A lengthy update for the Dear Readers not consumed by a Steelers Sunday or still reveling in the Pirates earning a home playoff game…
The Penguins have placed forwards Chris Conner and Andrew Ebbett on waivers, meaning they will need to clear before being assigned to AHL affiliate Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
Rosters must be trimmed to 23 and clubs in compliance with the $64.3 million salary cap by Monday.
Predicting moves by Penguins management is a fool’s game, but here are some things to look for between now and Monday:
= A re-assignment for winger Beau Bennett, but only as a procedural move. The Penguins did this with Eric Tangradi to open the 2010-11 season, but Tangradi was recalled for the regular-season opener.
(Tangradi was actually sent to Wheeling of the ECHL, and he spent barely any time in that fine West Virginia city – like not even a full night.)
This move is complicated to understand, let alone explain; so the important thing to know is that there is precedent and – most important – if Bennett is not on the set-date roster, that does not mean he will not play Thursday against New Jersey at Consol Energy Center.
The Penguins are in a real cap bind, especially because of uncertainty with the statues of defenseman Kris Letang and goalie Tomas Vokoun, so assistant general manager Jason Botterill is going to flex his most creative muscles to make this roster compliant by Monday.
= The Penguins have made a one-year offer to winger Chuck Kobasew, who was in training camp on a professional tryout. Kobasew had sought an offer of near $1 million, which the cap-strapped Penguins understandably are hesitant to award for a player they view as having third- and/or fourth-line potential.
Kobasew and the Penguins agreeing makes all the sense in the world given his need for an NHL job and their need for a proven scoring/grit combination for their third and fourth lines.
That said the discussions between Kobasew and the Penguins are about dollars and cents, which often eliminates sense from any proceedings.
= Winger Matt D’Agostini could be ready for Thursday, though he would need to get into practices on Tuesday and Wednesday. A lower-body injury halted his training camp at about 10 days, but he has skated on his own the last two days before team practices in West Point, N.Y.
= Letang did not practice, though that absence was expected. He is out with a lower-body injury, and coach Dan Bylsma has said he will know more only after a re-evaluation when the Penguins return to Pittsburgh on Monday.
We don’t do the speculation game here, but it is accurate to report there is concern within the organization about a potential diagnosis of a longer projected recovery period for Letang.
For what it’s worth, Letang noted at the start of camp that he did not feel the offseason provided him enough time to regularly prepare for the upcoming season. He, like many Penguins players, said the short offseason subtracted from the time they needed to fully recovery from the combination of the mad rush that was 63 games into about five months last season.
Letang said, specifically, his lower body was not as strong as it had been for previous camps.
= The situation with Vokoun is worth watching, if only because his agent has said Vokoun is cleared to skate and begin light workouts but the Penguins have said nothing since Tuesday.
Vokoun underwent surgery to dissolve a blood clot on Sept. 21. The Penguins declared him out indefinitely that day.
This past Tuesday, coach Dan Bylsma said Vokoun would not be available for the regular-season opener.
This past Friday, agent Allan Walsh refuted Czech reports that quoted Vokoun as saying his life was in danger and he would not play again. Walsh also said Vokoun was feeling as good as he had the day before the blood-clot issue.
Penguins management and coaches have been careful not to assign a timeframe to Vokoun’s recovery, and nobody within the organization committed to designating Vokoun for the long-term injury [LTI] list. That designation would shave his $2 million from the cap, though only until he returns. That designation also would prevent him from playing for at least 10 games and 24 days.
So, while it might seem like an obvious option for the Penguins, who began camp looking to shave at least $1 million just to become cap compliant, it was not an option without risk.
If Vokoun goes on LTI, starter Marc-Andre Fleury’s backup for most of October could be Jeff Zatkoff, who has never played in an NHL game.
The Penguins play only four of 13 games in October against opponents that qualified for the playoffs last season.
OK, that went on long enough.
Be Excellent to each other,