Sunday, June 28, 2009

Pens free agency thoughts and feelings

We are three days away from witnessing yet another exciting July 1st. A day filled with eww's and ahhh's and holy god's and are you kidding me? But being a Pens supporter we are safe to assume one thing, GM Ray Shero will not go quietly into the night. Since his hiring in May of 2006, Shero has been moving and signing players like it's nobody's business. In his first summer as GM in '06 he signed UFAs Mark Rechhi, Jarko Ruutu, and Mark Eaton. People cringe when they hear Rechhi's name after how bad he played his last few months as a Penguin. But it was a very young and inexperienced Pens team a few years ago, Crosby was only a sophomore and Malkin/Staal were rookies. Rechhi added important veteran leadership and Ruutu was an immediate fan favorite for his agitating antics.

Shero also traded for Nils Ekman (who turned out to be a bust) and handy role player Dominic Moore. In the summer of '07 after the Pens made the playoffs for the first time in 5 years, Shero was active again. This time he added proven goal scorer Petr Sykora and steady veteran Darryl Sydor. While Ryan Whitney and Crosby were re-signed to long term extensions. Now last summer as we all remember, was a little different. There was the long awaited moment for Hossa to decide whether he'll sign long term with the Pens or leave to go elsewhere. He surprised everyone by taking a 1-yr deal with the Red Wings. And also Ryan Malone took more money to go to Tampa and now he's miserable about it.

But Shero panicked and after he lost out on plan B: Marcus Naslund/Brian Roloston/Kristan Huselius, he was forced to go after whatever was out there which happened to be Satan and Fedotenko. Now Fedotenko wasn't a bad signing, especially at a $ 2.5 mil price tag. He was a proven playoff performer and a solid 20 goal guy who could "hopefully" provide some net presence. But Satan at $3.5 mil turned out terrible for the Pens. He was supposed to be that sniper for Sid's line and nothing came of that. A couple weeks into free agency the Pens made a signing I loved in Matt Cooke. Cooke added some grit and energy we lost when Ruutu left. But when it came down to the playoffs, even Satan turned up useful in a 4th line role. Remember goal 1 in game 1 vs. Carolina on the breakaway? The man has still got skills.

Now in the next few days there will be several talks between the agents of Fedotenko, Scuderi, and Guerin with Shero regarding new contracts. Fedotenko wants to stay, the question will be for how much/how long. For $2.5 mil/yr and 2-yrs the Pens should lock him up. And it looks as if Shero really wants Guerin to come back as well. His calmness, veteran leadership, and play alongside Crosby all seem to have a big impact on Ray Ray. Scuderi will get $3.5 mil-4 mil in the open market, he knows that. But he also knows Ryan Malone took more money and ended up being miserable, and Orpik took less money ($3.75 instead of $6 offered by LA) and he won a Stanley Cup. Scuderi loves it here, he wants to stay, and I think he'd accept a $2.5 mil/yr deal.

What do I think will go down in Chinatown? It's hard to say, but I do think Guerin and maybe Scuderi will re-sign. I don't think Fedotenko's production on the 2nd line was significant enough during the regular season. I'd rather have a guy like Knuble, Kotalik, or even Maxim Afinigenov. These guys will all be in the $2mil-3mil range. Knuble adds a net presence and a consistent 25 goal scorer, Kotalik has a wicked shot who's also capable of netting 25-30. And Afinigenov would be a low risk high reward type deal. He'd definitely sign with the Pens for $2 mil/yr because he has to prove to critics and to himself that he can still play. Maxim's speed is on the Pavel Bure level. He would love to play alongside Geno, who wouldn't?

Shero should try and dump Dupuis and his $1.4 mil salary and maybe even Mark Eaton. I'd rather see a guy like Moen on the 4th line or Jeffrey/Wallace. We need another physical defenseman at a good price. Montador, Boynton, or even Semenov come to mind. Eaton is good and he played much better this year, but even if we re-sign Scuderi I'd like to see some more size and physicality. Especially since Hal Gill will be gone. The Pens other playoff competitor (not named Washington)the Flyers just got a lot better with Pronger in the backend. This means we have to strengthen our top 2 lines while having enough money to sign a defenseman. We can do this by re-signing Guerin and letting Fedotenko walk. If Shero can get Crosby a sniper, I think the Hart Trophy/Conn Smythe winner deserves one too :).

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