Should Day Two Focus on Crosby? by @ToonsBrian

    Day One of the NHL's Free Agency period went by in a blur and provided a little more insight to the changes the new Front Office would like to see things go.  For this Penguins team, however, the job is not quite done.


    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.

Christian Ehrhoff
    The Pens did see solid additions to the team, too. The signing of Buffalo defensman Christian Ehrhoff made the biggest early splash of the day and provided a replacement Top 4 D-man. Goaltender Thomas Greiss, drafted by San Jose, a team who has a habit of finding great goaltending, will likely end up backing up MAF. Blake Comeau should provide a solid scoring threat on the bottom 6. And center Marcel Goc, picked up at the trade deadline took a deep discount to stay in Pittsburgh.

    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?
    Finding a "replacement" for Malkin's bestie may have already happened. The James Neal trade to Nashville on Draft Day brought Patric Hornqvist, a physical forward capable of putting up 30 goals for a defensively minded team who hadn't paid a forward $5 million-plus until they acquired James Neal. If Hornqvist is placed on Geno's line, as I believe they should, it could prove to be a more dangerous line than Malkin/Neal.

    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?
Alfredsson is considered one of the League's all-time great leaders - if not a quiet leader - and could provide Sidney Crosby with a sounding board in the locker room. There's no substitute for experience and Alfie has a ton of that. He'd be a great resource for the Pens' captain as well as bringing an offensive/defensive game that the new Front Office seems to be focused on doing. Alfredsson is also more than capable when it comes to taking on power play and penalty killing duties.

Not to mention that he likes to torch the Penguins anytime they tangle.

Hit and miss,
but when he hits...
Devin Setoguchi: Setoguchi can probably be obtained on the cheap due to some incosistancies, but his speed is hard not to like. Given the right situation, San Jose's 2005 draft pick can still flourish as a goal scorer thanks to one of the harder shots in the league when on the move.

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.
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About Brian Blystone

Now living in Youngstown, OH. Podcasting/Writing from ToonsStudios East for PensInitiative.com, 1-Up.club and whoever else wants to listen. Mistakenly left in charge of visual/web design for PI and owning/operating The 1-Up Club video game site.
Spends free time playing video games, watching hockey, playing hacky sack with son while daughter is warming up for whatever activity she's doing next and wondering how he got such a hot wife.
Some mysteries are meant to remain unsolved.
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1 comments:

  1. Alfie has slowed considerably and his "leadership" or lack of it is a big reason why the room was divided in Ottawa (Emery situation) after the 2007 cup run. Given the fact he is hurt half the year it seems, they are much better left to find someone else. If Alfie is your best option, I am sure you can sign Cheechoo for far less, is younger and has a history of 50+ goals with elite centres. That said, I like Setoguchi, not because he is a risk, but because he could have a high reward. 30 goals is eclipsable in the right situation. Vrbata isn't bad either.

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