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.
Pens like Bortuzzo. Don’t be surprised if he starts next season as No. 6 guy.
— Josh Yohe (@JoshYohe_Trib) July 24, 2013
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.
Been a long time since we addressed the Penguins’ Stud of the Week. But in a week where a ton of different things happened, and when the Pens have four days off in a row, it only seem right to come back to it.
But first, some news. Surprisingly good read from Rob Rossi about the efforts the Penguins have taken to create a winning environment from top to bottom in Pittsburgh. Still surreal that Jarome Iginla is a Pittsburgh Penguin, and that he seems dead set on staying that way til the end of his career.
The Penguins became the first Eastern Conference team to clinch a playoff berth when the Sabres beat the Devils in a shootout Saturday night. Also, doing a little math it looks like the Penguins are magic number of 2 away from winning the Atlantic Division and guaranteeing a top three seeding in the playoffs (the Rangers can reach a maximum point output of 60 [9 games left X 2 points each = 18 points, currently have 42]). Assuming the Pens are able to win the division, they are only a magic number of 2 away from clinching a top 2 seed overall in the East, the now division-leading Washington Capitals have a maximum output of 60 points (9 games to play, 18 point maximum output).
It looks like Kris Letang will be back in the lineup very soon. He participated in full team practice today and will join the team for their forthcoming road trip. The news is not so good for James Neal who has been diagnosed with a concussion. This doesn’t really come as a surprise, but he won’t travel with the team. Beau Bennett has been recalled and chances are good that he’ll get to play alongside Geno and Iggy, not too bad for a rookie. Get the Stud after the break.
Really up and down week for the Pens last week. Started with two marquee victories over the Islanders and Capitals, shutdown D and prolific offense, over the weekend though the Pens ran into the buzzsaw that is the New Jersey Hockey Devils. As such it’s hard to feel really strongly one way or the other about how the Pens played this week. Our Stud of the Week for this week will reflect this roller coaster of emotion.
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. Two weeks ago Sid earned the award for keeping the team from turning on itself despite some ugly losses to some traditionally bad teams. As one of the best players in the league last week we had no choice but to give the award to Chris Kunitz.
This week we’re going in a different direction check it out after the break.
Super brief recap because we already need to start getting on the gameday for today. This was a huge game for the Pens, a win put them in control of the division, a loss put them two games behind the Devils and Islanders. Not only did the Pens win, but they came out with an emphatic statement, netting a 5-1 win over last year’s beast in the East, the New Jersey Devils. What follows is a brief analysis of why the Pens found so much success yesterday.
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t’s finally here, we are actually previewing the actual guys who will be donning the Pittsburgh Penguins sweater this year. Yesterday we previewed the goalies, today we move onto defense, and yet to come are wingers, and then 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. Read the rest of this entry »