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July 2, 2015
by Jason Mackey


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Martin reflects on leaving Pens

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Paul Martin didn’t have a good feeling about this one. He knew the Penguins sought a scoring winger either via trade or free agency, and he had a pretty good idea what that asking price would be.

Enough, Martin anticipated, that he should probably look elsewhere for a big contract, which Martin got Wednesday by signing with the San Jose Sharks – four years, $19.4 million.

I got a chance to catch up with Martin on Thursday afternoon, a few hours after his Players’ Tribune goodbye letter to former teammates and Penguins fans hit the internet.

“At the end of the year, I was assuming they needed a big winger, and they were going to go for it,” Martin said. “My agent talked to them at the draft, but I don’t think anything could have gotten done, especially with the way they were going after the winger they needed.

“After that it was all about making sure I found a spot and a good spot to move on and continue to play. It’s a little bittersweet. It’s tough to leave an organization that you’ve been with for five years, the guys and city.”

If you haven’t read Martin’s letter, do it. It’s fantastic. In it, he jokes about fitting in with a new group of star players, which, if you’ve watched or gotten to know Martin, won’t be a problem. He’s as likable as they come.

Despite a fairly rocky start to his Penguins tenure, Martin finished on a high, high note. He also closed his time as Kris Letang’s regular and preferred defense partner, someone you could argue help Letang move into Norris Trophy contention while he was healthy.

Martin knew this. Other teams did, too. It’s why his services were so coveted, and he didn’t last an hour on the open market.

“At the end of the year, I had a good talk with (Jason) Botterill and Jim (Rutherford) about coming back and being with Tanger,” Martin said. “Tanger had his best year since I’ve been there. I played with him most of the year. You always have your priorities. You have guys you want to come back.

“I know I can still play and be on the top (defensive) pair, but I also knew they needed a winger. That was their main thing.”

So Martin became a Shark. And now the Dead/Phishhead heads to our type’s favorite place: Northern California.

“San Jose will be a good change for me, something different and a good challenge,” Martin said. “Living on the West Coast, I heard it’s a good spot to be. They have a good core group of guys. Once everything settles, I’ll be a lot more comfortable.”

Be GRATEFUL to each other,

Mackey

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July 2, 2015
by Jason Mackey


5 comments so far - add yours!

Johnston excited for top-six options

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Penguins coach Mike Johnston can’t wait to tinker.

Can you blame him?

I talked to him earlier today about integrating Phil Kessel into the Penguins’ lineup, and he didn’t exactly bristle at the idea.

“I like the options of our top-six forwards,” Johnston said. “I really like the look of that group. It gives you a lot of flexibility. Now we can get some lines that are set.”

Johnston mentioned that spreading that talent across two power-play units is a possibility.

“We can get two really good power-play units that are going to be a threat as well because (Olli) Maatta, (Derrick) Pouliot and (Kris) Letang can all play the back end of the power play, plus that forward group,” Johnston said. “(Beau) Bennett is going to be a good power-play guy as well. I like the look of our group.”

Johnston – who remember preached shots, shots and more shots – loves Kessel. Loves his ability to fire the puck. Loves how he could fit with Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin, although my money’s on the latter.

Been digging through Kessel stats today, and check this one out: He’s finished in the top 10 for shots for six consecutive years. Think Johnston – Mr. 35 shots, 10 in 10 minutes and 200 shots equals 20 goals – doesn’t love that?

“I know when we prepared to play Toronto, those were the things we talked about with Phil Kessel,” Johnston said. “We talked about his dangerous speed for our defense and his shot.

“He has a very deceptive release. He reminds me a lot of Markus Naslund when I had him in Vancouver. He changes the point of release. He just doesn’t shoot the puck. The puck moves side-to-side, and then he releases it. It’s very deceptive.”

More from Chipped Ice
Mackey Podcast from TribLive Radio earlier
Penguins’ cap situation
Notes on the new guys
Extras on the Kessel trade

Be GRATEFUL to each other,

Mackey

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July 2, 2015
by Jonathan Bombulie


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Penguins’ cap situation

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I wrote yesterday about the Penguins pulling off the Kessel trade without handcuffing themselves as far as the cap goes. What follows is a graphical depiction of that.

Three notes about this chart. First, click on it and it gets large enough to read. Second, I estimated the salary values for RFAs like Beau Bennett and Brian Dumoulin based on the rules set out in the CBA.

Finally, I projected Scott Wilson, Oskar Sundqvist and Bryan Rust for the final three roster spots at forward. Those are just my guesses, which is why I colored them yellow. If the Penguins sign a fourth-line center, as Jim Rutherford said they hope to, then one of those three gets sent to the minors.

chart4

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July 2, 2015
by Jonathan Bombulie


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Notes on the New Guys

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Some notes on the players the Penguins added today. They’re ranked in order of how likely they are to make an impact on the NHL team this year.

Sergei Plotnikov (Getty Images)

Sergei Plotnikov (Getty Images)

SERGEI PLOTNIKOV

LW, 6-2, 205, 25 (1 year, $925,000)

Aside from the obvious, probably the most impactful addition of the day. Jim Rutherford said the Penguins want to see how he fits in with their group first, of course, but that Plotnikov probably fits in as a top-six winger. For more on his game, check out this story from last week. It’s got comments from a former teammate of his, Stephen Dixon.

Kevin Porter (avalanche.nhl.com)

Kevin Porter (avalanche.nhl.com)

KEVIN PORTER

C, 5-11, 194, 29 (1 year, $575,000)

Rutherford said the Penguins are still shopping for a fourth-line center. If they don’t get one, Porter could push Oskar Sundqvist for the job. Porter was a big deal in college, winning the Hobey Baker Award in 2008 for Michigan. He’s played 206 NHL games and had a 14-goal season with Colorado in 2010-11, but he’s been in the minors most of the last two seasons. He’s a little too small to be a bottom-six guy and not quite skilled enough to be a top-six guy, but he’s still useful in a lot of roles.

Tim Erixon (bluejackets.nhl.com)

Tim Erixon (bluejackets.nhl.com)

TIM ERIXON

D, 6-3, 199, 24 (signed for one more year at $600,000)

He’s positioned as an inconsequential throw-in in the Kessel deal, but maybe not. He was considered a pretty decent prospect not all that long ago and spent all of last season in the NHL, albeit with three teams (Columbus, Chicago and Toronto). His scouting report reads a lot like Brian Dumoulin’s — big but not very physical, greatest strength is the way he moves the puck. I think I’d slide him into the Pens depth chart around No. 8, in the same area as Niclas Andersen.

Kael Mouillierat (islanders.nhl.com)

Kael Mouillierat (islanders.nhl.com)

KAEL MOUILLIERAT

C, 6-0, 200, 27 (1 year, $575,000)

This guy has been one of favorite AHL players the last few years. He can play any forward position up and down the lineup and has some sneaky skill. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying he’s a diamond in the rough or anything like that. I’m just saying he could compete with Porter and Sundqvist for a spot on the depth chart. Why not?

David Warsofsky (bruins.nhl.com)

David Warsofsky (bruins.nhl.com)

DAVID WARSOFSKY

D, 5-8, 170, 25 (1 year, $600,000)

The reason he’s only played 10 NHL games with the Bruins is self-evident. He’s 5-8. But he’s a good skater with a good shot. He performed well when I saw him in the playoffs for Providence against WBS. And he’s young enough where he can still get better.

Steve Oleksy (Associated Press)

Steve Oleksy (Associated Press)

STEVE OLEKSY

D, 6-0, 190, 29 (1 year, $575,000)

He’s a tough defenseman who came up the hard way, playing in places like Port Huron and Idaho along the way. The Baby Pens hated playing against him when he was the captain of the Hershey Bears last season. He and Dominik Uher had a long-running feud. Not terribly talented, but very hard to play against.

Tyler Biggs (nhl.com)

Tyler Biggs (nhl.com)

TYLER BIGGS

RW, 6-3, 224, 22 (signed for one more year at $894,166)

He was a first-round pick for Toronto and he played a supporting role with their AHL team, so the fanbase labeled him a bust. Getting away from the Leafs might be the best thing that could happen to him. His scouting report reminds me of Adam Payerl. Big, strong, not flashy, protects the puck, hits and fights a bit. If he develops into a fourth-line NHL option, it’s a win.

I got a chance to talk to Biggs this afternoon. Here’s what he had to say:

Q: Where were you when you heard you were a part of the biggest trade of the offseason?

A: I was actually on the golf course. I was on the fourth hole, so I had to be answering calls and finishing my round at the same time. The focus wasn’t there, I can tell you that.

Q: You had a big year in Oshawa in 2012-13, but you haven’t put up big numbers in two seasons with the Toronto Marlies in the AHL. What has the transition been like?

I don’t think it’s a lack of size or skill or anything like that. My first year, coming into a veteran team, being a young guy, we had a great run, potentially for a Calder (Cup) there my first year and it was a matter of almost taking a back seat. Nobody likes doing that, but as a young guy and a role player, sometimes you have to do that. I had no problem doing that with such a great team we had. It’s not a huge transition that I haven’t figured out yet or anything.

Q: So you’re the kind of guy who can feel like you’ve had a good game without scoring goals?

They definitely didn’t draft me to score goals. I play a certain way. There’s a lot of responsibility in the game I play. I can play center or wing, wherever they want to throw me, in different situations. As far as points go, it’s not something I’ve concerned myself with.

Q: Do you feel like a fresh start in a new organization might be good for you?

A: Maybe like a weight lifted off shoulders, that kind of thing. I think people don’t understand, the media attention in a Toronto or Montreal, you don’t know what you’re going to get. It can change dramatically. It has nothing to do with the fans. It’s a great city, a great organization. I was super excited to be a part of it. It’s just for any young kid, that’s a lot of pressure to take.

Q: You had an Achilles injury last season. How is it coming along?

A: I’ll be good to go come training camp for sure. I had it stepped on. It was cut about 70 percent. It’s coming along just fine, though. I’m excited to hit the ice again.

Bye for now,

jb

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July 1, 2015
by Jason Mackey


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Extras on Kessel trade

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You’ll read more in Thursday’s Trib about the deal that landed Phil Kessel, but I thought I’d use this space to add some extras that didn’t make the print version, most notably the fact that Kessel was target No. 1 for the Penguins.

This is important to remember. They kicked tires on guys like Jeff Skinner, T.J. Oshie and Patrick Sharp. Even Brandon Saad, though but more on that in a bit. None carried the weight of Kessel.

“Kessel was our main target,” Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford said this afternoon at a press conference inside the visitors’ dressing room at Consol Energy Center. “When you look at his goal-scoring ability and his speed, that was the ideal player we were looking for.”

>> I felt like a jerk being the guy who asked about Saad, but I thought it was important, and your right to know, where the Penguins stood with him.

I was told, along with several other media outlets, by a team source late Tuesday afternoon that the Penguins made an offer for Saad, who was traded from Chicago to Columbus. I’ve seen reports today that say they didn’t.

Here’s Rutherford on Saad:

“We’re always poking around on all deals,” Rutherford said. “The answer is, ‘Yeah.’ We were poking around. We were in on that deal. We like that player a lot. It turns out that Chicago felt they got a better offer than they got from us.”

I asked a follow-up. So does that mean you made an offer for Saad.

Rutherford’s answer: “We were in the deal.”

>> Saying whether or not the Penguins won the Kessel trade is useless the day of. Kessel could score two goals here, hate it, and then all of this talk is moot.

Which is why Rutherford said such things are usually ironed out over time. The Penguins do have a pretty nice kicker, though.

“You can never know with trades,” Rutherford said. “Over time is how you judge trades. We got the best player in the trade right now. It usually works out for the team that gets the best player.”

>> Lastly, Rutherford was asked about Kessel’s perceived lack of conditioning, and hilarity ensured. (OK, probably an overstatement but still funny.)

Credit Dejan Kovacevic of DKonPittsburghSports.com with the question on how Kessel’s perceived lack of conditioning dovetails with the fact that he hasn’t missed a game since 2009-10.

Here, again, is Rutherford:

“Maybe we’re on to something,” Rutherford said, laughing. “We just have to see.”

“If he needs to get himself in a little better shape, he’ll even be a better player. Being around our players and the kind of condition and how hard they work will rub off on anybody.

“I was partly kidding about maybe we’re onto something. I do think guys that are in too good of shape are too vulnerable of getting hurt. This is a guy who plays every game.”

Be GRATEFUL to each other,

Mackey

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July 1, 2015
by Jonathan Bombulie


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Phil Kessel Live Blog

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Phil Kessel (Getty Images)

Phil Kessel
(Getty Images)

2:14: On the prospects the Penguins got back in return: Tim Erixon and Tyler Biggs are one-time first-round picks who haven’t exactly blossomed as pros. I would assume they were included in the deal largely so Toronto could stay under the 50-contract limit, though I don’t know that for sure.

You might remember Erixon as part of the Rick Nash trade. He’s a tall left-handed shooter who has been a pretty good puck-mover in the minors and has played 93 NHL games. The Penguins’ depth chart on D thins out badly after the seven guys you’d expect to see in the NHL plus Niclas Andersen, so Erixon is a welcome addition in that respect.

Biggs is a big, 6-3 right winger who had a great year with Oshawa before turning pro but hasn’t done a lot since.

2:06: On the prospects the Penguins gave up to get Kessel: I believe Kasperi Kapanen is the real deal. He’s a slippery skater with a great shot. He’s slight, so he can get pushed around, but that will change as he matures. I think he’s a top-six winger by the end of next season.

The scouts I talked to for the story that ran on Monday believed that Scott Harrington was a better prospect than Brian Dumoulin. He’s a good shutdown defender who can handle the puck fairly well. He’s got a high profile in Canada because he played for the London Knights and in the WJC, so the Leafs can sell him to their fanbase. The only concern about him is his footspeed against elite competition. He projects as a 4-6 defenseman.

2:01: The July 1 Live Blog has become the Phil Kessel Live Blog. All Kessel, all the time. To start with, a stat. Here are the top goal scorers in the NHL over the last five seasons.

ALEXANDER OVECHKIN 206
STEVEN STAMKOS 202
COREY PERRY 178
PHIL KESSEL 151
RICK NASH 151
JOHN TAVARES 150
JAROME IGINLA 148
JOE PAVELSKI 145
JONATHAN TOEWS 140
JEFF CARTER 138
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July 1, 2015
by Jonathan Bombulie


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July 1 Live Blog

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1:09: The July 1 Live Blog will soon become the Phil Kessel Live Blog.

12:48: Comeau got $2.4 million per year for three years.

12:46: Comeau and Chorney were the two Penguins UFAs who I thought were most likely to re-sign.

12:44: ESPN says Blake Comeau is off to Colorado for three years. Salary will be interesting on this one. He might have got himself a payday.

12:38: Pierre LeBrun says Paul Martin to San Jose for four years is a done deal. Martin might not be a flashy player, but his work is respected by GMs. Another step toward the youth movement on the Penguins blue line.

12:32: With all due respect, I’ve always thought you could find a handful of guys in the AHL who could give you what P.A. Parenteau brings for much less money.

12:29: Sportsnet reporting Viktor Tikhonov will sign with Chicago. I know the Penguins were interested in him. Don’t know how interested. Perhaps a sign that Brandon Sutter isn’t going anywhere? I thought Tikhonov profiles as a third-line center.

12:26: TSN’s Aaron Ward reports Mark Letestu is close to a three-year deal with Edmonton. Would replace Boyd Gordon, essentially. One of the smartest players I’ve ever covered.

12:15: Chorney gets his one-way with Washington for 700K.

12:12: I think there should be a prize for the first unrestricted free agent to sign on July 1. I think that prize should go to Thomas Greiss, who is off to the Islanders. It should be a nice fruit basket.

12:04: Jason Mackey reports Taylor Chorney has multiple one-way contract offers. His play late last season looks to be paying off. A one-way deal is what guys who have been toiling away in the minors for years dream of.

11:59: Word last night from Daniel Winnik’s camp, by the way, was that he had some talks with the Penguins, but he is expected to sign elsewhere.

11:58: Jason Mackey reports Paul Martin and Taylor Chorney won’t re-sign with the Penguins at the last minute and will hit the open market.

11:49: I’m really looking forward to watching Alex Semin play next season. I want to see what it looks like when a guy plays with joy in the neutral zone. Sounds fun.

11:38: The Red Wings announced they re-signed center Andy Miele before he went to free agency. One year, $575,000. He’s an interesting player. He won the Hobey Baker in 2011 and has more or less dominated AHL competition the last four years, but he just can’t get a foothold in the NHL. Maybe it’s because he’s 5-8. I’ve always thought it would be interesting if a team gave him a shot. Perhaps the Red Wings will. It’s a one-way contract after all.

11:33: Jason Mackey and I will be updating this blog post with news and notes all day long, so bookmark it. (Do people still bookmark things?) To start with, here’s the chart I’m operating from today. If you click on it, it’s gets large enough to read.

CHART2

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June 30, 2015
by Jason Mackey


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Semin’s agent: ‘He plays all three zones with joy’

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“Jim has seen him play as much as anybody,” Alex Semin’s agent, Todd Diamond, told me earlier today.

“(Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford) can talk, if he chooses, to (Semin) about his defensive prowess,” Diamond added. “In the right environment, he plays all three zones with joy.

“Our job is to put him in the right environment where he can get back to being a 30-40-goal scorer that he has been before and is capable of being again.”

Semin hit the market today. The Carolina Hurricanes are buying him out, a move that will cost them $2.33 million per year for the next six years. The 31-year-old will earn $14 million via buyout.

In the meantime, Semin becomes a free agent and can sign anywhere he pleases starting Wednesday.

Will one of the places be Pittsburgh? We don’t know. The Penguins did not acknowledge interest much interest in Semin when a trade would have been required to get him. I plan on checking again now that he’s a free agent. Diamond would neither confirm nor deny that the Penguins have spoken with him about Semin.

Had an interesting talk with Diamond this afternoon. No surprise, the agent doesn’t think it will take long for his player to find work in the NHL.

He said he’s spoken with “more than three teams” and expects a couple additional suitors to the plate tomorrow.

“He’ll be back in the league very easily” Diamond said. “We have interest from multiple teams. People realize what Alex can do in the right environment.”

Semin, remember, scored 138 goals between 2006-10. He’s a plus-70 in his career, a mark that’s better than both Evgeni Malkin (plus-56) and Pascal Dupuis (plus-64) among Penguins forwards who have played at least 500 games.

“The style they play and the centermen they have, it would be an interesting destination for him, for sure,” Diamond said.

Be GRATEFUL to each other,

Mackey

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