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AM Pens log: The big takeaway from the first camp cuts.

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A good (warm-ish) morning to the Dear Readers, as Day Six of training-camp practices arrived with the Penguins’ first roster cuts. A look at the players still in Pittsburgh:

 

DEFENSEMEN

Robert Bortuzzo (41)

Simon Despres (47)

Brian Dumoulin (8)

Deryk Engelland (5)

Scott Harrington (6)

Kris Letang (58)

Olli Maatta (3)

Paul Martin (7)

Brendan Mikkelson (24)

Matt Niskanen (2)

Brooks Orpik (41)

Derrick Pouliot (51)

Harrison Ruopp (52)

Philip Samuelsson (55)

Rob Scuderi (4)

 

FORWARDS

Craig Adams (27)

Beau Bennett (19)

Chris Conner (23)

Sidney Crosby (87)

Matt D’Agostini (22)

Nick Drazenovic (40)

Pascal Dupuis (9)

Andrew Ebbett (25)

Bobby Farnham (42)

Tanner Glass (15)

Dustin Jeffrey (17)

Jussi Jokinen (36)

Chuck Kobasew (12)

Tom Kuhnhackl (54)

Chris Kunitz (14)

Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond (32)

Steve MacIntyre (33)

Evgeni Malkin (71)

Jayson Megna (59)

James Neal (18)

Adam Payerl (45)

Zach Sill (38)

Brandon Sutter (16)

Joe Vitale (46)

Harry Zolnierczyk (39)

 

GOALTENDERS

Marc-Andre Fleury (29)

Eric Hartzell (31)

Tomas Vokoun (92)

Jeff Zatkoff (37)

 

Breakdown: 15 defensemen, 25 forwards, 4 goaltenders

NHL contracts: 7 defensemen, 12 forwards, 2 goaltenders

 

= THE NEED TO KNOW

 

  • The roster is mostly set. Proof is in the 21 players with NHL contracts. LW/RW Beau Bennett is not one of those players, but he is on the squad in the eyes of management and coaches. So, that leaves the Penguins with NHL contract commitments to 21 players, and a slot for Bennett. That means there is one spot to be won.
  • That spot is most likely a 13th forward, because coach Dan Bylsma does not favor carrying eight defensemen, as the Penguins did much of last season. Barring a trade – if for no other reason the contractual statuses of seven defensemen who would need to clear waivers to begin the season in the AHL – Simon Despres still looks like the odd man out. For now. Probably not for long, unless he is the player traded.
  • Trade Despres, the Dear Readers may ask? Well, it would seem surprising given his role last season – 33 games, or about 68.8 percent of the regular season – but perhaps it should not seem surprising if it happens.
    Consider management’s high opinion of Brian Dumoulin ­– especially after his reportedly elevated level of performance during the AHL’s Calder Cup playoffs. The phrase heard most often during camp about Dumoulin: He is an NHL player now. If that really is the belief, he might fit better as a No. 8 defenseman – a player that is not a regular, but one that generally appears in 20-25 games during a regular season because of injuries – than Despres, whose development might be stunted in that role or at the AHL.
    Also, even if (as there is reason to suspect) some members of the coaching staff have soured on Despres, there is every reason to believe coaches on other clubs will not have soured on him – thus creating the possibility of a greater return in a trade of Despres. Remember, the Penguins were not as high on another former first-round pick defensemen, Joe Morrow, last season; but by letting slip publicly that he was untouchable in a trade, his value spiked because there is a consensus among NHL general managers that the Penguins are among the best clubs at recognizing and developing back-end talent.
    Finally, perhaps the best case to be made for a potential trade of Despres – aside from the very real notion that these Penguins are better suited to win a Stanley Cup with Matt Niskanen on the roster than with him having been traded as an essential salary-cap dump – is the fast development of 2012 first-round picks Derrick Pouliot an Olli Maatta. They are not ready now, and they will play this season with their respective junior hockey clubs; but neither player is far away from becoming an NHL player (again, based on conversations with management).
    More on that in a print product to come.

 

= AROUND THE BOARDS

  • C Joe Vitale is practicing on Tuesday. He appeared a bit worse for wear after a scrap with Columbus’ James Wisniewski on Sunday. For what it’s worth, Vitale’s teammates were unanimous in paying him respect for that fight.
  • Right winger Matt D’Agostini also returned to practice after missing Monday for the birth of his son.
  • The Penguins are 0-1-1 in the exhibition season after a 4-1 loss to Detroit at Consol Energy Center on Monday. It was another split-squad game, and it did not count, and players were rusty, and… well, spare the panic, eh! It is September. The NHL rarely gets interesting before February.
  • About 12,300 citizens were in the building for that fake-game, according to numbers from the Penguins. Considering the pennant-chasing Pirates were playing – though nearly not hitting – at home and the Steelers were playing – though nearly not scoring (again) – in Cincinnati, that many fans for a fake-game at Consol Energy Center is perhaps the greatest testament yet to Pittsburgh as a hockey market.
    A lot of those in attendance on Monday were kids, many wearing their youth jerseys, steered by younger parents who could not have cared less about the other pro clubs playing opposite the Penguins.
    Pittsburgh is a very good sports town, but this love affair with the local hockey club is as strong as the bond the citizens have with any club, anywhere in this country. Maybe not a big, but definitely as passionate.
  • Forward Jean-Sebastien Dea has been signed to an entry-level contract (three years).

 

 

Be Excellent to each other,

Rossi

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Author: Rob Rossi

Rob Rossi is the lead sports columnist for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He has been called many names, but “Rossi” is the one to which he most often responds. He joined the Trib in November 2002 and was promoted to the columnist role in July 2014. Previously, he had covered the NHL’s Penguins (2006-14) and MLB’s Pirates (2006), while also working on beats associated with the NFL’s Steelers (2005-06) and the NCAA’s Pitt (2004-06). He has won national and local awards for his coverage of youth concussions and athletes’ charities. Also, he is a member of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association executive committee and the Pittsburgh chapter chair. Raised in Crafton and Green Tree and a graduate of West Virginia University, he has covered a Super Bowl, All-Star Games in baseball and hockey, the NCAA basketball tournament and over 100 Stanley Cup playoff games, including the Cup Final twice. Oh, and his sports reporting has led him to brief chats with Mick Jagger and Bruce Springsteen; so that’s pretty cool. He is a regular contributor on TV with WPXI, Root Sports Pittsburgh and TSN. Also, he is the authorized biographer of Penguins star Evgeni Malkin.

 
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