Sunday, June 30, 2013

Reports of New Letang Deal: Keep Your Eye on the NTC

By Artistry

Twitter is exploding at this hour with reports that the Penguins and Kris Letang are finalizing an extension.
That $7.25M cap hit is higher than we're comfortable with, but not significantly so. The primary sticking point is the no-trade clause. No one -- not us, not you, not Ray Shero, not any of the pundits who will tell you what they think of the numbers -- has any idea what this deal will look like two years from now. Letang may be a steal at $7.25M or an absolute albatross. The key is whether the Penguins can move him. And if there really is a 15 team NTC in the agreement, they'll have that option.

Totally understand if you have mixed feelings.
As sexy as the thought was of getting a treasure trove of assets in return for a guy with less composure than a rabid squirrel, this is probably the right move. You don't win a Stanley Cup without an elite defenseman. And nobody questions that Letang is one of the Top 10 defenseman in the league. That's a hole the Pens couldn't possibly fill, probably for years to come.

In other news, Pascal Dupuis is about to walk. As predicted.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

What the Kunitz Signing Means for Pascal Dupuis

By Artistry

Keeping our Twitter avatar relevant for years to come, the Penguins today gave Chris "Hands" Kunitz a three-year contract extension. Hey, we love Hands. But make no mistake about what his new contract means: Pascal Dupuis is almost certainly gone.

I can't tell you what's been happening in the Dupuis negotiations, and I'm not going to act like I know, because I'm not Rob Rossi. But I would speculate that Dupuis is asking for the moon, the moon being 4 years, $18 million. And that's too rich. Look, if you have two guys you love of comparable value -- and who are both important complementary but not core players -- looking for deals in the $4 million a year range that will take them through the age of 38, you need to pick one and let the other go. As we've said repeatedly, aging all-star teams don't win in today's NHL. The Pens need an infusion of youthful swagger. So don't you prioritize the guy with the body of a 28-year-old and the legs of cheetah? I would.

Kunitz, for all his attributes, has considerable mileage on him and is much less durable than Dupuis. It's not like the Pens are guaranteed additional years of 2013 Chris Kunitz. They just signed up for 2017 Chris Kunitz. And they had two other very good options that they just took a pass on: make another run at the Cup with both guys and evaluate Kunitz next summer, or trade Kunitz now for a good return. Why extend him today?  Because some other things are probably beyond their grasp.

Three more years of Chris Kunitz means three more years of tweets about his Hands. Plus other news...

By Finesse (follow me on Twitter)

Before we get into what is shaping up to be an extremely busy few weeks of wheeling and dealing in the NHL, a quick comment on the Stanley Cup Finals.  The Blackhawks are as deserving of a champion as there could be.  They were the best team wire-to-wire, kept it together in the face of a meltdown against Detroit, and did what the Pens couldn't do against Boston -- weather the storm of their own frustrations long enough to allow the law of averages to take over and Rask to let in a few goals.  As much satisfaction as it brings us to have seen Boston collapse in such a heartbreaking manner -- and it brings us A LOT of satisfaction -- there are no "what ifs" for the Pens.  The Hawks were the best team.  Certainly better than the Penguins.

In other news...

- The Pens have agreed to a 3-year extension with Chris "Hands" Kunitz (we call him Hands because he has terrible hands at times, but at other times they are soft as baby thighs).  He will have a $3.85M cap hit, which is basically just his current contract ($3.725M) plus tuition to send his kids to Shadyside Academy.

We were preparing to write a post making the case that the Pens should seriously consider trading Chris Kunitz, especially if the team gets a legit top-6 forward what seems like an increasingly likely Letang trade.  But there's also a very strong case to be made that this is a smart extension.  He has been a very productive player with the Pens -- he finished seventh in the league in scoring, and was a PLUS 30 in only 48 games.  It's a reasonable price for Hands.  He also has proven chemistry with Sid and Geno, which isn't as easy to find as it should be.

Hands is a good player and he's easy to root for.  Can't have too many of those guys.

- The Lightning are going to buy out Vinny Lecavailer's contract, meaning Vinny is going to be a free agent.  The Mike Ribeiro replacement in Washington?

- Lots of talk out there about the Leafs having interest in Kris Letang or maybe Kris Letang having interest in the Leafs.  It's not really a story if the Leafs are interested in Letang, as every team in the league has to be at least somewhat interested in Letang, including the Pens who it seems are wisely still trying to find a way to sign the guy.  We've all talked ourselves into him being traded as if it were a foregone conclusion, but if he's willing to stay for a reasonable cap hit ($7M or less), then the best move is to lock him up.

But if that doesn't happen, and our hunch is that he will be traded, then the ultimate feather in GTOG's cap will be when he's traded to Toronto for the exact package we proposed in Day 1 of Kris Letang trade week.  It is going to happen.

- Pens are making a qualifying offer to Tyler Kennedy, just because that's what you do if you don't want an asset to walk for nothing.  TK is always going to be one of those guys who sucks when he's playing, but who you desperately need in the lineup when he's not playing.  It feels like it might be time for him to move on, but there are worse options to get 13 minutes a night on the 3rd line.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Remember the guy who pleaded guilty to electronic voyeurism and got beat up by Joe Vitale after Peter Laviolette called Joe Vitale 'gutless'? That guy's on the Pens now.

The Pens traded Alex Grant to Anaheim for Harry Zolnierczyk, a name that will ring a bell for either of two reasons: 1) the electronic voyeurism situation; or 2) the time he withstood a beating from Joe Vitale in the game after Peter Laviolette called Joe Vitale gutless for hitting Danny Briere.

We have no idea where he will fit in the lineup, but we do know the lineup will be the Wilkes-Barre lineup.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Kris Letang Trade Week, Day 5: Let's Get Nuts

By Artistry (follow me on Twitter)

Day 1: All the background info, then a trip to Toronto
Day 2: Across the river to Detroit
Day 3: Big names in Tampa
Day 4: Where Brooklyn at?

You can't always get what you want, but if you spend an hour working out an elaborate multi-team trade instead of working on a brief that needs to be filed the next day, you just might find you get what you need. Here's how you pull off a blockbuster.

Let's say you're Ray Shero and you really want Cam Fowler from Anaheim to anchor your defense for the next 10 years because a guy named Cam Fowler from Windsor, Ontario can't not become a great defenseman.  You pull up the Ducks' roster and call Bob Murray and when he picks up you say, "Bob, thanks for calling about trading me Cam Fowler for Kris Letang. I really respect your initiative, but I'm looking at your roster and I just don't see a second piece that gets this trade done.  Hang on a sec and let me get Craig MacTavish on the phone in Edmonton."

See what this crazy conference call becomes, after the jump...

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Kris Letang Trade Week, Day 4: Where Brooklyn At?

By Finesse (follow me on Twitter)

Day 1: All the background info, then a trip to Toronto
Day 2: Across the river to Detroit
Day 3: Big names in Tampa

One of the problems we encounter when coming up with fake Kris Letang trades is that we assume all 29 other teams are rational actors.  In real life, we know that's not the case, but unless you're with Ray Shero at the GM meetings this week, it's hard to identify the marks.  It'd be great to trade with the Flyers because they seem willing to do whatever, whenever, but they're at least smart enough to know better than to trade with the Penguins (there are reports the Flyers are shopping Braydon Coburn and the 11th pick for Bobby Ryan, and Kris Letang is a more valuable player than Bobby Ryan).  The Coyotes and Jets have some nice pieces, but the uncertainty about where the Coyotes will be next season, and whether Letang would even sign a long-term deal with either of those teams, makes those deals too speculative.

Other teams we're crossing off, and a proposed deal, after the jump...

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Kris Letang Trade Week, Day 3: A blockbuster in Tampa

By Finesse (follow me on Twitter)

Day 1: Toronto
Day 2: Detroit

Tampa has three things that all teams covet: the #3 overall pick in what is by all accounts a very good draft; a former #2 overall pick about to enter his prime and signed to a very reasonable $4M/yr cap hit for the next 4 seasons; and strip clubs.

Tampa: All you need is a beer koozie, a pontoon boat, and a tattoo of a scorpion.
The Pens, in Kristopher Letang, have an asset that will instantly improve any team he ends up getting traded to and it'd be great for his ego to continue piling up ungodly offensive statistics as a result of throwing long passes to uber-talented finishers like he has been doing in Pittsburgh for the past 4 years.

There's a match to be made here.  We're going to find it.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Kris Letang Trade Week, Day 2: The Detroit Red Wings

By Artistry (follow me on Twitter)

Click here for Day 1 of Kris Letang Trade Week: Toronto

The subject of today's unrealistic Kris Letang trade that will never happen is the Detroit Red Wings. Admittedly still searching for Niklas Lidstrom's heir and having dipped their toes into the Keith Yandle pool before presumably deciding the trade price was too steep, the Wings could be an ideal dance partner. Only one problem: Mrs. Holland didn't raise no dummy. Ken Holland is like a bizarro Ray Shero, the primary difference being Ken Holland has to live in Detroit. The pitch from Shero has to be this: "Look, we agree that Letang has transcendent talent. He's just untamed, a wild stallion. And Mike Babcock may be the best jockey in the world." If Mike Babcock gets his hands on Kris Letang, then just like that, Detroit may have another hall of famer in the stable. They've got excellent support in the affordable Nik Kronwall and the soon to be UFA Jonathan Ericsson. If Ericsson walks, the Wings, as per usual, have reinforcements ready in Brendan Smith and Jakub Kindl.

Now, what's the return? Here's where Shero and Holland eye each other warily, circling each other, each hyper-aware that his counterpart is no easy mark. Whatever. No bullshit. The Pens need to get faster and younger. Take it or leave it, Ken.

The trade, after the jump...

Monday, June 17, 2013

Kris Letang Trade Week, Day 1: The scene is set for a blockbuster, so let's throw out 5 crazy hypothetical trades. Day 1, Toronto

By GTOG Staff

In our acclaimed season recap podcast, we made the case that the Pens had to at least try to sign Kris Letang to an extension.  He is maddeningly frustrating, but can also be terrifyingly good.  He gives the Pens the best chance of winning the Cup next year and even if he eats up too much of the cap 3 or 4 years from now, he will still be a tradeable asset if/when the Pens develop another guy who can play 22+ minutes a night.  (Watch for the negotiations about whether Letang gets a no-trade clause.  He may really want one.  The Pens would be nuts to give it to him).

This is exactly what Shero should do to Letang's agent if he asks for a NTC
A fair price would be 8 years for $56 million with an average annual cap hit of $7 million.  Expensive, but you have to pay for quality.  Though there is uncertainly about how much the cap will rise after its initial drop next season, most are very bullish, meaning the contract could be easier to digest over time.

Is it affordable now? Answering that, and the first of five hypothetical Kris Letang trades, after the jump...

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Psychology of Ray Shero

By Artistry

An insane person once called the Penguins one of the most arrogant organizations in the league. In recent days, many others, including fans and media, have come to share that sentiment. But the word "arrogant" suggests a sense of entitlement that really applies more to a growing legion of Penguin fans -- those who seem to believe a roster with Sid and Geno means anything less that a Stanley Cup is unacceptable, so get rid of everyone and ask questions later. Ray Shero is not arrogant. Quite the opposite. If you watched his press conference on Wednesday and think otherwise, grab a dictionary. No, the Penguins general manager is not overbearing or insolent or self-important. You may disagree with any number of his decisions: to stand by Dan Bylsma, to commit to fixing Marc-Andre Fleury, or to extend Malkin until he's 35-years-old. All fair game. Criticize away. But if you've been paying attention, you know exactly who Ray Shero is and what he will do.

How Ray Shero developed his steady hand, after the jump...

Pens re-sign Evgeni Malkin for a lot of money; It's ok to be cchhappy

By Finesse (follow me on Twitter)

[Make sure to check out our podcast recapping Pens season and detailing 10 things the Pens need to do in the offseason]

The Penguins have announced that they've signed Evgeni Malkin to an 8-year, $76 million contract extension.  He will have a salary cap hit of $9.5 million, which is the second highest cap hit in the league behind Alex Ovechkin (by a mere $38,000).  It's $800,000 more per year than Sidney Crosby, but the total value of the contract is $28.4 million less than Sid's deal.

A few quick thoughts after the jump...

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Pens season recap podcast: What's next? Discussing Bylsma, Malkin, Fleury and more

Now that Ray Shero has spoken and the Pens have signed Dan Bylsma to a 2-year contract extension, the change that's coming to this team is in personnel only.  On GTOG's official season wrap-up podcast, we talk about Shero's press conference, his support of Bylsma and Fleury, what the Pens should and will do this summer with Malkin and Letang, and all the other choices -- some easy, some hard -- that the team will have to make this offseason. It's the GTOG Podcast.

Listen while you watch the Stanley Cup Finals with Pierre McGuire muted.

You can listen below or on our Spreaker page.  If you want to take the podcast mobile, either click here to subscribe on iTunes, or download the Spreaker app for iPhone or Android.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Dan Bylsma's awkward embrace of Fleury: What's going on here?

By Finesse (follow me on Twitter)

[Click here for our podcast and post recapping the end of the Pens' season]

The landscape around the Pens is a real mess right now.

It's about to get real weird.
Dan Bylsma held a press conference yesterday and talked confidently about Marc-Andre Fleury in an exchange that was either sanctioned by the Pens' top brass or was an outright act of insubordination.

Said Bylsma, per the Post-Gazette:
"Marc-Andre Fleury is our No. 1 goalie."
"He's the No. 1 goalie for this franchise, and he will be going forward."
"Marc-Andre Fleury is a guy who's going to come back to our team [next season] and he's going to be the No. 1 goalie. He's going to be our franchise goalie, this franchise's goalie.  Marc-Andre Fleury is going to go back in net. He's going to take the net. He's going to be the No. 1 goalie. He's going to play great. There's no question about that. And he's going to win a lot of hockey games for this team next season. He'll have that opportunity in the playoffs again when this team gets there."
And regarding Tomas Vokoun:
"Tomas, I don't think, is in any different boat than he was when he came in here for last season. He's a guy who makes our goaltending tandem a very good one. He's going to play games for us, big games for us. He came in and did for us exactly what we signed him for last year. Next year, he's not going to get that opportunity [to become the starter] because Marc-Andre Fleury's going to be in net winning hockey games."
What the hell?  Read on for our quick thoughts...

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Pens fall to Bruins, 1-0; Season ends with a whimper

By Finesse (follow me on Twitter)

[Listen to the Game 4 recap podcast below or on our Spreaker page. You can click here to subscribe on iTunes, or download the Spreaker app for iPhone or Android]

If pucks could talk, Jarome Iginla's wrist shot at the final buzzer would have let out a feeble whimper as it landed almost apologetically in the glove of Tukka Rask.  It was a fitting and symbolic end to a series the Pens deserved to lose and the Bruins deserved to win.  Now armed with a body of work that reads like an inventory of a losing team's most-favored excuses -- a hot goalie, injuries, a bad goalie, and no good bounces -- the Pens have another long offseason of soul-searching ahead.

Read on for the burial...

Friday, June 7, 2013

Raw Emotion Podcast: The End. Pens lose, 1-0

Pens could have played all weekend. Still wouldn't have scored.

We talk about Game 4, Bylsma's future, the Bruins' defense, late-payment forgiveness, and so much more. It's the GTOG Podcast.

Listen below or click here. And as always, click here to subscribe on iTunes.

**If you're listening on your smartphone, the best ways to make sure that you have an uninterrupted experience are: 1) download the podcast from iTunes OR 2) download the Spreaker app by going to the App store and searching for "Spreaker" then "Get To Our Game"**

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Can the Penguins win another Stanley Cup with Dan Bylsma?

By Finesse (follow me on Twitter)

Every chart we've made this season has been an enormous jinx.  Given the desperation of the Pens' current situation, let's try a reverse jinx.

Dan Bylsma won the Stanley Cup with the Penguins having coached less than half a season.  That seems crazy, but it's possible that he had a better chance of winning the Cup in 2009 than he has (had?) of winning the Cup this season.  Or next.

The surprising numbers, after the jump...

Some random follow-up thoughts on the Pens' double-OT loss to Boston

By GTOG Staff

Listen to the below or click here. And as always, click here to subscribe on iTunes.

[If you're listening on your smartphone, the best ways to make sure that you have an uninterrupted experience are: 1) download the podcast from iTunes OR 2) download the Spreaker app by going to the App store and searching for "Spreaker" then "Get To Our Game"]

The more we think about Game 3, the more we end up thinking about games 1 and 2.  The Pens probably win that game last night 53 out of 100 times. Unfortunately, they don't play best-of-100 series. Which is exactly why you can't give away 2 playoff games in a series -- at home, no less -- and expect to win 4 of 5 against a very good team when you're pretty close to dead-even with that team when you're both playing at your best. The Pens played really well last night, but all it does is shine a light on the stinkers in the first two games. We know the Pens can play as well as they did in game 3. We still have no idea why they can't do it more consistently.

No shame in losing Game 3. Great shame in being down 3-0.
Unable to put together any sort of cohesive reaction to last night, here are a bunch of random things we're thinking about, in no particular order.

Podcast: Pens fall, 2-1, in heartbreaking loss

Pens fall 2-1 in double OT. A heartbreaker. Pushed to the brink of elimination.

[Spreaker is a little slow today for some reason, so it may take a minute to download]

Listen below or click here. And as always, click here to subscribe on iTunes.

**If you're listening on your smartphone, the best ways to make sure that you have an uninterrupted experience are: 1) download the podcast from iTunes OR 2) download the Spreaker app by going to the App store and searching for "Spreaker" then "Get To Our Game"**

Story of our lives right now.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Clicks of the Day: Rossi on the goalies, Pensblog on Letang

By GTOG Staff

A few quick thoughts and links on the morning of Game 3.

- We started the morning asking each other whether we felt confident about the game tonight.  We feel neither optimistic nor pessimistic.  We have absolutely no idea what Penguins team will show up tonight.

- Rob Rossi has a 5-point plan for turning the series around.  The first four points make sense.  The fifth point -- that the Pens need to turn to Fleury -- is absurd:
Journeyman Tomas Vokoun was pulled from Game 2 after allowing three goals, but only because the Penguins needed a spark. He's 6-3 with a .929 save percentage and has done nothing to deserve a demotion.
Still, this moment calls for Marc-Andre Fleury.
He was the franchise goalie when the playoffs started. The Penguins need to find out if he's still up for that job. They can't if he is inserted into games only when they need a spark.
This series still can be won, and it has shifted to Boston, where Fleury is 5-1-0 with a 1.67 goals-against average and .946 save percentage over the past five seasons.
Now -- when the Pens are down 2-0 and heading on the road in the Eastern Conference Finals -- is the time to determine whether Fleury should be the Pens' goalie in the future?  
Funny, because all this time we thought the point was to actually win the game tonight.

If you think Fleury should start tonight because he gives the Pens the best chance to win the game, that's fine (though incorrect).  If you think he should start tonight because the Pens need to find out if he's still capable of being the starter, then why not go skydiving with a parachute that hasn't opened properly since 2009 to see if it still works?

- Hilarious post from The Pensblog pointing out two directly contradictory quotes about the Bruins' forecheck by Kris Letang within a matter of days.  In Letang's defense, maybe the Bruins have changed up their tactics.  But if Letang is right about their most recent strategy -- "they just wait for us to make mistakes" -- isn't that the biggest indictment against the Pens of all?  If the low response rate wouldn't embarrass us so much, we'd ask the poll question this morning: "Does Kris Letang realize he had a bad game in game 2?"

- Here's the One From the Heart video about the Kevin Stevens guarantee (5:18 mark).  Does something that happened in 1991 have any relevance on this series?  No.  But it's still fun to watch.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

So, the Pens got destroyed by Boston last night. Now what?

By Finesse (follow me on Twitter)

Listen to the podcast below or click here.  And click here to subscribe on iTunes.

Last night the Pens were a nerdy 7th grader who got tied to a fence and de-pantsed by the cool kids at the beginning of recess, then had to stand there for the next 40 minutes while everyone laughed and pointed.  There was no facet of the game in which the Pens played well, no redeeming performance by any individual players, and almost nothing to give you confidence the Pens can win a game in this series, let alone the series itself.  All credit to the Bruins, whose stars dominated the Pens' stars, whose grinders dominated the Pens' grinders, and whose coaching staff is making Dan Bylsma look completely out of his league.

You're doing it wrong.
More after the jump...

Monday, June 3, 2013

Podcast: Pens dominated by Bruins in Game 2, 6-1

Well that was terrible. The Pens were completely dominated by a terrific game from Boston and then compounded it with an all-time stink-bomb. We chronicle it all, LIVE on the GTOG Podcast, after the final whistle.

Listen below or click here.

The Prime Minister's face.

A (semi) bold prediction for tonight's Pens game

By GTOG Staff 

We've discussed the evaporation of Brandon Sutter's offensive game as much as anybody, and maybe even too much. His defense has been adequate, but it appears to have come at the total expense of his offensive play.  He plays like Dale Hunter coaches: Do only one thing at a time and don't ever do anything else. And maybe own only one suit.

They told us we'd love you. Make us love you.
We discussed whether to call for Sutter to be a healthy scratch, and then we discussed whether to go the other way and guarantee that Brandon Sutter will score tonight on the following premise:

The former seems one game premature (yes, only one game premature) and the latter seems irresponsible given its unlikelihood. So we've settled on a more reasonable compromise that you can take to the bank:

If Brandon Sutter scores tonight, the Penguins will win.*

*If he doesn't, the Pens will still win.

Huge game tonight. LGP.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

5 thoughts on the Pens' game 1 loss to Boston, including a new team motto

By Finesse (follow me on Twitter)

A few leftover thoughts about last night's 3-0 loss to Boston.  But first, check out the podcast.

Listen below or click here. And as always, click here to subscribe on iTunes.

5. The Showdown

The Crosby/Chara and Malkin/Bergeron showdowns at the end of the second period are getting a lot of attention, and rightfully so.  It's too soon to tell whether this was a good or a bad thing, but there's a lot not to like about it.

Very little good can come from this.
It's admirable in a lot of ways that Crosby and Malkin are willing to mix it up more than most superstars are, but it's also not that smart for them to do it for the simple fact that when they fight or jaw at people, they aren't better at it than anyone else.  They make themselves ordinary.  Rather than staying on a higher plane than other players because of their superior talent, they can be brought down to the level of their competition.  Give the Bruins credit for getting Sid and Geno to do it.

The other potential problem with their "standing up for themselves" response is that it's not very logical.  Whatever Boston did to get Crosby and Malkin that upset (and maybe it was simply frustration with not scoring), does anyone think that Boston is going to stop messing with 87 and 71 because they fight back?  Does anyone really think any of the Bruins are going to be afraid of getting their asses kicked by Crosby and Malkin?  If Crosby and Malkin are reacting like that, then it means that they're at least somewhat rattled emotionally and obviously Boston will try to keep doing that if that's the response they can get from those two guys.  Boston is only going to stop with that stuff when the scoreboard dictates that they have to stop.

New motto: Ignore and Score.

Four more thoughts after the jump...

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Podcast: Pens lose, 3-0. Stay the course.

We aren't going to tell you that everything is OK, but we will tell you that it's far from the end of the world.  We're covering everything about Game 1, including Cooke's 5-minute major, Tukka Rask, Tomas Vokoun, and all the emotions we're feeling. It's the GTOG Podcast.

Listen below or click here. And as always, click here to subscribe on iTunes.