We saw Brooks Orpik - who all but represented the team's emergence from the X-Generation - part ways for a BIG payday in Washington. Orpik was joined by arguably this season's biggest defensive free agent target, Matt Niskanen, as well as by AHL "standout" Chris Conner. Also gone is fan-favorite Jussi Jokinen (to FLA) along with Tanner Glass, Deryk Engelland, Joe Vitale.
All in all, the Pens got out of Day One fairly good, money wise. Four free agents, $6.9 million. According to CapGeek.com, that leaves the Pens with about 4 roster spots to fill and $8.3 million to fill it with.
What will Day 2 bring? Who knows? Nobody knows.
There are still some big names on the board and Pens fans' primary focus seems to lie in the direction of Nikolai Kulemin. The reasons for that are well-documented but can really be broken down into two reasons:
1) He's available and 2) Evgeni Malkin has played with him.
In reality, Nikolai Kulemin may not be the best option for the Pens to pursue, given what's still out there.
|Could Hornqvist be the answer?|
While Neal was a great in the role that he played, Hornqvist provides net-front presence, something this team has been lacking, in addition to a willingness to rough it up in the corners. The option of playing him alongside Malkin affords the Pens the option of finally finding a winger for Sidney Crosby.
Yes, Pascal Dupuis will be returning to the lineup. But when? ACL tears are not pretty and the older you are when you tear it, the longer it can take to recover. Dupuis' injury took place on December 23rd of last season and, by all accounts, should put him out of action for about a calendar year. Some estimate that Super Duper will actually be ready to go well before then but, at this point, all we have is speculation.
That said, there are free agents still available that could be a fit for Crosby.
Radim Vrbata: Vrbata is currently being sought out by "6 or 7" teams, according to numerous NHL media-types. The reasons for this are plentiful. He's fast. He's got great hands. Most importantly, he's smart. The 33-year-old Czech can score. And, as a right winger, there's a spot for him alongside Crosby and Kunitz.
Vrbata is coming off of a $3 million dollar per year deal with the Coyotes. The 2013-14 season saw his numbers drop off slightly. However, with the potential to be a mid-20 to mid-30 goal scorer, it's hard to tell exactly how much money his camp will be able to secure.
Daniel Alfredsson: Alfredsson rocked the hockey world when he decided to leave Ottawa for the Motor City. It's no secret that the longtime Senators captain wants to win a Stanley Cup and will go wherever he feels there is great potential to do so. There could be a lot of drawbacks to bringing him to Pittsburgh, primarily his age. But that's why they make short-term deals, right?
|Should Alfie be wearing gold?|
Not to mention that he likes to torch the Penguins anytime they tangle.
|Hit and miss,|
but when he hits...
Setoguchi would be a risk.He reached his peak with the Sharks, netting 31 goals, in 2008-09. His aformentioned inconsistancies can be the cause of heartburn that Tums could not begin to address. But, paired with Crosby and Kunitz, the 27 year old could provide an excellent - and affordable - option at right wing.
Obviously, no outsider has any control over what Rutherford and Co. do with signings, drafts, trades or otherwise. Even if we did, I think that it's safe to say that the pickings are slimmer than anybody would like this year. Considering the money that's been thrown around early in the process, the Pens have played it smart to this point. There's no reason that management shouldn't continue that trend, even if bailing on Nikolai Kulemin angers the fanbase. They're typically angry anyway.