Thursday, August 31, 2006

Staal for Johnson Rumor Back Again

Eklund over at broke this news last night. This was a major story heading into the NHL Entry Draft this past summer. The Penguins would get a stud defensive prospect in Jack Johnson, and the Carolina Hurricanes would get the chance to unite sibling pivots in Eric and Jordan Staal. In the end the deal never materialized and the Pens had a logjam down the middle with Crosby and Malkin already in the fold. After the draft Ray Shero stated that he did not draft Staal to trade him, and that he was a big part of the future in Pittsburgh, even stating in a post draft interview that the two would win a Stanley Cup together.

Not sure why this would be on the table again. The deal didn't happen 2 months ago, what makes it more attractive to either side now? Granted, the Evgeni Malkin situation was even cloudier than it is now, but the Penguins knew they would have him at some point. The team is not "stacked" with defensive talent, but their cupboard is not completely bare either. Jack Johnson, a good buddy of Sidney Crosby's, would look great in the Black and Vegas Gold, but why now? I wouldn't be disappointed if this deal were to happen, but I am not sure that in the end it will.

There were rumors that Carolina was unhappy about Johnson not joining them for their run at the Cup last spring, but I can't see that being a major factor in trading away a big piece of your future to get the younger brother of one of your stars. Especially one that might not be thrilled to be in the shadow of his brother, something that he tried hard to get out of during his draft process. We will see what happens in the coming days, but as of now I think the probability is low.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Senator's Prospect Kaigorodov Allowed to Leave Russia

Gennady Velichkin has allowed Ottawa Senator's prospect Alexei Kaigorodov to leave Metallurg Magnitagorsk to chase his dreams in the NHL. To some this is a shocking move. Could the man who has been seething since the departure of his "Golden Diamond" and "National Treasure" had a change of heart? Has he decided that it is best to allow his players to pursue their desire to play in the NHL? I don't think so.

Velichkin is trying to come across as a goodwill ambassador to the game of hockey. Citing that the Senators would be in danger of losing Kaigorodov's rights and that he would be entered back into the draft pool, he has this to say: "There will not be a lawsuit against Ottawa. We made a goodwill gesture toward Alexei. We hope he does not forget." Kaigorodov will be allowed to go to Ottawa for training camp and his contract in MM will not be terminated. The team has given him an unpaid leave of absence. If he does not make the NHL roster, he will not go to Bimington, but back to MM.

This is great for Kaigorodov, but it is not a situation where Velichkin is being understanding. Velichkin knows that it may be hard for a rookie to earn a roster spot on a tough team like Ottawa, if he doesn't, back to Russia you go. Velichkin looks good and the player is happy. The bigger implication of this move is that when court proceedings are started in the Evgeni Malkin case, he will have an example of a smooth player transfer to fall back on.

When Malkin's attorneys talk of the pressure he faced and passport-gate, Velichkin simply answers: "Your Honor, this boy is troubled and indecisive. We would not treat our prized player that way. Look at the favor we did for Alexei Kaigorodov. Malkin signed, he should be here." You can guarantee that this was a calculated move and one Velichkin planned out. He looks good to the player and his representatives and tries to set a presidant for how the Super League would handle players in the non-transfer agreement era, all the while hoping for a whopping settlement or getting his player back.

This situation gets more interesting by the day. RSL players abandoning ship for the NHL and NHL players doing the same for opportunities in Russia. Will it end amicably, probably not, but I am watching it like a movie of the week.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Some Fan Reaction to Malkin Practice Today

This is compliments of Pensfannn over at the message board. This is the second time Pensfannn has seen Malkin skate this week and it sounds like it was impressive. Hopefully we will all have the same opportunity in a couple weeks when Penguins Rookie camp opens in a couple weeks.

Here is the post and a link to it:

Saw Malkin practice again today!

Players in attendance: Jeremy “Styles” Roenick, Rob Blake, Anson Carter, Sean Avery, Chris Simon, Glen Murray, Noah Clarke, Mathieu Schneider, George Parros, Sean O’Donnell, Andrei Zyuzkin, Alex Frolov (I think), Brian Salcido and about 6 others that were prospects or that I couldn’t identify.

They started out with length of the ice breakout drills that would then develop into a 2 on 1. Following that, a D and forward would join the play for a 3 on 2 the other way. The first two when Malkin was up featured him with Roenick! The best play with those two involved Roenick crossing from left to right and leaving the puck at a stand still in the high slot for Evgeni as he crossed behind JRo. Malkin took a high slapper - just wide to the right, but a BLAST.

One of the 2 on 1 portions consisted of Malkin with Anson Carter - who looks to be in fantastic shape. Carter lifted a pass over the D’s stick and Malkin one-timed into the opposite low corner from the right side of the crease. Another play with Anson was a 3 on 2 give-and-go that resulted in a great save by the goalie. Carter and Malkin would be deadly together! (Can we put Army on the 3rd line??)

Another very slick move was a breakout pass from Rob Blake to Malkin over two lines. The pass was behind Evgeni, but he effortlessly kicked the puck to his stick. Very Crosby-like! Malkin’s stick-handling, skating and passing are at NHL All-Star levels. At times he looks like LeCavalier. Other times like a young Mario Lemieux.

A scrimmage took place afterwards. Most of the big name stars were on the opposite team - Roenick, Carter, Murray, Blake. They had another player that looked like Drury, but wasn’t. Definitely an NHLer though. Malkin’s teammates were O’Donnell, Schneider, Avery, Parros, Simon, Clarke, and an Anaheim prospect named Salcido.

Malkin was a standout in the scrimmage. He was paired with Avery and Salcido most of the time. The first goal that Malkin scored was a 2 on 1 where he skated all the way in on the right side with Salcido, brought it to the doorstep while looking pass... faked a pass to open the goalie’s legs... and went 5 hole. Another time he set Avery up for a goal with a nice pass. The opposing goalie was a young prospect, not even a draftee I believe. It wasn’t like Malkin beat Brodeur, but the set-ups and goals were great.

Malkin’s second goal occurred when he passed to Salcido who skated behind the net. Evgeni parked right in front and slammed home a pass back from Salcido (he just signed with Anaheim - their 5th round pick last year). Another assist was a pass to Noah Clarke who set up Avery.

For the other team, their best goals were scored by Murray on a one-timer, who took a rocket pass from Anson Carter... Roenick, who came all the way in on a breakaway, came to a full stop in front of the cage, and flipped it over the goalie’s left shoulder... and one scored by a prospect, I believe, wearing a white jersey with red socks who went upper corner on a breakaway. Another goal of theirs was a 2 on 1 Rob Blake to Anson Carter where Blake took it all the way in and dished it at the last second. Blake looks ready to go, by the way. And Glen Murray still has it!

The final of the scrimmage was about 9 to 9, maybe 10-9 for Malkin’s team. I counted 2 goals and 3 assists for Malkin.

He has an excellent knack for getting to open ice, and he has no problem attacking the net at any time. The goal he scored where he parked in front of the net, he would assuredly have taken stick and body abuse in a real game, but he invaded the slot, came to a quick stop and had his stick down and ready. And he buried it.

Malkin is no doubt the REAL DEAL. He stands out, even with NHL All-Stars. The no-contact scrimmages say nothing about his ability to take hits, or be clutched and grabbed, or be targeted by a big-league agitator... but he is reminiscent of a young Mario Lemieux by the way he moves in the offensive zone. He has an excellent work ethic too. Again, he was one of the last 2 or 3 players on the ice.

The only downsides: he needs to put on 15 pounds asap - and I hope he has thick skin because he will certainly take a lot of physical abuse this year. And again, he wore Capri jeans when he left the building.

Rumors Swirl

There is some talk circulating that the Penguins are still in the market for an additional top 6 forward. Some of the names being thrown around are: Radek Dvorak, Peter Bondra and Anson Carter.

Dvorak would be a nice pick up. He has proven in the past that he can play in a top 6 role and contribute offensively. He has played the past 3 seasons with the Edmonton Oilers. His most successful season was 2000-01 when he posted 31 goals 36 assists in 82 games with the New York Rangers. At this stage in his career, you could probably get him for less than $2 mil, probably in the range of $1.5 - $1.8.

Bondra is long in the tooth, but was a sniper most of his career. He has lost some of his speed, but proved last season that he can still chip in 20 goals in the right situation. His most productive season was 2000-01 when he notched 45 goals 36 assists in 82 games with the Washington Capitals.

Carter is coming off of his most productive season with the Vancouver Canucks. He and his line-mates, the Sedin Brothers, outscored the top line in Vancouver for most of the season. He has been courted by Detroit, Vancouver, Carolina, and Toronto. He may still be out of the Penguins price range, who have a self imposed salary cap, but could come down with his price if too much more time passes.

Ultimately, the Penguins will probably stand pat and utilize the bodies that they have in house, at least to start the season. Possible line combos if the season started today:

Line 1: Ekman, Crosby, Armstrong
Line2: Malone, Malkin, Recchi
Line 3: Petrovicky, Moore, Ruutu
Line 4: LeClair, Talbot, Roy

Def 1: Orpik, Gonchar
Def 2: Whitney, Welch
Def 3: Eaton, Melichar
Extra: Cairns, Scuderi

Goal: Marc Andre Fleury, Jocelyn Thibault

This line-up will probably be a work in progress, but it should pack a more powerful punch than last year's team. Rookie camp is just over 2 weeks away!

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Changing to the New Beta Version of Blogger

Just wanted to put out an alert about changing the Pittsburgh Penguins Report over to the new beta version of blogger. I am hoping for a clean transition, but will be doing some work with my template etc. Just wanted to mention it in case anything started to look a bit different...

Thank you!

Malkin Skating and Hoping to Join the Penguins Soon - Russia Declares War

Evgeni Malkin is anxious to start living his dream of playing in the National Hockey League and it seems that his agents are doing everything in their power to make that a reality. The goal is to have Malkin stay in Los Angeles, working out and skating, until his two week notice is final in Russia. That would have him arriving in Pittsburgh early next week. Malkin's agents are consulting their legal team and developing a game plan. The hope is that they can have everything in motion before Gennady Velichkin, GM for Metallurg Magnitagorsk, can get a Russian court to file an injunction hindering Malkin from playing for any other professional team until there is a resolution.

Velichkin is supposedly using the money that the team had allocated to pay Malkin's salary this season to put together a team of US lawyers to pursue a settlement. He is hoping to get the Penguins to pay an inflated buy out of Malkin's contract, rather than settle for the $200,000 the team can get via the proposed transfer agreement.

The National Hockey league will never allow the team to pay an individual buy out and it is believed that a US court would dismiss any lawsuit that is brought. This situation is not exactly the same as cases that have been tossed out in the past, but when you consider the circumstances in which Malkin was forced to sign his contract with Metallurg, his team should not have much difficulty winning the case.

Malkin seems quite content in his new surroundings and has been described by other players as having an almost constant smile on his face. Which is a good thing, considering this kid is thousands of miles from home in a strange land with no family or friends.

Malkin has been interviewed by several media outlets since his arrival in the United States and he has relayed his story more than once. He seems comfortable with his decision and at this point just wants to put everything behind him and to begin his career.

Malkin has not gotten the chance to meet any of his future teammates, aside from Sergei Gonchar, who told him: ""He told me there are a lot of young players, and that Pittsburgh is a friendly place." He also received a text message from Sidney Crosby welcoming him. Malkin seemed genuinely touched by the communication, speaking about it in the interview he did with Darren Dreger of TSN in Canada.

It seems like the worst in behind this young man, lawsuits pending, and his dream to play in the NHL seems as if it is about to become a reality.

Russia Declares War on the NHL
This is a joke. I can see the teams in the Russian Super League being angry about losing players to the NHL and there should be some kind of compensation paid, however, using terms like war and terrorism to describe losing a player in a sports league is ludicrous. Especially in the world today. There are wars going on as we speak and the threat of terrorism is very real....not only here, but in Russia. Gennady Velichkin's daily quotes make him sound more like a spoiled brat than the general manager of professional sports team. Hey Gennady, I know you lost your toy(since that is what Evgeni Malkin seems to be to you), but let's try to remember: IT IS A GAME! The player had a right to go to the NHL and chose to do so.

Friday, August 18, 2006

The Penguins Speak

The Pittsburgh Penguins and General Manager Ray Shero have released a brief statement regarding the Evgeni Malkin situation.....quoted from

"We have been informed by Evgeni Malkin's agents that Evgeni is now in the United States. At the appropriate time, we look forward to sitting down with Evgeni and his representatives to discuss what can be a very bright future with the Pittsburgh Penguins."

Here are two fan made Penguins 2006-07 preview videos that I thought were pretty good. Hope that you enjoy!

There were a couple of rumors swirling about the Penguins being interested in JP Dumont and Anson Carter. I am not certain that I see either of them being considered now that Malkin looks to be in the fold, but it is worth pointing out the Carter in represented by IMG's Pat Brisson and JP Barry. Carter is also in the group of NHL players working out at the Kings training facility in LA with Malkin. If they build any kind rapportort and Carter is willing to sign a one year $1.5 to 1.9 million deal, it could happen.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Going Back to Cali...

Well, Evgeni Malkin is finally in the United States and Los Angeles is the destination. Turns out that JP Barry was summoned to meet Malkin in Helsinki, because that is the first chance the young phenom would have control of his passport and travel documents.

Barry met with Malkin in the airport and the two have been sequestered in an apartment in Finland. They were waiting for Malkin's US visa to clear and received it mid-day Wednesday. The two then boarded a plane bound for the United States. Barry claims that all the secrecy was a necessary evil, because they did not want the Metallurg officials to track Malkin down.

Barry claims that they actually filed the two week notification to terminate Malkin's contract with Metallug Magnitagorsk on Sunday.

Malkin is currently working out with several other hockey players at the Kings training facility. Barry has been busy assembling a team of lawyers to begin the fight to get Malkin in a Penguins jersey this fall.

This is great news and the story shows Malkin's desire to play in the NHL with the Pittsburgh Penguins. This young man contacted his agent and set up the Helsinki rendezvous. He had to slip away from his teammates and coach. He did all of this while listening to and reading reports in the media calling him crazy, indecisive, and a headcase. Even his own father was quoted as calling him childish. This had to be a very hard decision, but it is one that should have the young Russian in uniform for the Penguins, sooner rather than later.

This story comes out hours after Gennady Velichkin was quoted in several Russian news reports as saying that the resignation letter his club received was a fake, and looked to be written by a woman. He then went on to say that the teams legal counsel threw the letter in the trash. Way to go Mr. Velichkin, I am sure no one can prove that you received the actual letter of resignation. Good luck with the court battle that you are threatening to wage, I think it will prove you should have taken your $200,000.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Malkin Officially Resigns....Again

TSN in Canada is reporting that Evgeni Malkin and his agent have sent a fax to the management of Metallurg Magnitagorsk officially resigning from the team. Malkin is utilizing the loophole in Russian labor law, which allows any employee to resign from any position. This move should have Malkin free and clear to negotiate his rookie contract with the Pittsburgh Penguins on or around August 30, 2006.

This situation is shaping up to be one of the most intriguing hockey stories of the year. Word broke Saturday that Malkin had disappeared from Finland, where his Russian team was to hold training camp, and that he was in possession of his passport, and a Canadian visa. Rumors swirled as to his whereabouts, but there was nothing concrete. A Finnish television station, MTV3, announced that he was seen boarding a direct flight to New York City. Other reports surfaced that he was seen in or around Toronto. Nothing was certain, aside from the fact that Gennady Velichkin, general manager of Metallurg Magnitagorsk, was seeing red. JP Barry, Malkin's agent, later reported that he did not know where his client was, but he was safe.

Velichkin immediately cried foul! Mr. Velichkin stated that the team would sue the NHL and the Pittsburgh Penguins for compensation. He was quoted by Reuter's as saying: "We've put so much resources, effort and money into Malkin's development as a player. He was our gold diamond, our prized possession. He had a contract with us. We were building the whole team around him and now he is gone. But don't think we will just sit there and do nothing. We will go to court to get what we believe is just compensation." This doesn't seem to be a feasible route for the Russians. Lawsuits of this kind were heard in US courts in the past and were eventually dismissed, most recently last season when a Russian club tried suing the league and the Washington Capitols for the rights to Alexander Ovechkin.

The Russians are missing their opportunity to get something for this asset. Had they signed off on the existing transfer agreement, which would have entitled them to a payment of $200,000 or at least been willing to negotiate something reasonable with the NHL they could have avoided this situation.

From the stories that are coming out Russia, it seems that Malkin exercised his right to give a two week notice back in July, voiding his existing contract. This took much of the leverage away from Russia in the transfer agreement negotiations and caused Metallurg Magnitagorsk team president, Viktor Rashnikov, to meet with Malkin. During this meeting the Metallurg officials played on Malkin's patriotism, most likely telling him that he could not represent his country in future International events. They were also in possession of Malkin's passport and Canadian Visa and were not willing to forfeit this until he signed. They pressured and pressured until Malkin eventually broke around 3:00am and agreed to a new one year deal. Not the typically player/team negotiation as we know it in the "free world." Can you imagine a player in the NFL or even the NHL being forced into something like this? It would never happen.

Many people reported that Malkin was very sullen after agreeing to the extension, including his parents. From his comments, it seems that he felt a certain obligation to come to the Pittsburgh Penguins this season, and looking at what has gone on in the past week, that is what he intends to do. Many believe that he had intended to make his break for North America the entire time, and did what he had to do to get his documents.

Malkin has also recently contacted his parents and has assured them that he is ok. They are saying and doing what they are supposed too in Russia to save face and it seems that the media is eating it up. This is a good thing. Hopefully the Russians will not evict the Malkin's from their apartment or interfere with any business interests that they may have.

Some had been calling this kid weak, spineless or a headcase. I personally think that it took a lot of guts to leave his country the way that he did and to follow through with his desire to come to Pittsburgh. I had heard from a source that Malkin is very confident on the ice, but that he was very indecisive when it came to off the ice issues, well, this is about as decisive as you can get. Get ready Pittsburgh hockey fans the Crosby show just spawned a spinoff and it's called Malkin in the Middle.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Malkin MIA

Evgeni Malkin has supposedly left his Russian team as they were training in Finland. Sources are telling a Russian newspaper that he took all his belongings and paperwork, and is en route to North America. This is big news and it now looks like he may be in a Penguins jersey after all. More as it develops. to read more on the story now.....

Monday, August 07, 2006

Like Sands Through The Hour Glass.....These Are The Days Of Our Lives....Starring: Evgeni Malkin

On an almost daily basis we are getting a different vibe out of Mother Russia. Malkin has changed agents, Pat Brisson is out and Don Meehan is in. This bodes well, because Meehan got The Great Alexander Ovechkin to cross the Deep Blue Sea and come to the NHL! Then the ball begins to roll a bit further, as Pens fans get their hopes up.....Malkin has not traveled with Metallurg to a pre-season tournament, this must be a sign that he is coming. Nope, just a surgical procedure that no one seemed to know about, a hematoma removed from his thigh causing him to practice with the B team.

Then there was breaking news in Malkin's own words: "I am 95% certain that I will cross the pond." Pens fans were jubilant once again, could their prized prospect be coming over to the NHL to team with Sidney Crosby?? Don Meehan, the NEW agent, says that negotiations are going to begin with Pittsburgh, Malkin has given his two week notice and will take advantage of the loophole in Russian Labor Law. Pens fans are celebrating in the streets....planning a Malkin ticker tape parade. Then Gennady Velichkin, General Manager of Metallurg Magnitagorsk releases a statement that he is confident that Malkin will stay in Russia this upcoming season and that he has certain secrets to keep him there.....what could it be?

The two stories were circulating in hockey circles, and many were confident that Malkin would don the Black and Vegas Gold this season. so many Soap Operas go, the story changed again Sunday.

Malkin has apparently fired Don Meehan and rehired Pat Brisson. Then word broke late last night in a press release from, that Malkin and the team President of Metallurg had come to an agreement to terminate his existing contract and to sign a one year deal paying him significantly more cash. This would also allow him to become a unrestricted free agent in the Super League next season, clearing the way for him to come to the NHL the followsing season.

I am still not certain if this is completely accurate. Did Evgeni play everyone and use the NHL as a negotiating ploy to get more money in Russia, if so, he succeeded. Are there still backroom negotiations going on with the NHL and the Penguins. Are the secrets that Velichkin mentioned causing Malkin to go against his own desire to play in the NHL? No one can be sure. There have been times in the past where the Mafia has leaned on players, or threatened families etc to get what they want. Could this be happening in Russia right now? Is Malkin being threatened with having to give his two years or Military service, as was rumored a couple weeks ago? This has got to be the strangest hockey story of the year thus far. Especially when you consider the Passport issue.

Malkin's agent in Russia, Sergei Isakov, supposedly held Malkin's passport(according to and wouldn't give it to team officials when they asked. They needed it to get visas for Malkin to travel with the team to Finland and other countries in Europe. The team was in the process of trying to get a new one for Malkin but didn't have to follow through, after Malkin supposedly fired Isakov in yet another agent change.

The fallout of this entire situation may leave the Penguins without a true second line center for the second year in a row, and ultimately paints Malkin as indecisive, unprofessional and greedy. Is this fair for a 20 year old kid? Absolutely not, but many in Pittsburgh will feel that way. Especially after the team teased Malkin's arrival late last season with a jumbotron montage ending with the words: "Coming to an arena near you - 10/05/06." Pittsburgh, unfortunately, is not the most forgiving sports town and this entire situation just might hurt Malkin before he ever plays a game at the Mellon Arena.

It would seem that the final word on this may be out before the end of the week. The outlook is now quite bleak.

Friday, August 04, 2006

It's A Hockey Night In Pittsburgh....

News broke yesterday that Mike Lange has accepted the radio play by play job that the Penguins had offered. This is great news for the fans of Pittsburgh and the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Many fans in Pittsburgh were outraged about the firing of Lange from FSN Pittsburgh and the Penguins immediately stepped up and offered Lange the radio job. Lange has been the voice of the Penguins for 30 years and would have been sorely missed. The deal is for one year at which point he will make a decision on his future. Lange considered several other job offers, including one with the Chicago Black Hawks. Former Penguins color man and coach, Ed Olczyk, accepted a job with the Hawks and was pushing hard to get his former partner to head to the Windy City. In the end, Lange decided to stay with the team that he has been so much a part of.

This is as happy an ending anyone could have hoped for. Let's hope that Lange continues past this season. Welcome back Mike....Let's smoke em like a bad cigar!!!

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Malkin Gives Notice to Russian Team!

According to the Pittsburgh Tribune Review, Evgeni Malkin's agent Don Meehan has stated that they have given Metallurg Malkin's two week notice and are opening contract negotiations with the Penguins. The NHL seems to have given it's blessing to the decision as well. "If the player can secure his own release, either pursuant to the terms of his existing Russian contract or pursuant to applicable Russian law, NHL clubs will be free to sign such player, and the resulting NHL contract will be registered and approved as valid for play in the NHL," Deputy NHL commissioner Bill Daly said. Russia has a loophole in it's labor law that allows any employee of any company to give a two week notice, at which point the individual is free and clear, contract or not. The Russian team will surely try and sue the Penguins or Evgeni Malkin, but similar cases in the past have been dismissed.

Metallurg GM Gannady Velichkin has been quoted as saying that Malkin would not give his two weeks notice because he is a fair and decent guy. Well, I am assuming that he feels it would be fair and decent to be able to go to the NHL this upcoming season. This is getting interesting, but I will feel a lot more comfortable once Malkin puts pen to paper on a contract with Pittsburgh.

Malkin - "I am 95% certain I will cross the pond."

Russian Hockey Digest is now reporting that Penguins prospect Evgeni Malkin will more than likely play in the NHL next season. They are running with an interview Malkin did with Sports Express, a Russian news outlet. In the interview Malkin expresses his "great desire to come to the best league in the world" and "I think, now is the time for me to play for Pittsburgh." Malkin goes on to mention that he had a hematoma removed from his hip or leg and that is why he is skating with the junior team in Metallurg. When asked if he understood that his management and coaching staff in Russia are heavily counting on him, he answered: "Of course, I understand, but I have a desire to play in the NHL." When Malkin is asked if his agent is encouraging him to go to North America, he answers: "Yes, and quite insistently."

Here is a link to the translated interview on Russian Hockey Digest.

This is very good news in light of the events of yesterday. Malkin seems to feel that everything will be worked out when Metallurg gets back from playing in the UFA pre-season tournament. Hopefully he is right. It is time for him to come to the NHL and prove that he is a world class talent. Malkin recently turned 20 and would have to be considered a pre-season favorite to win the Calder trophy as Rookie of the Year.

If Malkin is held up, this will be the second season in a row that the Pittsburgh Penguins will be left without a true number 2 centerman behind Sidney Crosby.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Many Moves, Notes, and Thoughts

Sorry for the delay, seems much has happened in the last couple weeks and there is a lot to cover....

Ray Shero has continued to pick up role players for the Penguins. This team should be much harder to play against with the additions of Ronald Petrovicky, Dominic Moore and Jarkko Ruutu. These players work hard every night and have been used in specific roles in the past. They also bring some grit to the line-up and that is something that was lacking last season. Though Andre Roy and Eric Cairns provided some toughness down the stretch.

Shero had many holes to fill throughout the organization and he has been working hard to put some pieces in place. He sent a second round draft pick to the San Jose Sharks in exchange winger Nils Ekman and goaltending prospect Patrick Ehelechner. Ekman, who posted 21 g 36 a last season, was acquired to fill a top 6 forward position and it is expected that he will play with Sidney Crosby. Ehelechner was brought in to add goaltending depth, since the team elected to buy out Sebastien Caron and did not qualify Andy Chiodo. He will most likely back up Dan Sabourin in Wilkes Barre-Scranton.

The next order of business was adding depth to the Baby Penguins. Shero, who followed the American Hockey League closely during his time in Nashville, brought in a couple of players to bolster the Baby Pens blue line. Wade Skolney, who is 6' 197lbs, has been with the Philadelphia Phantoms since 2002 and won a Calder Cup with the team in 04-05. Defenseman Matt Carkner, who goes 6' 4" 235lbs, spend last season with the Cleveland Barons. Both players bring character in the locker room and have posted their fair share of PIMS. They will be looked at to offset the loss of Noah Welch who should make the NHL roster out of camp along with several other players who were not tendered qualifying offers last month.

Armstrong, Malone and Orpik Re-signed
The Penguins will have 3 of their youngsters back in the fold for the coming season. Colby Armstrong, who found a home alongside Sidney Crosby last season, accepted his qualifying offer and signed a two way deal that will pay him $817,000 for time in the NHL and $75,000 in the American Hockey League. This is probably a moot point considering that Colby showed that he can play in the NHL this past season.

Brooks Orpik avoided his salary arbitration hearing and signed a two year contract that will pay him a little more than $2,ooo,ooo over the life of the deal. Brooks, who is probably the Penguins best hitter, will be looked at to fill a top 4 spot on the blue line.

Ryan Malone took the Penguins through the arbitration process and won. He was awarded a two year $2.75 million deal. The process didn't seem to hurt his relationship with the team, and Malone actually spent about an hour conversing with General Manager Ray Shero after the hearing. Malone jokingly described how the arbitration process works on local Pittsburgh talk radio: "Well, I'm at one end of the table with my agent making myself out to be Mario Lemieux and and the GM is at the other end making it sound like I can't play Junior B."

Marc Andre Fleury is still unsigned after turning down his qualifying offer. There has been no mention as to how talks are going. Shero has made several comments about receiving offers for Marc Andre, but said he does not intend to move the former number one overall.

Recchi Back in Pittsburgh
As was speculated here back in March, Mark Recchi has re-signed with the Penguins. I have to admit, I am a bit surprised by this move. There were many rumors circulating about his strained relationship with Sidney Crosby. With Recchi being resigned, I have to assume that Ray Shero has addressed any rift between the two and made it clear that no foolishness will be accepted. Recchi hasn't done anything to ease my comfort level. Though he is excited to return to the Penguins, he has been quoted as saying things such as: "I got kicked in the butt when I was younger, too, by the older players." This does not seem to bode well for the relationship but when asked, Shero responded with: "Last year was a real trying time for a lot of people, both on and off the ice. That's behind us. I had a conversation with Sidney Crosby, and he's one of the biggest supporters of Mark Recchi coming back." As long as Sidney is taking the high road and seems comfortable with the move, then all will be fine. This is his team now and Mark Recchi needs to be the team player that everyone thought him to be when he originally came back to the Penguins. Recchi will play on one of the top two lines, and will be looked at to score his usual 20+ goals. He had better to warrant the contract that Shero gave him: one year - $2.28 million.

Malkin's Penguins Debut In Doubt
Many doubts are beginning to surface in regard to Evgeni Malkin joining the Penguins this season. The Russian Federation who agreed to sign the IIHF/NHL transfer agreement on 06/09/06, seemingly have backed out of the commitment. Metallurg Magnitagorsk GM Gennady Velichkin was a major detractor and it seems that he has convinced the other GMs to go against Vladimir Tretiak. The Russians missed an NHL imposed deadline of Monday 07/31/06 and have since refused to accept the agreement. Velichkin has long been on record as stating that the NHL team who wants a player under contract in Russia, should have to negotiate a lavish buyout with the Russian Super League team. The unfortunate thing about this entire situation is that the player is the one who is stands to suffer. It seems that the Russians are not as concerned about having Evgeni Malkin play in the Super League this season as they are about making him and his situation an example. He is widely looked at as the best player in the world not playing in the NHL and it is looking like the Russians would prefer he sit in Russia, than play in the NHL. Malkin has already missed a chuck of Metallurg's training camp and they are operating as if he will not be with them this season. He is skating with the team's farm club. Malkin, who recently turned 20, has gone on record numerous times as saying he is more than ready for the NHL and he has nothing more to prove in the Super League. This could get much uglier before it gets better.

Penguins Sign Pivko and Nasreddine
The Penguins announced that they have re-signed defenseman Alain Nasreddine to a one year contract, he served as the Baby Penguins captain for most of last season. He also spent some time at the end of last season with the NHL Penguins. Alain is a great chemistry guy for the team and will offer some leadership on the Wilkes Barre-Scranton blue line.

The Penguins have also signed newly acquired Libor Pivko. Pivko, who spend the last few seasons in the AHL, is going to be given a chance to make the Pittsburgh roster. Shero is hoping that he will settle in on one of the top two lines. Pivko has said that is he isn't on the opening day roster for the Penguins, he will head back to Europe rather than return to the AHL.