Well, so far, remember this is ONLY the fifth day of Free Agency, he’s addressed the worn out MAF part by signing one of best statistical goalies in the league to provide at least 30 games of relief for MAF and to push him to be better. Then he went out and exchanged his former go-to penalty-killing center, who had gotten too preoccupied with scoring goals, for possibly the finest pure defensive center in the league (as well as a studly future defenseman and a first round pick). He then went and dumped his poor performing “shot blocker” in an attempt to clear money so that the team could address other organizational defects. Yes, I understand that there is a bitter taste in your mouth now that Parise and Suter have both signed with a team that isn’t Pittsburgh and it will be years before we know if we’ll end up getting anything from the Michalek cash dump, but I promise you, the available cap space is not a bad thing at all. If there’s one fact we can take about winning the Stanley Cup in the post-lockout era, it’s that the best teams are not the best on paper, they aren’t the best in July, they’re the teams that become the best on a day in late February (Trade Deadline). The teams that become the best need to have both money and assets for trade. Even if the Penguins don’t sign one more player they’ll be in great shape for that date.

But then again, don’t fool yourself into thinking that King Shero is done wheeling and dealing. He’s always made his fortune in the trades, and in case you’ve forgotten some of the more notable, I will be happy to remind you…
• 2007: Pens are on the cusp of a Stanley Cup berth for the first time since 01, brings in Gary Roberts for less than nothing to provide a little experience on the otherwise young team, how’d that turn out?
• 2008: a couple of weeks before the trade deadline, he convinces the Ducks that they would rather have Ryan Whitney than Chris Kunitz and Eric Tangradi. I’ve written much about what Kunitz means for the Penguins, and how there’s no doubt that it is not coincidence that he has spent most of his time in Pittsburgh playing with the leading point producer in the NHL and the favorite MVP choice, whether it’s Sid or Gino. And you know my perspective on this, but I still think Tangradi’s best days are ahead of him.
• After that deal he brought in a minor role player named Hal Gill.
• Then he dropped the big one: Marian Hossa and Pascal Dupuis for Colby Armstrong, Erik Christensen, Angelo Esposito, and a first round pick. How’d that one turn out? If you need a refresher, Armstrong got cut by the abysmal Maple Leafs this summer, Christensen has left for Russia (I think), and both Esposito and the first round pick that the Thrashers acquired have yet to play one game in the NHL. We got to go to the Cup finals, and I think that Dupuis guy has panned out all right over the years.
• 2009: after getting so close the previous year, and after getting spurned by Hossa in the offseason, Shero did the only thing he could. Got better. How’d he do it? Bill Guerin.
• 2010 was a down year and certainly Alexei Ponikarovskiy and Jordan Leopold weren’t the best players Shero ever brought in, but then again this was one year away from the Cup and he needed to do whatever to get better.
• 2011: hey remember when Ray Shero traded Alex Goligoski, basically our number six defenseman to Dallas for James Neal and Matt Niskanen? Whatever happened to those guys?
• 2012: nothing to do. Nobody was on the market, and his best commodities, his many young defensemen all were set to become RFAs, now that they should be getting new deals, they could be instrumental in making a move this year.

Of course there are a couple of quality trade situations that have been suggested: the first of which, that Mike Colligan has been espousing since well before free agency actually started is a more or less straight up trade between St. Louis and Pittsburgh with Chris Stewart coming here in exchange for Paul Martin. Both guys need a change of scenery and Stewart is very comparable to James Neal except more physical and a lot badder. Stewart doesn’t work in Ken Hitchcock’s defense first system but when he’s played in systems similar to the Penguins (especially when he played under current Penguins assistant Tony Granato in Colorado, oh you know the guy who runs the offense and powerplay in Pittsburgh now) he’s put up very quality goal totals. Whereas Neal is really actually a sniper in a power forward’s body, Stewart is a power forward in a tough guy’s body. At 6’2” 230 lbs. I think he could make a place for himself in front of the net.

Mean.

Further, he’s mean. He’s thrown some vicious elbows in his day and I think he has been suspended before, but I may be wrong. The more I think about it, the more I like that. Sid should play with a guy who has an intimidation factor, I’m pretty sure that’s why Shero has been so adamant about finding big wingers, and probably why he encouraged Sully to take an offer elsewhere.

That’s right, Steve Sullivan signed with the Coyotes yesterday, 1-year $1.85 million with a $500,000 signing bonus. That’s a contract worth well over $2 million all in all. I think the issue with Sully is that we pretty much have the bottom six filled out, and the only position of need is that “winger for Sid” but unfortunately, Sully isn’t going to offer a lot protection to Sid, and as a result there really wasn’t much of a spot for him, except for on the powerplay, but more on that later.

Anyway, in return, it is a well-known fact that the Blues are looking for a left-handed, puck moving, top-4 defenseman, to help mentor the young star Alex Pietrangelo. I mean the only way that could provide a thinner veil over Paul Martin would be to say that he must be American and have a good +/-. Further, Hitchcock’s system is almost identical to the one that Martin played in in New Jersey that made him into a defenseman worth $5 million per season. The Blues still need to come to terms with a couple of RFA wingers before they’re likely to let Stewart go, but this seems like an unreal hockey trade for both sides.

Moving on to defense, the Penguins will need to do something here. I’m not sure that it is enough to seek a physical d-man now that Sully has signed away from the Pens; they are going to need someone to help Letang on the PP. The best bet for that is the known to be available Keith Yandle from Phoenix. The issue with Yandle is that I’m sure the Yotes will want offense in return. If there were one position where the Pens don’t have room to spare it would be offense. What could the Pens give up? That’s the question and I’m sure there is an answer. I’m sure that two pieces in this trade would be Simon Despres and next year’s first round pick, but would someone like Tangradi or Dustin Jeffrey (or both) be enough to get it done? I’m not sure.

In the next installment, which should go up later tonight I’ll consider the remaining free agents and try to answer which ones can actually fulfill the needs the Penguins have.


Happy Independence Day! Jagr Signs a Horrible Contract! Sully’s Gone. It’s Over!

First things first:

Greatest movie speech of all time? I think yes. But seriously, happy Fourth of July to everyone, go out and celebrate the land of the free and the home of the brave.

First things first, that I should have shared last night but didn’t because I didn’t care: Jaromir Jagr will be plying his talents in Dallas next year. Further still, the Stars decided to offer him an obscene $4.5 million for one year. When Double-J first started talking about a return to the NHL and to the Penguins, the Pens felt comfortable offering him $2 mil. It’s not a secret that I ridiculed the Flyers for giving him more than 60% more than that. Now, coming off his worst production in the NHL since his rookie season he gets another $1.2 million raise. Whatever, I guess tensions are high in Dallas given that the team hasn’t been in the playoffs since 2008, and they probably have to convince their promising young talents like Jamie Benn and Loui Eriksson that the team is determined to win and thus stave off the issues that Nashville has been experiencing. Still, apparently Dallas wants to challenge the Devils as to who can pay the most money to the oldest players. Who’s getting Selanne?

Steve Sullivan has moved on to Phoenix. Agent says Pens were dragging there feet. I’ll miss Sully, real class act and there’s no doubt about the impact he had on our Power Play. Good for him though.

Real Talk: Parise and Suter have bother come to terms with the Minnesota Wild. It has been announced by everyone on the Internet that they signed matching 13 year deals for $98 million, good value for Parise, bad value for Suter. Parise is a franchise player, make no doubt about it. Suter was the tag-along to Shea Weber and now he has to be “the guy” especially on a Wild team that has a horrible defense. The only other proven d-man on that team is Tom Gilbert and he came over in a trade from the incredibly horrible (at least defensively) Oilers, food for thought. I’m happy for the Wild and this is a good win for teams who believe in the power of the salary cap. Further, I’m just really glad that both guys signed out west, and not with another Atlantic Division team.

We’ll explore the new alternatives either later today or tomorrow, for now go hockey.

Also, do you realize that the Pirates are 8 games above .500 right now? Go cheer them on they seriously deserve it!


Gameday/Post/Recap: UFA Day #3: Oh You Know, Just Take Your Time

True story: the biggest news of yesterday was Olli Jokinen signing a 2 year deal with the Winnipeg Jets. I thought the Flames were a mess but at least they were smart enough not to give $4.5 million dollars a year to Olli Jokinen. Wow.

So yeah, um, in other news, um, well the Flames did make one horrible decision (not counting the Wideman contract and spending their first round pick on a kid who could be a decade away from actually competing in the NHL) by giving $4 million a year to Jiri Hudler. Admittedly Hudler put up 25 goals and 25 assists this year, but he’s also spent the last several years moving back and forth between the NHL and KHL depending on who is paying more, and has never really been more than a third liner in the NHL. BOLD PREDICTION right here: Calgary will not make the playoffs. The good news about that though is that perhaps if the Penguins fail to sign Sidney Crosby’s best friend Zach Parise they can make a trade for his other best friend Jarome Iginla at the trade deadline this year… I can dream right?

The Sabres traded Derek Roy to the Stars for Steve Ott and Adam Pardy. Dallas must really love trading away multiple players for the guy who isn’t the best player in the trade. I mean yes, Roy is a good player, steady 20+ goal contributor, but Steve Ott could be a steady 20-goal guy and he gives you great defensive zone play, and intimidation. Oh also, Pardy isn’t too horrible either, sort of akin to Matt Niskanen really.

http://www.haszachparisedecidedwherehesplayingnext.com/.

If something happens, maybe I’ll check back. Big thanks to friends and twitter personalities who have checked us out in the last week.

You’re probably right Giorgio, you’re probably right.

UPDATE: Several hours ago, Bryce Salvador signed a $9.5 million deal over three years with the Devils. That breaks down to $3.16 repeating per season. I’m sort of bummed that he’s off the market, but I’m also really glad that the Pens didn’t need to dish out that much cash to a stay at home defenseman who’s 36 years old.

I can’t figure out why or how the Devils keep doing what they’re doing, and Mike Colligan, who is always on point, just dropped this speculatory bomb shell:

I’m not panicking, however, it seems ruddy impossible for the Devils to afford any of these guys (Brodeur, Hedberg, Salvador). They’ve tied up about $10 million for next year on three players with a current combined age of 115. I know they aren’t at the limit of the cap, but this is a team that despite getting to play 9 home games a year against the Rangers, Flyers, and Penguins, all of whom had over 100% capacity for home game attendance at their own arenas, and in the case of the Rangers and Penguins were the 1st and 3rd most watched teams on the road, the Devils finished 24th in home game attendance with an 87% turnout rate. The team struggled to sellout its Stanley Cup Finals games, and if you recall the start of the 2010-11 season, after the Devils had signed Kovalchuk to his enormous contract, the team couldn’t dress a full roster because they couldn’t afford payroll. It all makes so much sense, hopefully that’s exactly why it’s not true.


Gameday/Post/Recap: UFA Day #2: Revelations

Well no big announcements yet, although everyone reports that it’s down the to the Pens and the Wild for Parise. My guess is that the Wild are promising him a nine-figure contract. The Pens aren’t matching that but they have everything else on their side. This is killing my legal process homework right now.

  • Both Martin Brodeur and Johan Hedberg have resigned with the Devils, both on 2-year deals. Both will be over 40 (well Brodeur’s already there) when the contracts run out. Brodeur’s deal is for $4.5 mil per season, that sounds like the Devils are really out of the Parise sweepstakes. If Brodeur really wanted Parise to come back as much as he claims to have, then he would have taken half as much money. Good goaltending tandem, that’s why Brodeur was fit and healthy for 24 playoff games this year. Again this is why the Pens signed Tomas Vokoun.
  • After my post last night the Pens added another AHL center, Trevor Smith. Considered to be an elite AHL scorer and played in 16 games for the Lightning last year. I know all these WB/S signings are boring but they are just as important as any signing that any team has made. The importance of good, skilled AHL centers will be profound when Beau Bennett will be seriously competing for an NHL spot next year and when more “unpolished” prospects end up in the NHL rather than as career minor-leaguers.
  • Alexander Radulov has decided to leave the NHL again. He has agreed to a 4-year contract with CSKA Moscow of the KHL. The contract is said to be worth $9.2 million (American) per season. It’s sort of a shame because Radulov could have been a really interesting and exciting NHL player, but it seems like he’s done here for good, it’s also sort of funny how all this “new money” in Russia deal with contracts. Radulov would have been lucky to earn $3 million per season in the NHL this year.
  • Of course with Radulov’s decision, the subject of rumors is that Alexander Semin may also seek a better fortune in Russia. Of course if he does that, then Marc Crawford and Pierre McGuire win. Does this mean I’m rooting for Semin to sign with another NHL team?

I’ll be updating this same post as more information comes available, so check back often.


Gameday/Recap/Post: Happy Canada Day! Happy Free Agent Signing Day! WB/S is Going to the Calder Cup Finals!

Well so far today has been pretty quiet for the Penguins. That’s mostly because Suter has pretty much announced that he won’t make his decision today, and it seems likely that Parise won’t be making any announcements either. Read the rest of this entry »


A Look at the Alternatives

We’re running headlong towards the official start of the free agent signing period, although Ryan Suter announced on Friday that he will not be talking with teams on Sunday. What that means is that the three quarters of teams who really believe they might be able to sign Suter probably won’t do anything until Monday (including the Penguins). That being said, at this time I want to look at some of the other alternatives in this free agent class. If you read Pensblog, this might look familiar, however, I settled on my list on Wednesday but haven’t had the opportunity to write about it in light of the Crosby news from Thursday.

Forwards:


PA Parenteau: Is there really any question that this guy is going to be the second most coveted forward behind Parise? Dude has played his whole career for the Islanders yet his 67 points last season are only 2 short of Parise’s 69 (although they’re 10 short of Ray Whitney, but he’s 40). Admittedly, his 18 goals would rank behind Matt Cooke and yes he is a “playmaker” and not a “pure scorer” like Parise is, but when you’re playing with Sidney Crosby, I can’t see how that is going to matter. The best part about Parenteau is that he’s approximately the same age as Parise, he put up nearly identical numbers as Parise, yet he’ll probably command half the salary. If you’re hoping that the Penguins will sign Suter, Parenteau is your best friend right now.


Shane Doan: the Pensblog made fun of him but I’m going to do the opposite. Yes, he does have a tendency to cry when his team isn’t getting calls but he is an absolute warrior, and he can definitely hit some people. This is a guy that’s in the last couple years of his career and he’s yet to really have a chance at a Cup. That could be good motivation to come to Pittsburgh. Last year he still put up 22 goals and 50 points playing with Radim Vrbata, think about what he could do with Sid…


Jordin Tootoo: definitely not a top 6 forward and definitely not “a winger for Sid,” but he is as tough as they come and can be just as big of a game changer as either of the guys listed above. Can you imagine a third line of Tootoo, Cooke, and Sutter? If I were Claude Giroux I might wet myself with anticipation of going up against those guys. Some outlets are suggesting that the Pens need two forwards in free agency, I hope Shero remembers this guy.

Defense:


Bryan Allen: people were talking him up and down in Pittsburgh during the trade deadline and with good reason. He’s a hitter. As I have long contended, the Penguins need a more physical blueline presence. I don’t believe it’s a coincidence that we went to the Stanley Cup Finals in back to back years after Hal Gill joined the Pens and Brooks Orpik, and since Gill left the Pens haven’t made it past the second round. Further, although Allen is a little bit older (although no older than Brooks or Paul Martin) that might benefit the Penguins. At the worst you would have to conclude that the team is at most one year away from Simon Despres really ascending to be a permanent fixture on the Penguins blueline, we’re probably 2-3 years from Joe Morrow and/or Scott Harrington and one more from that for Olli Maatta and Derrick Pouliot, in other words, we don’t need to sign a younger guy (like Matt Carle) to a long-term deal. We really need a 2-3 year stop gap and Allen could fill that role perfectly.


Matt Carle: Pensblog described him as like Paul Martin except younger and better, every person I know from Philly has described him as Paul Martin except worse. The choice is yours but I’d rather pass on this one.


Jason Garrison: sort of came out of nowhere to put up 16 goals from the blueline for Florida last year. Spent most of this year playing with Brian Campbell and that’s probably who he best resembles, a big time puck mover who eats minutes, but he also sometimes does those things to an annoying and self-destructive level. He could make sense here under two conditions: if you really were hoping to bring Ryan Suter in for his offense more than his all around game, Garrison could be a cheaper version of that. Further, if you don’t think you’ll be coming to terms with Steve Sullivan, Garrison could be a great asset on the point along with Letang.
That’s my list. Certainly there are other guys out there who will get some headlines and some attention, but I think these guys constitute the best alternatives specifically catered to the Penguins on the UFA market. Is it just me or is a Paul Martin trade looking less and less realistic?

Also: late breaking, Matt Niskanen has officially come to terms with the Pens on a 2-year, $4.6 million deal. First, off, I said $2.5 million so I was pretty close, and secondly, this is a really good deal for all involved. That mean’s the Pens have six NHL d-men under contract right now, overall they have 19 players under contract and still have $12.5 million to spend. Neal with it.