Rossi: The lower cap, and how it is shaping these Penguins. Also, a practice update.


A good morning to the Dear Readers from Consol Energy Center, where the Penguins held an optional practice on Thursday morning. The group on the ice:

FORWARDS: Jeffrey, D’Agostini, Adams

DEFENSE: Bortuzzo, Engelland, Maatta, Martin

GOALIES: Fleury, Zatkoff




  • Martin practiced Thursday for the first time in over a week. He had only skated on his own once – and that was Wednesday – since the Penguins lost at the New York Rangers on Nov. 6. He has missed the last two games with a lower-body injury.
    He is day-to-day with a lower-body injury, but coach Dan Bylsma said he was optimistic Martin could play against Nashville at home on Friday night.
  • Forward Jayson Megna was re-assigned to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the AHL. Megna had been a healthy scratch the last two games. He scored two goals and recorded three points in six games that marked his first NHL action.
  • Evgeni Malkin tested some new skates during the optional practice, but he did not workout with teammates.
  • Former Flyers coach Peter Laviolette visited with Bylsma and Penguins GM Ray Shero in the lounge area. Laviolette is in Pittsburgh for a Team USA meeting, which will also involve Shero, Bylsma and Olympic squad GM David Poile.




A number to consider for the masses ready to excommunicate every member of management and the coaching staff:

$49.4 million

That is how much salary-cap space, roughly, the Penguins have tied into 10 players on their current roster. The group consists of the top five forwards (Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, James Neal, Pascal Dupuis and Chris Kunitz), the four veteran defensemen (Paul Martin, Brooks Orpik, Kris Letang and Matt Niskanen), and the starting goalie (Marc-Andre Fleury).

That number does not include injured goalie Tomas Vokoun and injured defenseman Rob Scuderi, who, if healthy, would bring the Penguins to 12 players at about $54.8 million in cap space.

The cap is at $64.3 million.

So, were they healthy, the Penguins would have committed about 85.2 percent of their cap space to 12 players. Even now, they have 10 players taking up about 76.8 percent of their space.

The cap decreased this season for the first time since it was instituted for the 2005-06 NHL season. That decrease leveled the playing field for every NHL team.

The Penguins are no different than any other club spending to the cap. They lack something.

Gone from last season, which ended with the Penguins being swept from the Eastern Conference final, are three regular forwards (Matt Cooke, Jarome Iginla and Brenden Morrow). Perhaps the Penguins only wanted to bring Cooke back, but because of the cap they could not even make a serious run at that after re-signing Dupuis.

Would a third line of Cooke-Brandon Sutter-Beau Bennett make anybody feel better about the Penguins?


Alas, that is the salary-cap world. No team can keep everybody.

When the cap drops about $8 million, as it did for the Penguins this season, something is going to give. Depth has given because the cap has taken away.

This is a byproduct of the cap and the decision to keep together the nucleus of a squad that has played in three conference finals in six postseasons.

More than any other regular season, save for perhaps the 2006-07 campaign that marked the debuts of Malkin and Jordan Staal, the Penguins this season are going to be a club that needs its top players to carry it.

Malkin is without a goal in 11 games. Dupuis has none in 12. Crosby has one in eight. Neal has played two full periods. Letang and Scuderi have played only three full periods together as the top pairing.

The Penguins are 11-7-0.

That is probably about right given where things stand in the NHL and their roster.

Also, remember, nothing was supposed to matter with this group until the Stanley Cup playoffs, right?

Yeah, that works both ways.




Daily coverage from your #TribHKY team…




TV/radio hits for Thursday…

ROSSI: The Mark Madden Show (3:30 p.m., 105.9-FM); Penguins Live with Steve Kolbe (4:15 p.m.,; On the Ice with David Todd (6:10 p.m., 970-AM).



Be EXCELLENT to each other,