Should He Stay or Should He Go? Time to Regroup
Jarome Iginla. Brenden Morrow. Matt Cooke. Pascal Dupuis. Craig Adams. Douglas Murray. Mark Eaton. All Unrestricted Free Agents. Tyler Kennedy. Dustin Jeffrey. Robert Bortuzzo. All, Restricted Free Agents. Evgeni Malkin. Kris Letang. Both “superstars” entering into their last seasons of their current contracts and both seeking long-term, big money deals. Dan Bylsma. Head coach who won a Stanley cup his rookie season after taking over half way through the regular season. Now, every year since, his team has lost to a lower seeded team, including twice in the first round. So, what will Shero do?
Here’s the way I see things: Shero through together a team of superstars in a shortened season and all of them didn’t take the ice together until Game 2 of the Islanders series. Therefore, they only played 14 games together as a unit.
Sure, when the team was young and in-experienced, the Pens looked great. But when they needed to have more than just their talent and come together as a team, they didn’t know how. There was NO chemistry. Jarome Iginla, a future HOF, had no impact on there series. He looked uncomfortable at all times. The Pens just didn’t have what it took to win. And here’s my comparision…
Pat Riley of the Miami Heat did the exact same things Ray Shero did: put together an all-star team and expected immediate results. Only, the Heat had an entire season to grow and yet, still fell short of a Championship. Why? They hadn’t built up enough chemistry. The Pens need time! And sure, Iginla is nearing the end of his career, but where else can he go where he’ll be surrounded by a team like the Current Penguins squad? What happened in the Heat’s second season together? They won a Championship, easily. People thought after a season of losing in the playoffs, Erik Spolestra, head coach of the Heat, needed to be replaced. But management stuck by him, believed in him, and he has won ever since.
Ray Shero is genius but I don’t know what he’ll do. But he has to realize that there is a team out there who needs a coach and has a pretty good squad of players who any coach would enjoy having… The NY Rangers. Can you imagine, for one second, Coach Bylsma taking over the Rangers? It’s not a pretty thought.
I know Byslma needs to win, but let him an off-season, a full season, and then see how it goes. He deserves that much. Don’t get rid of Bylsma.
Next: you can’t give Letang and Malkin the money they are going to ask for. So who do you keep? Easy… MALKIN.
Why? Letang is good but very replaceable and luckily, his replacement is already a Pen; Simon Despres. He’s young and has great upside. Letang isn’t the player Malkin is. Malkin is unique and cannot be replaced. Give him his money, and trade Letang to your friends in Carolina who have publicly said they are shopping their Top-5 pick for a Top-4 Defenseman. That’s a great scenario and although it would be sad to see Letang go, he’s just not worth his asking price and is not worth the price of losing Malkin. Keep Malkin, Trade Letang.
Next, who stays and who goes? Iginla can most likely be bought at $5-million a year and I think will want to stay for at least one more run at a Cup. Morrow can be bought for around 4 million but I don’t know if the Pens are going to want to keep him with young forwards such as Bennett who are perfectly capable of playing 82 games next season.
Matt Cooke. I love him. I always have and I want him to stay in Pittsburgh. I think he’ll want to stay in Pittsburgh having a family there and he won’t be a huge cap hit. I do think he’ll resign for a 2 or 3 year deal. He’s someone the Pens need. He played every game this season and he played 100% every night. He’s the heart and soul of the team, along with Tyler Kennedy.
Pascal Dupuis, it’s hard to imagine letting him go. After the season he had, he deserves a nice pay-day and I hope the Pens will give it to him. He loves Pittsburgh and he fits well into the system. I see him wanting to stay also.
Along with Craig Adams, these are role players that are important to the team. Craig Adams is the best PK guy the Pens have and his experience is unmatched. Again, another guy the Pens should hold onto.
Douglas Murray, however, is disposable. His replacement? Robert Bortuzzo. I love the way Bortuzzo plays and he made the most of every opportunity he had this season. Murray isn’t worth the money, in my humble opinion and I think we need to turn to our youth. Mark Eaton is someone who should retire and join the coaching staff. That’s his best trait at this point. He’s just way past his prime but his experience as a Penguin has rubbed off on other D-Men and I think there’s a place for him within the organization. It’ll be interesting to see how he is handled.
As for the restricted free-agents; obviously I want to see Bortuzzo resigned for reasons already stated. But Dustin Jeffrey will want out. He’s a center who’s playing with three star centers and tough competition on the 4th line. Jeffrey is good, but his career will happen in another city. As for TK, he is the player that every organization needs. Every one in the locker room loves him, every fan loves him, and he deserves a new contract.
Keep Kennedy, Bortuzzo, Dupuis, Adams, Cooke, and Iginla. Let go of Jeffrey, Murray, Morrow, and Eaton.
Shero is a master at working the Salary Cap and after he resign’s Malkin, these deals should be made.
The last off-season issue that will be interesting to see happen is who in the world is the goalie? Vokoun has another year on his contract but he’s old, he isn’t the future. And Marc-Andre Fleury has three more years but is he the franchise goalie still? Some people believe that Letang or Malkin will be traded for the goalie of the future. My thoughts? I would love to see another trade with Carolina which would give the Pens the 5th overall pick. Zachary Fucale is the best goalie in this year’s draft and will be a first round pick. He’s 18 and has been playing pro hockey in Canada since 2011. He’s very good and if the Pens believe in Vokoun for another year, this kid could be the future.
I’m glad I’m not the GM of the Pittsburgh Penguins. It’s going to be a tough off-season. But, if one thing if for certain… I want to leave the office for a couple of days, get over this disappointing series loss, and move on with the future in mind.
Resign Malkin. Seek a trade for Letang. Make a decision about your goalie. Let the rest fall into place.
I love my Penguins and it’s an honor to be a writer for them. Follow me on Twitter at @_theHockeyPITT for everything hockey.
At least we aren’t Flyers fans.