Tag Archives: Penguins

Penguins Organizational Depth Chart

FORWARDS
AHL contracted players are in itallics

Left Wing Center Right Wing
Jake Guentzel Sidney Crosby Phil Kessel
Conor Sheary Evgeni Malkin Patric Hornqvist
Scott Wilson Carter Rowney Bryan Rust
Carl Hagelin Ryan Reaves
Tom Kuhnhackl Josh Archibald
Minor Leagues
Zach
Aston-Reese
Greg McKegg Daniel Sprong
Dominik Simon Teddy Bluegers Tom Kostopoulos
Thomas DiPauli JS Dea (RFA) Garret Wilson
Frederik Tieffels Colin Smith Patrick McGrath
Tom Sestito Troy Joseph  Reid Gardnier
Adam Johnson Jarrett Burton Ryan Haggerty
Cody Wydo Riley Bourbannis 
Gage Quinney 

DEFENSE AND GOALIES
AHL contracted players are in italics

LD RD G
Brian Dumoulin Kris Letang Matt Murray
Olli Maatta Justin Schultz Antti Niemi
Ian Cole Matt Hunwick
Derrick Pouliot  Chad Ruhwedel
Minor Leagues
Chris Summers Frank Corrado Tristan Jarry
Jarred Tinordi Zach Trotman Casey DeSmith
Jeff Taylor Lukas Bengtsson Sean Maguire
Kevin Czuczman Ethan Prow
Dlyan Zink

Top 10 NHL Goalies

NHL Network featured who they believed are their top 10 goalies currently. Our guys, Connor and Austin list who they think the top 10 goalies are currently in the league.

Connor’s Top 10 NHL Goalies

  • Carey Price – I don’t think Price coming in at number one on my list is going to surprise anybody.  Price has proved year in and year out that he is the best in the league by carrying an average team further than they should go each year.  If it was not for Carey Price the Canadiens would be a bottom team in the Eastern Conference.  Although he may only have a .922 save percentage, the fact that has to be taken in is how much the team in front of him relies on him to carry their them.
  • Braden HoltbyThis past season, Holtby again showed why he is a top three goalie and, in my opinion, an easy choice for the second best goalie in the NHL.  Holtby turned in an impressive .925 save percentage this year.  Now even though Holtby has arguably the best team in the NHL in front of him that does not negate his preformance.  Holtby is one of the reasons his team is so good and seems to make hard saves look effortless in a similar way that Price does.
  • Matt MurrayThis choice to put Murray this high on the list may create some controversy among non-Penguins fans and Fleury fans.  However, with all bias aside including mine, Murray is easily a top 3 goaltender.  Although he is yet to play a full season he has accomplished more at the age of 23 than most goalies ever have.  Even with a team like Pittsburgh in front of him Murray still made a statement these playoffs.  He was leaned on heavily by the Penguins during some games in the regular season and during the playoffs.  He turns in an impressive .923 save percentage and like Price and Holtby, he makes most saves seem effortless due to his size and positioning.
  • Sergei BobrovskyIt may come as a shock to most people that the Vezina winning goaltender of the 2016-2017 season is placed in the fourth spot.  Bobrovsky turned in the best save percentage with a .932 this past year.  But stats are not everything. Bobrovsky’s play was very inconsistent and so was his teams.  When the team in front of him played well, so did he and vice versa.  And the thing that usually separates the top three goalies from the rest is consistency.  Because most goalies in the NHL look just as good as each other when they play at their best, but the best goalies can play at their best consistently.
  • Henrik LundqvistAt number five I placed Lundqvist, a wylie veteran who recently proved he can still compete with the best of them.  Early in the year Lundqvist struggled mightily and lost the starter job.  He eventually got it back and played the end of the year like he was out of his mind…in a good way.  He seemed to go back to vintage 2012 Lundqvist and backstop his team to the second round, where they ended up losing to the Senators boring, yet efficient, trap game. Lundqvist may be on his way out in the near future, but he is proving that he can still compete with the best of them.
  • Pekka Rinne At number six, I put the Finnish wonder Pekka Rinne, and yes I did say wonder.  When Pekka Rinne is on his game he is virtually a brick wall, but the thing that puts him at number six is his wildly inconsistent play.  Rinne has proved that he has trouble playing in away arenas in big games this past year as he also proved last year against the Sharks.  A factor that almost counteracts his negative of inconsistency is his ability to handle the puck with the best of them.  Rinne is similar to Martin Brodeur to where he is basically a third defenseman for his team and can play the puck with a ease and a level headedness.
  • John GibsonPlacing John Gibson at number seven on the list may surprise many people.  Gibson plays a very acrobatic and flashy style, which is almost obsolete in today’s game with the exception of Jonathan Quick. Gibson turned in a top 5 save percentage with a .924, however he did have one of the better D-cores in the league in front of him.  That being said, Gibson is a huge reason why the Ducks made it so far in the playoffs.  He came up huge when they needed him, and when he unfortunately got hurt it was clear that he was a key piece for their team.  It won’t be long until he cracks the top five for this list in the coming years.
  • Devan DubnykAt number eight I placed Devan Dubnyk of the Wild.  Dubnyk plays a somewhat calm game and turned in a .924 save percentage this year.  Dubnyk has one of the better D-cores in front of him as well, but when they needed him to step up he fell short in the playoffs.  Here we see the factor of consistency affecting a goalie’s rating on this list.
  • Cam Talbot Coming in at number nine we have Cam Talbot, who had a breakout year with the Oilers.  This year Talbot really solidified himself as one of the better goalies in the league.  Talbot turned in a .919 save percentage and backstopped the Oilers to the second round where John Gibson and the Ducks knocked them out of the playoffs.  Talbot’s statement was only enough to land him the ninth spot however due to the fact of some inconsistency as well as him showing characteristics of something known as the avalanche effect.  For goalies this is where when one goal goes in, others tend to follow suit and quite quickly.
  • Marc-Andre Fleury – Coming in at number ten, I have the new face of the Las Vegas Golden Knights.  Fleury, better known as “Flower”, had an interesting year.  He was going to start the year as a backup, but when Murray got injured Fleury stepped in as the starter.  However, when Murray came back he quickly regained the starter role and showed that he is an elite goalie on the rise.  As this happened Fleury struggled quite a bit, his save percentage was even below .900 at one point.  However when Murray went down with another injury at the start of the playoffs Fleury took the reigns and was a key part of the Penguins cup run.  Some people may be puzzled as to why Fleury is even on this list, and some may be puzzled at why he isn’t higher, and the answer is quite simple.  Fleury has something in common with a lot of the other goalies on the tail end of this list.  He is inconsistent, but not in the way that you may think.  When Fleury is the clear choice as the starter for a team he plays at his best, but when there is competition his game tends to take a hit as we have seen.
  • Honorable Mention

 Jonathan Quick- Some people may wonder why Quick was left off of this list and for good reason.  Quick suffered a major injury this year and missed a good part of the season, when he came back to play he jumped right back into his flashy style.  But this did not translate to much success for him at all.  He had an adequate .917 save percentage this year.  But in the larger picture Quick has not put up a save percentage over .920 since 2012-2013 when he has his best season of his career.  Quick has been given the benefit of the doubt by most analysts in a similar way that Lundqvist was where they keep saying he will return to his form.  Lundqvist has done that, Quick has not.  Quick is slowly on his way out of the conversation for the best goalies in the league and it does not seem like it will turn around anytime soon.

Austin’s Top 10 NHL Goalies

  • Carey Price– I highly doubt that anyone in the hockey community would argue this one. Recently signing an 8 year extension worth $84 million, I believe Price is worth every penny. In 2015 Price took home a number of awards, including the leagues MVP. Posting a .923 SV% last season, Price is the the back bone of the Montreal Canadians.

 

  • Matt Murray- Putting Murray so high on this list may cause some controversy, but how can you argue with back to back Stanley Cups in his first two years as a NHL pro? Yes, Murray’s career is very short lived, but with a 41-12-5 career record it’s hard not to put him so high on the list. Murray brings a very calm element to his game, very similar to Carey Price where he does not panic and gives his team a chance to win every game he plays. The kid is 23 with 2 Stanley Cups! I am very excited to see Murray as a full time starter this coming season, and have full confidence he will lead the Pens to yet another deep playoff run. (I truly believe that 2-4 can be interchangeable on this list)

 

  • Braden Holtby- Holtby cracks my top 3 for top goalies in the league. The argument could be made that he is playing in front of the best team in the league, and yes this may be true, but look at the pure amount of shots Holtby sees. Ever since becoming a full time starter in 2013 he has been steady on the back end for the Caps. Not to mention he has a Vezina to add to his resume.

 

  • Sergei Bobrovsky- Boy, do the Flyers wish they still had this guy, eh? Bobs posted insane numbers last season with a .931 SV% and a 2.06 GAA on a Columbus team that took the hockey world by storm. Winning 16 games in a row this year, Bobs was a huge peace to that amazing streak. CBJ finished 3rd in the Metro with a whopping 108 points, but fell short in the playoffs to eventual the champions, Pittsburgh Penguins. Bobrovsky also has two Vezina’s to his name and honestly could add more in years to come.

 

  • Pekka Rinne- Rinne lead his team to the Stanley Cup Finals this past season with a .930 SV% and a 1.96 GAA during their run. (not to mention 3 assists) Rinne has been consistent for Nashville over the years, and is just now starting to get the credit that I truly think he deserves. His puck handling skills are some of the best in the league, and his ability to make huge saves when needed make him an elite goalie. Rinne has been a Vezina finalist 3 times in his career, but has never won the trophy. I expect Rinne to start the season on a high horse, very similar to his playoff run last season.

 

  • Jonathan Quick- Some may think that Quick has fallen off a bit since LA’s last Cup in 2013-14, but I would disagree. Recently, his career has been plagued with injuries , but when healthy Quick is among the best. Only playing 17 games this past season, it is hard to judge his play with such limited time spent, but bringing in a Ben Bishop at the end of the season may of fueled the fire for Quick, and I expect him to be back on top of the league next season.

 

  • Cam Talbot- Talbot came on the NHL radar during the 2014-15 season when he stepped in for Lundvqist during his injury. The following season he became a full time NHL starter for the Edmonton Oilers, and this past season has taken his game to another level. Talbot finished the season tied with Holtby for most wins with 42. As an Oilers fan, I’ve seen time and time again Talbot steal wins for the Oilers. Posting a .919% SV% and a 2.39 GAA is not to shabby for the 30 year old tendy.

 

  • Henrik Lundqvist-  The King comes in at number eight on my list. Lundvqist has posted 30+ wins in every NHL season he has been healthy. Many can argue that the King has it easy in New York, playing in front of one of the best defense core in recent NHL memory. the main reason why I have Lundqvist at eight and not higher is because he has yet to take that next step in his career. Yes, he has a Vezina, but he has yet to win the trophy that everyone cares about.

 

  • Devan Dubnyk- Ever since being traded to the Wild in 2014, Dubnyk has turned his career completely around. The 1st round, 14th overall pick of the 2004 draft was one more bad season away from being run out of the NHL. In the 3 years spent in Minnesota he has had a .936, .918, .923 SV% years. Those numbers are among the best in the league and he’s even been in Vezina talk in recent years. Needless to say Dubnyk has completely revamped his career and is proving to be the goalie the Wild needed.

 

  • Cory Schneider- Schneider rounds out my top 10 list. He some what goes under the radar playing in NJ with no real superstars, or playoff success in recent years. But Schneider has played consistently well since being traded from Vancouver in 2013. His save percentage has been above .920 in every year since 2011, except this past season. (.908) NJ had a bad season this year but that is not to blame Schneider, he goes unrecognized around the NHL, but has been solid for regressing NJ team.

 

  • Honorable Mention -Martin Jones- Jones led the Sharks to the Stanley Cup Final in 2015-16 , and was a key factor to their success. Posting a .925% that playoff run is a positive for San Jose moving forward to a new era in SoCal.  Jones recently signed a 6 year extension with a cap hit of $5.75 per year. Sharks fans, you have your goalie for the future.

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Roster Preview: Right Wing

It’s the third installment of this series and we start to see somewhat of a hole in the Penguins system, with only one of the players on an NHL contract being a right handed right winger. JS Dea may see some time on RW as we covered in the previous preview, but for now, we’ll consider him a C. I’m also going to include Cody Wydo who signed on the day of my writing this article, even though he’s a LW. WBS seems to conspire against me.

Daniel Sprong, AHL Experience : Rookie

Minnesota Wild v Pittsburgh Penguins

As I mentioned in a previous article, Daniel Sprong has been covered from pretty much every angle by any media associated with the Penguins and there isn’t much left to say about him. While I expect him to start in the AHL, if he translates as well to the pro game as is expected, he’ll be up with the Penguins by the turn of 2018. Expect him to produce at a 40 goal pace while he is in the AHL.

Tom Kostopolous, AHL Experience : 11 Years

Kostopoulos

A consummate professional entering his 5th year in his current stint with the Baby Penguins and his 5th year as captain, Tom Kostopolous has had an offensive resurgence. Since signing with the WBS Penguins in 2013-2014, Kostopolous has consistently scored at over 0.5 PPG and has seen his offensive production increase over the last two seasons. Expect more of Kostopolous being a versatile piece for WBS this year bouncing between top 6 and bottom 6 depending on the call up situation. 20 goals and 30 assists is a solid estimate for what is to be expected from Kostopolous.

Garrett Wilson, AHL Experience: 6 Years

Garrett Wilson

Fresh off signing a 2 year extension with the Penguins, Garrett Wilson is usually more of a left winger, but given his experience and WBS’ lack of right wingers, I expect him to play on his off wing. Not a particularly dynamic offensive player, scoring just 31 points in 59 games last year, Wilson works extremely hard and has significant leadership abilities serving as an alternate captain last year. I expect Wilson to retain his alternate captaincy this year as he is the only one of the four 2016-2017 alternates to return this year. As for scoring, Wilson will be in a bottom 6 role for much of the year depending on call ups, and I expect 15 goals, 20 assists from him if he plays a full schedule.

Patrick McGrath, AHL Experience : 3 Years

McGrath

Patrick McGrath is best known for his ability to get punched in the face and generally being an irritating presence. A fan favorite and Wilkes-Barre local, McGrath is all heart, with noted fighters Tyler Randall of Providence, Tanner Glass of Hartford and Eric Selleck formerly of Syracuse all on his card and all of whom are significantly taller than McGrath. Despite his height disadvantage against most AHL tough guys at 5’10, McGrath will fight anyone at any time for basically any reason. Questionable effectiveness as a hockey player, incredibly entertaining none the less. He will split time between WBS and Wheeling pretty consistently. As for a prediction on points, I expect 2-3 goals and 4-5 assists depending on how much time he plays with WBS.

Reid Gardiner, AHL Experience: 1 Year

Kamloops Blazers v Kelowna Rockets

I had honestly expected the Penguins to roll the dice on Reid Gardiner on an ELC given the promise he showed in the half season he played in WBS before returning to junior for an avearge year with Kelowna. While playing in the WHL, he scored an impressive 15 goals in 17 playoff games to finish 2nd  in playoff goals, one goal behind the leader who had played 5 more games. While in WBS last year, Gardiner played a lot of his time on the 4th line, but expect him to be used a little higher up the lineup as injuries and call ups occur. Gardiner falls in line with Penguins development as he was a goal scorer in junior that the Penguins are attempting to develop into more of a bottom-6 player, much along the lines of what they have done with JS Dea. Expect Gardiner to score 10-15 goals with 20 assists this year, gaining ice-time as the season progresses and potentially gaining an ELC before the end of the season.

Ryan Haggerty, AHL Experience: 3 Years

Haggerty.jpg

Another later signing, Ryan Haggerty signed for another year with the Baby Penguins on Thursday morning. A solid bottom 6 player in the AHL, potting 11 goals and 12 assists in 58 games last year, expect a lot more of the same from Haggerty. There is a lot of forwards in WBS right now, so Haggerty may find himself rotated out of the lineup more than the previous year, but as has been mentioned many times over, his time and deployment will depend hugely on the injuries that occur with the NHL Penguins. I expect him to pot a similar amount to last year, 10 goals and 15 assists over a full season.

Cody Wydo, AHL Experience: 1 Year

Wydo

Special bonus preview time! Cody Wydo signed Wednesday morning for Wilkes-Barre after scoring 30 goals and 30 assists in 70 games for Wheeling last year. A graduate of Robert Morris University, Wydo gets rewarded with an AHL contract after 2 good years in the ECHL for Wheeling. While I expect Wydo to remain down there for most of the year, he’ll see some time in WBS when injuries and call ups happen. If that happens, I’d be interested to see what he can produce as admittedly, I haven’t see much of Wydo as Wheeling doesn’t get great coverage!

COLUMN: The Man Sidney Crosby Has Become

On his 30th birthday, Sidney Crosby can reflect on his NHL career and probably be pretty proud of it. He’s accomplished things in his career that few other players have ever, or may ever, accomplish. 

As someone who just celebrated (and I use that term losely) this milestone birthday five days ago, it feels like the end of an era of your life. You could easily take a second  or two to reflect on what you’ve done with the first 30 years of your life. 

With the hopes of a hockey organization and an entire city weighing on his 18 year-old shoulders, Crosby had to live up to the hype to be the second savior this franchise needed. 

And if there’s any indication of who Sid is, he’s probably not spending much time reflecting on the past 12 years of his hockey career, rather, he’s probably focusing on the upcoming season and making sure the Stanley Cup stays in Pittsburgh for at least another year. So, we’ll reflect for you, Sid.

Crosby is a polarizing figure in hockey. Few can argue that he’s not the best player in the world. As a matter of fact, the hype has been there since he was dubbed “The Next One,” in tribute to Wayne Gretzky as “The Great One.” When you’re looked at as the next Gretzky or Mario Lemieux, that’s a standard that is about as improbable as it can get. For most, it is impossible. You’re talking about the player who’s set records that will never be broken, especially in the era of the NHL we are in now.

For Sid, he wanted to establish his own legacy, and that’s a difficult thing when you start your career with the Penguins, a team in which Lemieux played for, owns, and oh yeah, you’re now living in his house. He could’ve easily been tucked away in Lemieux’s shadow, but that didn’t happen. 

After Sid had been in the league for a few years, there was a big divide among fans. You either loved him or you hated him. Funny how that happens with the greatest players. I think that is the measuring stick for whether a player is great or not; if there’s a general consensus of either love or hate with the guy and no in between. People who loved him praised him for his talent, his abilities, and his on-ice highlight reels. People who hated him wanted to say he’s a crybaby or a diver; that he’s always whining to the refs and through that, he always gets the calls from officials because he’s the league’s poster boy.

So instead of people giving the man a chance to create his own legacy and watch him grow and mature on and off the ice, people have stuck with the stereotype that people gave him when he was essentially still a teenager. They didn’t watch him be a central piece in getting the Penguins to the Stanley Cup Final in 2008, or get them back there the following year and win it all. They didn’t bother empathizing with him when David Steckl took more than a season away from Crosby with one blow to the head in the Winter Classic; at a time when Sid was finding the best form of his career up until that point. They didn’t watch him battle back from lingering concussion-like symptoms and nerve damage to get back to playing this violent sport at an elite level again. And then, they did watch, talk, and tweeted when Crosby seemed to lose his game under Mike Johnston‘s coaching regime.

And now under Mike Sullivan, Crosby has not only found elite form again, he’s at the best he’s ever been. It’s the reason why the Penguins have won back-to-back Stanley Cups. It’s not an accident that Crosby won the Conn Smythe in both Cup runs. You see, for the most part, the hockey world doesn’t look at Crosby like the average hockey fan does, with this stereotype that he’s a crybaby and a whiner. They know that version of Sid is long gone. That’s when he was Sid the Kid. Now, he’s jut Sidney Crosby: the best player in the world. At what he’s accomplished by age 30, it’s hard to find a sound argument against that. There’s few players that are hyped up so much and live up to it. He is in that select few. And he’s not done yet.

Debating The Sheary Deal: Was It Worth It?

Last week, the Penguins extended forward Conor Sheary by signing him to a 3-year, $9 million ($3 million AAV) contract. After having an unprecedented regular season for an undrafted rookie, Sheary struggled to put up points in the playoffs and was scratched for a string of games.

Our Connor Andrews and Cody Flavell debate whether or not the Sheary deal was worth it.

“Conor Sheary was totally worth it.” -Connor Andrews

Recently one of the most influential Penguins’ players during the regular season signed a three year contract with a $3 million AAV. That player is the young Conor Sheary.  This signing has gotten a lot of mixed opinions in the same way the Brian Dumoulin deal did.  Some people agree with it and some do not, I am one that agrees with the signing and will try to shed more light upon why I do.

“He is nothing without Sidney Crosby”- That is the line that has been blurted out countless times by fans everywhere that do not agree with this signing.  These fans will also point out that players such as Colby Armstrong, Chris Kunitz, and Pascal Dupuis were all PPG players with Crosby, but what they won’t mention is all the players that did not mesh with Crosby as well as Sheary did.  Lee Stempniak, Jarome Iginla, Scott Wilson, David Winnik, Steve Sullivan, Beau Bennett, and countless others did not mesh with Crosby’s line.  Heck, even Phil Kessel did not work on Crosby’s line.  I personally have not seen a line mesh this well since 2012 when Kunitz and Dupuis were on Sidney Crosby’s line.  Both that line and the current line with Crosby were virtually unstoppable together when they clicked.  Playing on Crosby’s line isn’t an easy task, and Sheary has proven that he can keep up for sure.  His game is still developing and getting better as time goes on, and as time goes on he should become more of a perfect mold for Crosby’s line.

Another argument that fans opposed to this deal will say is that his playoff slump makes him unworthy of this contract.  The somewhat amusing and ironic thing is that most of the fans saying this are also the ones who wanted to pay Nick Bonino $4 million dollars despite him having just as many point as Conor Sheary during the playoffs.  Most of these fans are also the ones saying that Carl Hagelin just was in a “slump” this season and during the playoffs, and that he will have a bounceback year. Yes, Conor Sheary’s early playoff slump was not ideal, but when he broke out of it at the start of the Nashville series Crosby’s line was basically unmatched.  Another point to make is that yes, playoffs do matter a lot, but without regular season contributors are a key part.  And without big regular season contributors there may not even be a playoffs appearance for said team.

The last point to touch on is the contract itself, which in my opinion is a very good contract.  Sheary is well worth the $3 million dollar price tag, and compared to other deals around the league it isn’t a bad deal at all.  Keep in mind that fourth line players like Cal Clutterbuck are making $3.5 million per year.  The Penguins also have other cap issues to worry about, such as Hagelin’s $4 million price tag that may be moved if he doesn’t perform this year.  This deal was also a bridge deal, and with the salary cap looking like a steady $2 million increase per year this contract could end up being a steal in the last year of his contract.

All in all, I believe the Sheary contract was a smart signing by GMJR.  He locks up a key player on Sidney Crosby’s line and a key contributor to both cups during the past two seasons.  If Sheary keeps up his play we could easily see another 50+ point season for only $3 million dollars which is a steak itself.  If he doesn’t workout as planned then the Penguins are paying a third liner $3 million dollars which is not even a bad deal with today’s cap hit.  I think with the steady rise of the cap ceiling and thus inflation of contracts this three year deal is nowhere as near catastrophic as people are making it seem.

“Sheary’s signing kind of puzzles me.” -Cody Flavell

Admittedly, I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with Sheary. When he’s playing well, I like him. When he’s struggling, obviously those feelings are the opposite.

I will say that Sheary was very impressive last regular season and that his line with Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel was the most dominant in the entire league for a stretch of time. As Connor eluded to, the line was incredible at the beginning of the Cup Finals.

In my opinion, $3 million is a hefty price to pay for a streaky player. Not that Sheary was expected to score 20+ goals and be the left winger on the league’s best line, but he still goes through spurts.

This is being considered a bridge deal which I completely understand. Matt Murray received a bridge deal before last season, and deservedly so. Sheary, to me, didn’t.

If you watch Sheary during his slumps, which every player does go through, he seems to take them a bit harder. He second guesses himself. He grips the stick a bit harder. But it seems to be very frequent.

I’ve seen comparisons to Martin St. Louis for Sheary and I think those come in a bit far fetched.

I will say that seeing Sheary on the top line for $3 million is something I can get used to.

I think that the three years is a positive for when some of these new wingers, such as Daniel Sprong and Zach Aston-Reese, get to the NHL. It will make him an expendable piece. Having term will entice a team to potentially pay a bit more for his services.

Why Tyler Bozak Is Not The Answer

The Pittsburgh Penguins search for a third line center continues, with an article on trade options written by fellow LetsTalkPenguins contributor Connor Andrews giving a realistic take on who the Penguins might target for that spot.

However, those on the Pittsburgh beat, specifically Jason Mackey, and other more national media figures like Elliotte Friedman have floated the idea that the Penguins have interest in Tyler Bozak, the current third line center for the Toronto Maple Leafs. While I suspect this is mostly speculation, this idea has been taken by some Penguins fans to mean this is the Penguins target. I do not believe that to be the case and below, I will outline a number of reasons why.

1) The Salary Cap Exists

Tyler Bozak carries a cap hit of $4.2M that expires at the end of the coming season. The Penguins current cap space is at an estimated $2.48M, including Chad Ruhwedel, Josh Archibald and Derrick Pouliot as the extra skaters for the time being. This would make it impossible for the Penguins to acquire Bozak and maintain their 1 million dollar buffer that they like to have without moving significant salary out from the team. I will get more into the idea of moving people from the team later, in a separate point.

2) Tyler Bozak does not fit the need


The Penguins need at third line center is not as simple as finding a center that plays the third most ice time on his team for centers. As the Penguins roster currently stands, and that’s without Matt Cullen, there is only one center that plays on the penalty kill and that is Carter Rowney. While the Penguins are flush with potential penalty kill forwards (Archibald, Carl Hagelin, Bryan Rust, Scott Wilson, Tom Kuhnhackl, Rowney), only Rowney has any experience at center. Acquiring Bozak does not help this matter as Bozak has not been a consistent penalty killer for the last 3 years playing in Toronto. Bozak is also an average at best defensive player if we use Fenwick as an authority.

Fenwick, which differs from Corsi in that Fenwick considers shot blocks to be a skilled play, is my preferred advanced statistic for use with the Penguins and their tendency to block a lot of shots. Throughout his career, Bozak has had a negative relative Fenwick to his team outside of the 2015-2016 season, meaning that his team suffers more unblocked shots against than average when he is on the ice. (Shout out to Puckalytics for the assist on this one).

For his lack of defensive play, and his lack of PK ability, this makes the fit for Bozak at third line center to be a bad one for the Penguins, no matter his offensive abilities.

3) The trade value


Sadly, teams are not in the interest of doing discounts for the back to back cup winners and in such, acquiring Bozak would require a significant payment. Bozak is a 2nd line center at his true value, and for the Leafs to split with him would require the Penguins sending back an equitable amount of value. The floated name by Mackey is that of Olli Maatta. It is here where I disagree with Mackey, and fellow LetsTalkPenguins contributor Brendan Labra, about the value of Olli Maatta.

Olli Maatta is a young top 4 puck moving defenseman with a long term contract at a reasonable cap hit for his level of play. Some will point to the flaws in his game, such as his foot speed, but it is worth noting that Maatta’s level of play is recognized by the coaching staff, who had Maatta skating an average of 20:36 minutes per game in the playoffs. This is higher than Ian Cole, who only skated 18:50 on average.

The issue with moving Maatta, and the reason I highlighted Cole, is that people believe that Cole would be able to move up to play top 4 minutes if Maatta was moved. This is clearly not an opinion held by the Penguins coaching staff and neither by me, as Cole skated the least amount of average TOI of the 6 full time NHL D that played in the playoffs.

If Maatta is not the piece moved, the Penguins would have to gamble a significant amount of futures on one year of Bozak. This may not even work as the Leafs have transitioned from a rebuiliding team into a playoff team within the last year.

For these reasons, I do not see Bozak as an adequate fit for the Penguins.

Offseason Player Grades: Justin Schultz

2016-17 Regular Season

78 GP, 12 G, 39 A, 51 PTS, +27, 34 PIM

2016-17 Playoffs

21 GP, 4 G, 9 A, 13 PTS, +3, 4 PIM

Player Grade (A+)

Justin Schultz was the hero we needed this season in the absence of Kris Letang. The team needed someone to step up and he was the one to do it. Every game Schultz played smart and hard to keep our zone clear. On top of being a good defender, Schultz also wasn’t afraid to take opportunities up top to create plays and score goals. He is ranked 10th in goals, 4th in assists, and 5th in points for the Penguins’ regular season. He showed up every game and never ceased to amaze everyone.

Season Review/Preview

Schultz continued to step his game up this season and improved greatly from the last. This season was an all time high for games played, goals, assists, points, +/-, and shots. One of Schultz’s biggest highlights was the game tying goal, with a few minutes left, in the third period of game three in the Washington series. Although the game was lost in OT the goal caused a huge decrease in Washington’s morale as the Penguins already had a 2 game lead in the series. Next season, I expect Schultz to be treated with the respect he deserves and see him continuing to average 20 minutes or more of ice time, even with Letang’s return.