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Friday, October 5, 2018

Made It Through the Offseason Unscathed by @here4pghsports

I wanted the Penguins to do something impactful this offseason. In retrospect, I'm relieved.

Many of us went into the offseason worrying or wishing that either Letang or Kessel would be traded. Maybe for the sake of change, maybe because of mistakes that occurred late in the season that we couldn't forget. Or, maybe just because we don't like THAT type of player.

I can accept all of that. However both players are difference makers at their best, and difference makers repeatedly turn routine plays into goals. So now that the dust has settled I'm content at where the Pens are at. Sort of. I'll get to that later.

Let's assess things for what they are. The Pens started the offseason chess match with the trade of Conor Sheary and Matt Hunwick to Buffalo. And, whether or not you are a fan of Conor Sheary (I am), two more years of a three-million-dollar-player whose easily rubbed out of the play and inconsistently produces even when playing with Crosby, probably isn't money well spent for the Pens.

Matt Hunwick, on the other hand, was an enigma at best and never came close to justifying a salary north of $1 million a season, let alone the $2.25 million per season he was being paid. So, Buffalo did Pittsburgh a favor and in return lowered the return on a Conor Sheary trade. Honestly, I can live with that. $5 million in cap space is a big deal when constantly trying to surround a hall of fame core group with auxiliary talent.

The obvious key is spending that newly freed up $5 million wisely. Matt Hunwick should have been a reminder that 2+ million tied up in an unproductive player is wasted space. Five years of 31-year-old Jack Johnson at $3.25 million should have raised all kinds of red flags within the Pens front office.

Sentiment coming out of the preseason and after Thursday night's win over the Stanley Cup Champion Capitals has been predominantly positive. If one can believe that Derrick Brassard simply needed a new team and a new year to get off on the right foot, then the same probably needs to be extended to Johnson. Even his underlying numbers have been relatively positive through the preseason. That alone suggests he deserves a few months worth of "ok, make me a believer".

With how driven the group as a whole has seemed leading up to the season, the excitement for this upcoming season should be palpable. The Pens looked tired throughout the second half of the season and into the playoffs. Defensive breakdowns and lapses that occurred even while dominating an overwhelmed Philly team bore this out.

The numbers that Crosby and Guentzel put up in last year's playoffs exemplified how good they are and underlined the fact they simply couldn't drag a tired group through the eventual champions.

With that being said, could an additional 3rd or 4th defenseman have helped solve the defensive breakdowns from last postseason by rounding out the depth chart and redistributing minutes? Maybe. I think that's what the front office had in mind when they moved Sheary and Hunwick to open up cap space to go find that guy.

My pick would have been Calvin De Haan. Because he's a younger defensemen at 27 whose underlying numbers showed the ability to positively impact the team.

De Haan ended up signing in Carolina for $4.55 million per season. The Penguins potentially couldn't offer him top 4 minutes, and weren't willing to pay him the money he wanted. Another possibility is that having come from the Islanders, De Hann couldn't stand the idea of pulling on a Penguins' jersey after having them routinely beat his former team like a rented mule (thank you Mike Lange).

If the Penguins wanted a guy who can potentially play up into the role of a 3rd or 4th defensemen, then maybe Johnson can be that guy. BUT and it's a big but....He must play up to his contract. Points, hits, goals allowed while he is on the ice...whatever it is you believe $3.25 million is worth. Johnson has to be that guy, otherwise the money should have been spent elsewhere.

That spending should not happen just to fill a need but be done wisely to maximize potential future opportunities for success. This is what separates successful people and sports teams from the unsuccessful.

Here's to the success of Jack Johnson and our Pittsburgh Penguins.

Let's go Pens!

1 comment:

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