Penguins Closer Look (Defense)
With training camp most likely starting on Sunday January 13 at the very latest many questions are arising: “Who will be the Pens top 4 defensemen”, “Are there any players that the Pens can maybe sign or trade for?”. In this article, I will cover the Defence, who they have and what help is needed, and hopefully I can answer all the questions people may have going into this shortened season.
The Penguins currently sit roughly at $61-million in salary this season, technically the teams can spend up to $70 million leaving around $9 million (Tough Math, I Know) to play with if they so choose. During the offseason, many speculated that a good portion of that would go to a Winger and the other portion would go for a Defender. With that said lets take a look at who the Penguins have and who could be available around the league to fill the gaps throughout the Defence.
Penguins Current Defense (NHL)
Letang – Orpik – Martin – Niskanen – Engelland – Lovejoy – Strait
Possible NHL Ready players
Despres – Morrow – Bortuzzo
The line up leaves A LOT to be desired and if anything was evident in the playoff loss to Philadelphia last year, it was that the Penguins Defense needed upgrading. Looking at it as it is our top two defenders are Orpik and Letang, with Niskanen and Martin being third and fourth. That right there does not bode well for this team. So when Free agency came it seemed the Penguins were in the mix for coveted D-man Ryan Suter, only to lose him to Minnesota for a hefty pay raise, one that the Pens shouldn’t have and couldn’t have paid. Besides Suter there were not too many other options out there for Ray Shero to go after, especially when the cost of each defender went up with the signing of Suter. The only move that Shero did make was moving Michalek to Phoenix in exchange for a prospect 3rd round pick in the 2012 draft and a minor league goalie. The move wasn’t very surprising being that people believed Michalek would be moved, yet many believed it would be after Paul Martin who in the last two seasons seems to be playing some of his worst Hockey in his entire career.
So what should the Penguins do now?
Well There are still a few options that they could do, obviously they could see if one of their young (possibly) NHL ready defenders are capable of making the jump to the big league, or they could go the trade route or attempt to sign a Free agent. SO, who’s out there?
Well the rumor mill has been abuzz that Ottawa may be looking to move Sergei Gonchar($5.5 mil) and the Penguins are interested, of course none of this is confirmed by either team but the idea has brought up interesting conversations. “Is Gonchar too old?” “Is he paid too much?” All of those things are good questions, but the biggest question that there is already an answer to is, “Would he be an Upgrade from the Current Line up?” Yes, he would, but at the right price. A Prospect and if they want more maybe a 7th rounder would be the max to pay for his services. Now if Gonchar was brought back that still would not fix the lack of a shutdown defenseman. Unfortunately there is no news out there surrounding shutdown d-men so if anything would happen, it would be a something unforeseen.
Two other players that I think the Penguins should attempt to trade for if all other options are used up is Visnovsky($5.6 mil) and Komisarek($4.5 mil/2 more years). Before you all throw your hands up and say how big of an idiot I am under your breath let me explain. Komisarek, though a huge disappointment over the last three seasons with the Leafs could benefit with a change of environment, the Penguins play more his style of play and are known for taking chances on players who are attempting a resurgence. Now Visnovsky is a tricky one here, if you remember over the summer he filed a grievance against the Ducks because he felt his trade to the Islanders went against is contracts No trade Claus, by doing this it was abundantly clear he did not want to play for the young Islanders team, but in the end the league and Players Association deemed the trade valid. Now during the lockout he has been playing over in the KHL doing rather well staying in game shape. Recently now with the lock out over he has stated he does not want to return to the NHL, or more specifically The Islanders. Maybe to avoid this mess Visnovsky wouldn’t mind being traded, especially to a team like Pittsburgh, in doing this he can avoid legal matters between the NHL and KHL. He would be a huge improvement on the blue line but he much like Gonchar is more offensive minded.
One more name that has been in and out of the news across the league lately is P.K. Subban.Yes, he is a Restricted Free Agent which means the Canadiens have the rights to him and if the Penguins would make an offer to him We would also have to give up draft picks to Montreal in the deal. Another downside to this idea is any deal the Pens would make could be void if Montreal matches what the Penguins offered. So when you think about it, it seems like a good idea, but it would be MIGHTY difficult.
The one thing I have learned since Ray Shero has become the GM of this team, is anything is possible. He has never been one to be afraid to make a move especially off the wall ones when he believes it will help this team.
SO what do you think, can the Penguins stay the Cup favorites with this Defence or should they make a move to bolster up what they have?
In Shero We Trust!