A beautiful Saturday for the Dear Readers in and around Pittsburgh, but some perhaps significant news from the Penguins, who are in West Point, N.Y., for their Military Academy bonding trip.
= Defenseman Kris Letang is dealing with a lower-body injury and will not skate again while the Penguins are at the Academy this weekend, coach Dan Bylsma said Saturday.
Letang is to be re-evaluated in Pittsburgh.
The Penguins are not anticipated to practice Monday, so the earliest Letang would get back on the ice is Tuesday.
The Penguins open at home against New Jersey on Thursday.
If Letang is unavailable for the opener, or the opening week, that seemingly would clear a path for Simon Despres to make the roster instead of going to the AHL – though, with the Penguins so tight against $64.3 million salary cap, they certainly do not want many high-tagged players on short-term injuries.
Letang ($3.5 million) and goalie Tomas Vokoun ($2 million) account for about 8.6 percent of the Penguins’ salary cap space.
Vokoun may begin working out next week: http://triblive.com/sports/penguins/4781351-74/vokoun-penguins-bylsma#axzz2g29TquVx
The Penguins already need to shave at least $1 million from their cap by Monday to become compliant, and that is before the possible signing of forward Chuck Kobasew, who has impressed on his tryout contract.
A question to ponder is how Kobasew can fit on the roster (under the cap) if the Penguins opt not to place Vokoun on long-term injury because his return will be sooner than later?
That question was a good one BEFORE Letang’s injury.
A light weekend for assistant general manager Jason Botterill this will not be.
= Good news for the defense corps is the return of Brooks Orpik (lower-body injury) to practice on Saturday. He had not practiced Friday after missing the final period of an exhibition game at Detroit on Wednesday.
Orpik and Paul Martin will once again form the Penguins’ shutdown pairing, Bylsma confirmed earlier this week.
The plan was to play Letang and free-agent returnee Rob Scuderi together, but that plan would obviously be impacted by Letang’s absence (if he cannot play).
= Injuries like these this past week to Orpik and Letang are reasons why the Penguins have resisted the easiest way to get under the cap: a trade (read: salary dump) of Matt Niskanen.
How important does he look now? If Letang isn’t available, coaches feel a lot better about having Niskanen hold down top-four minutes.
= Forward Matt D’Agostini (lower-body injury) skated on his own Saturday and is scheduled to do the same Sunday. D’Agostini, on a one-way contract and ticketed for third-line work, has not been available much over the final two weeks of camp – hence the longer look at Kobasew.
(A stick tap to Sam Kasan of the Penguins’ web site.)
Be Excellent to each other,