Saturday, June 23, 2012

Plan B: What if the Pens whiff on Suter and Parise?

By Artistry

Reaction to Staal trade here
Reaction to Michalek trade here

The mood in Pittsburgh is shifting faster than Kris Letang on meth, from shock to sadness to euphoria and back again.  Jordan Staal was here, then, in a blink, he was gone.  Zybnek Michalek was sent home to Phoenix.  The Pens are left with a ludicrous treasure chest of young defensemen, a more-than-suitable 3rd line center in Brandon Sutter, $15 million in cap room, and the promise of something huge.

Something huge.
The sense today is that the Pens will be major players in either the Ryan Suter or Zach Parise sweepstakes, and probably both.  But Ray Shero isn't the best GM in the business because he fixates on a potentially unobtainable prize or because he fails to learn from his mistakes.  Recall what happened when Marian Hossa left the Penguins grasping at air in 2008 and without a backup plan.  When Shero saw big holes in his defense in the summer of 2010, he dealt for the rights to primary target Dan Hamhuis.  When he couldn't lock up Hamhuis, the Pens were ready to pounce on secondary targets at 12:01 on July 1.  He was determined not to get burned again.  OK, he got burned again, but that was because Martin and Michalek underperformed, not because he hadn't thought several steps ahead.

No chance of him underperforming.
Fast forward to 2012, and reports are swirling that Shero is working hard to obtain the rights to negotiate with Nashville's Ryan Suter, again to get a headstart on the frenzy that hits a week from tomorrow.  Only one problem: David Poile is in no hurry to give up on Suter.  And Suter and Parise, probably the two most sought after UFA's in history, have no shortage of attractive suitors willing to throw unrealistic amounts of cash at them.  In short, there are no guarantees.  What do the Penguins do if they don't land either player?  One thing is certain:  they will do something.  Let's brainstorm, after the jump...

1. Trade for a #1 defenseman

It doesn't take much to read between the lines here.  The word is out that Brooks Orpik may be dealt, and it's safe to conclude Shero agrees with us on this point:  Orpik is no longer a top pairing defenseman, if he ever was one.  Shero must find a defensive anchor to pair with the uber-talented, but all-hopped-up-on-Mountain-Dew Kris Letang.  UFA targets?  You won't find any that meet our criteria outside of Suter.  The answer likely must come in a trade.  If the Preds manage to retain Suter, can Shea Weber be had?  What about somebody else with a hefty salary that could be had in a shakeup?  Brent Seabrook ($5.8M cap hit)?  Shero has already kicked the tires on Keith Yandle.  Should he kick harder?

If the Pens have one of these targets in view, the question becomes what they'll offer in a trade.  A few names come to mind:  Chris Kunitz, Simon Despres, and Pascal Dupuis.  We've long been on record as saying if you're going to trade Kunitz, the time is now.  He'll have tremendous appeal for any contending team looking to add a guy who's good for 25 goals, can play on a top line, and competes his little honey badger ass off every night.  His 3.75 M cap hit looks eminently reasonable with a projected $70M cap.  Despres is a guy with top-pairing upside who's ready to play now.  And chances are the Pens didn't draft Joe Morrow and Scott Harrington's two buddies in the first round on Friday so they could break up that quartet almost immediately.  Simon is as good as gone in any major deal.  Dupuis is no less than the best bargain in the league at wing.  Find a better one.  The Pens would be loathe to trade him for this reason, and because he and Matt Cooke are now essential to a penalty-killing unit that  ...hang on, I'm being told the PK gave up 800 goals in the first round of the playoffs.  Never mind.

2)  Sign veteran depth on D.  Big veteran depth.  

Bryan Allen should be a target on July 1.  That is, if you feel the Pens could use a 6'5, 225 pound defenseman.  And, unless you read this site solely for the Bachelorette recaps, we suspect that's exactly the way you feel.

3)  Bobby Ryan

The bidding for Ryan, a 25-year-old 30 goal scorer with two years left at a very reasonable $5.1M cap hit, is likely to approach Parise-level intensity.  The difference being you'd need to give up big-time assets to get him.  But, as discussed above, the Pens have some attractive pieces.  Will it be enough?  Maybe not.  We have Paul Holmgren, who acts like a monkey throwing shit against a wall to see if it will stick every summer, as our chief competition for Ryan, with numerous others in the mix as well.

There are other possibilities, of course.  And if there is one thing we can be sure of in this emotional summer of uncertainty, Ray Shero knows what they are.


  1. "And Suter and Parise, probably the two most sought after UFA's in history"

    With a statements like this, it show's your lack of knowledge. obviously you are new to the sport, so we welcome you, as this sport is in desparate need of fans. Just see the recent tv ratings for this past season.

    The pens have a few players to lock up themselves. Even the Pittsburgh newspapers describe their soon to be 10-13 year contracted captain as "fragile".

    What Shero did with Staal was pure genius. here's a soon to be UFA who could've played the year and gotten nada in return. but thanks to his dealings with anaheim, nyr and the canes, we got some sweet players in return - from the canes. Round 1 was just awesome for us. We got a much needed soon to be folk hero on defense as well.

    Does it matter who we get, if anyone in a week? Geno now has a great winger and Sid will be great IF he plays. We now have a solid 3rd line center. and no one expected Jordan to stay with us. He's way too good be a 3rd line center.

    You'll learn.

    1. That statement about Suter and Parise was a little hyperbolic - but you're a tool. I'd save the attitude for a ESPN message board, Anonymous.

      But you'll learn.

    2. Not sure it's hyperbolic. Can you think of other UFAs with more suitors and more money in play?

    3. Kovulchuk was pretty comparable. Richards was big - but not to the level of Parise and Suter. But that's why I said a "little" - because there certainly are not many. I'm not going to claim a vivid memory of every deadline though. But I certainly can't remember a team losing a defenseman the caliber of Ryan Suter any time recently. I actually feel for Preds fans.

    4. Artistry -- why didn't you tell me that you're new to hockey?

    5. Pretty sure only a few teams (NJ, ATL, and LA) were in on Kovalchuk. Not sure about Richards. And remember, because these prospects are guaranteed to work out, it makes no difference who we get in free agency. Brilliant stuff from Anonymous.

  2. The next couple of weeks will be insane: can't even venture to guess what the outcome will be.

    As far as the forwards, I'd be thrilled to have Bobby Ryan, depending on the cost. I'd be loath to give up Kuntiz, given that the whole goal of another forward would be to add balance up top. Sure, BR would be an upgrade over Kuntiz - but enough of one to justify giving up a genuine top 6 forward + a top prospect at least to Anaheim? I wouldn't do it unless its cost is primarily some of our 9 million d-men of every age, shape, and skill set. Without Staal, the scoring will only be coming from the top 2 lines - and we need to add, not exchange, a top 6 winger to ensure both lines are scoring. Geno and Sid both got shut down in the playoffs, largely because Sid had no help; that can't happen again.

    I have faith Shero can get a top-6 winger, even if it isn't Parise or Ryan. But a play for Suter - that's really risky. They cannot trade Martin or Orpik or even Depres unless a top-4 d-man is coming in. And Niskanen isn't even signed. If Shero can get Suter, this girl will be running around the room, ecstatic. But if he starts trading away top-4 d-men and doesn't sign him - well, the Pens are royally screwed.

    I know everyone's all about destroying our defense. But there's going to be a dog fight next week for guys like Allen, let alone Suter. I don't want to see a defense with Strait, Bortuzzo, and Lovejoy all getting significant ice time. I want ONE of those guys to be a #7, not to see them be our 5,6,7 d-men, with Engelland on the second pairing to boot. I know everyone thinks our defense will be dramatically improved simply by the absence of Paul Martin, but that's just utter bs.

    I still think the defensive problems were largely systemic - and Fleury-related. And I'm more and more convinced that Sid's presence just threw everything off. For a cup run, everyone has to know their role and be comfortable in it. Instead, you had a first line center dumped on what amounts to a third line, a second-line center thrown onto another third line, and another first-line center who tried too hard to be "the man." And of course a goaltender hitting a slump at the worst possible time.

    You shore up your goaltending and insist Flower plays no more than 50ish games: done. You trade Michalek to make cap room and room for Despres: totally on board. If you sign Suter: amazing - do it first and then deal once FA dust settles to desperate teams who missed out. But I look back on the 10-11 defense - which was excellent - and really wonder about destroying things just to destroy them based on the most bizarre playoff series I've ever seen and the melodramatic pronouncements of howling yinzers. Size on the back end would be great, if the cost isn't too high(and everybody and their mother wants Allen for that reason too, so good luck with a reasonable deal there). I don't know if any FA other than Suter really makes the Pens better - and that seems like a pipe dream. I'd be okay signing Nisky, trying for Suter, maybe beefing up the 3rd pairing if the right piece presents itself, and starting the season with this group if it doesn't pan out.

    The end of last season just seems like a perfect storm of crap that won't repeat itself - Sid trying not to be captain for fear of stepping on Geno's toes, Staal not feeling like he fit, a major end-of-year slump for Flower, a defensive defenseman with a bum hip, another d-man who had his confidence destroyed by the shitty play of his injured d partner, and a couple of incompetent lineman who decided that the Pens needed to win 5 games to win a round. But I'm in the minority - and definitely not Ray Shero.

    1. Great comment. BTW, amazing how much Ryan Suter looks like his dad.