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Rapid Reax: Winger still Penguins’ top priority

By Dejan Kovacevic | Trib Total Media

So, the Minnesota Wild pulls off the double-double, landing Zach Parise and Ryan Suter in what now very clearly was a package deal: Both signed for 13 years and $98 million.

Here’s coverage in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

What next for the Penguins?

The priority in terms of an outside acquisition has to remain the winger. Ray Shero has plenty of internal options among young D-men, even if they take lumps early. Doesn’t he couldn’t use another veteran or two from the outside, just that the winger is more important. There are no internal solutions for a top-six winger, shy of bumping Tyler Kennedy up. (Ducks for cover.) Also, there is the not-so-small matter of coming through for Sidney Crosby after he gave up about $5 million a year so Shero could get him some help.

Shane Doan won’t leave Phoenix, and the rest of free agency is blah for wingers. So that means a trade, with the top commodities being Rick Nash and Bobby Ryan. I can’t take Ryan too seriously, as he’s known to have asked the Ducks to send him specifically to the Flyers. (He’s a local.) Doesn’t make for a great fit.

And Nash?

Man, that’s been a hard read for a very long time.

On one hand, the Penguins and Blue Jackets look like logical trade partners. Both teams’ scouts see others way more than the norm because of the three-hour drive, and Craig Patrick is in  Columbus. More important, the Jackets want young D-men in the worst way. That’s why they sent Jeff Carter to the Kings for Jack Johnson, even as they were trying to move Nash. The Penguins obviously have that to give.

But is Nash right?

I covered the Vancouver Olympics, and I can attest first-hand that Crosby and Nash had zero chemistry. But I also can stress we’re talking about a couple games here. Many, many players new to Sid with the Penguins have struggled, too. He’s not your conventional center. So let’s not make too much of this.

The bigger issue now with Nash is that, with Parise gone, he’s now the main man. The Jackets have known this and patiently waited it out. And now all those teams that were tossing nine figures at Parise can line up at Columbus’ window.

Going to be a long summer around here.

Thursday is columnist Joe Starkey’s day to write, and he’ll share his thoughts tomorrow.

Comments

  1. radio wave says:

    Where did this leave the wild in relation to any salary cap limits?

  2. Jason81 says:

    Capgeek has them at $67.3 million, so not much more room for this year.

  3. Vette60 says:

    Wow. Surprised…sorta…to see BOTH Suter and Parise ending up with the Wild. For some odd reason, it really doesn’t bother me all that much. Maybe, even with these signings, I don’t see the Wild as a big threat. I am still a bit concerned about what to do with a Winger for El Sid. We shall see what becomes of the remaining summer. Maybe would have liked to see Sullivan come back, but he was kinda smurf-like and I understand where he is coming from…I am really surprised, ok maybe not really, seeing Jagr get the $$ from Dallas. His heart was in Pittsburgh last year – well, with this signing, we can see how true that was…all that talk about the Flyers having more right-handed centers or whatever…bunch of malarkey…but I guess we should be used to that from ol’ 68. The Stars are certainly pushing up their average age with Whitney and Jagr…

    I don’t see Nash being a big play for the Pens…and those that have said Semin..really? If there is talk of a square peg in a round hole, it would be bringing in “Sasha” into the mix with the Pens. Just not seeing him fit really well with what they have going on.

    See what happens the rest of the way.

    Let’s go Bucs!

    Randy

  4. yoprst says:

    Winger top priority?

    Last I checked we melted down in the last few playoff series, especially this year, primarily because of non-existant defense, not the lack of scoring.

    Hopefully our GM doesn’t share Dejan’s point of view. Though I personally tend to believe that “Shero” and “sensible decisions” go together more or less as well as “fire” and “ice”

    DK: If you’re reacting solely to the headline, you’ll have missed that my point is that winger should be the priority as far as outside-the-organization pursuits. To repeat, they don’t have wingers on the inside, but they do have defensemen.

  5. yoprst says:

    DK:

    No I was referring to the body of your post. Those young puck-moving D-men are:

    1) young (inexperienced)

    2) puck-moving (not shutdown)

    3) soft and small

    4) will be shelved in the minors by Shero and Bylsma for another 10 years (see: Despres, Morrow)

    In the meantime, the great Paul Martin will log 20-25 min per game and bring us a truckload of GA’s.

    If the Philly series taught us anything – it taught us that Pens need to completely rehaul their defense, both in terms of personnel, structure and strategy.

    DK: I don’t believe Shero is done with the defense. Even so, you’re avoiding my point: Do you feel the Penguins have INTERNALLY better options for a top-six winger or for the blue line?

  6. yoprst says:

    DK:

    My answer is: I don’t see NO good options internally for either role this year, and I’m really worried that our GM is more focused on sighning a winger than strengthening the defense. It is clear for me that a good winger for a reasonable price certainly won’t hurt, but our BIIIIIIIIIIIGGGGGGGG priority is shutdown defense (this, apart from changing the HC, which Shero should have done first thing the next morning after losing Game 6).

    DK: I can agree with that. I’m just tired of waiting on Despres, Bortuzzo and Strait. It’s about time to let these guys play. and I’d mention Morrow, except I know there’s NO WAY the Penguins will seriously consider him. Which is too bad. Kid looks really good.

  7. MBS says:

    @yoprst
    Do you consider Orpik a shutdown defenseman?

    DK, speaking of big wingers and homecomings, should Ryan Malone be considered in trade talks and how many years does he have left on contract in Florida?

    DK: If memory serves, Malone would only have one more year left w/ Bolts. My answer regarding Malone is an emphatic yes. When he’s fired up, he’s still a force.

  8. bob hasis says:

    My naivety shows when things like Parise and Suter wind up on the same team, for the same money and contract length.
    Question; did they have the same agent(s)? One way or another, this seems like reverse-collusion. Is it OK for two players to decide to collude and freeze out all others in a bidding war? But teams are not allowed to collude on a rate or a deal for a specific player.

    And in this deal there was a lot of deception and disingenuousness prevalent by the players/agents I thought, making everyone believe it was all “strictly business”. I guess in the end, that’s all it was.

  9. yoprst says:

    @MBS

    He was a top class shutdown D a couple years ago. But after the Cup year his performance has been visibly deteriorating. As of now, he’s a little above average stay-at-home defenseman, good for no higher than 2nd-3rd pairing on a serious cup contender. Secondly, he’s alone in a cloud of soft erratic offensive d-men (like Letang), sheer overpaid disasters (M&M) and hopeless AHL-ers (like Lovejoy).

  10. Skip says:

    I will stipulate up front, I’m not a hockey expert, but I do follow the game (and the Pens) pretty seriously.

    DK – I believe Pittsburgh’s greater need is on the blueline (in terms of size and physical play). They were physically overmatched on the back end quite a bit last year. In the playoffs against the Flyers, they scored enough, but the D (and goaltending) was brutal. The internal D options are promising, but none of them are both big and physical. Maybe Shea Weber is available, but it would be costly.

    A scoring winger would be nice, but it’s not a critical need. I’m intrigued by Semin. He has serious talent. Maybe he would excel in the right environment. I’m curious if he would be interested in a one or two year contract. Nash is tempting, but Columus’s GM wants too much, and Nash wants too much $. It concerns me that he wants to bail on Columbus instead of sticking it out.

  11. Gjm says:

    It is nothing but conjecture either way. Always hard to tell from outside what’s going on inside. Playoff hockey is different than season play. We shall see what coach learned.

  12. blah blah blah defensemen blah blah Flyers series blah blah Hal Gill.

    Screw all that, I want to see Ryane Clowe in a Penguins jersey.

  13. Eric Bowser says:

    Well, I’m finally home to react to this news here after a great day spending time with family in the Kittanning area.

    1) Great to see Minnesota land some star players to help lead their young emerging prospects over the next two or three years. Next year the Wild should have a few young guys ready and some veterans hitting UFA like Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Matt Cullen, and Tom Gilbert that will allow them to spend even more money supporting their rebuilding effort.

    2) As Dejan notes, this team has options internally to address their defense. I mean by my count, they have 16 NHL quality defensemen in the NHL, AHL or prospects who could be in either league this year.

    3) Conversely, the organization has done a terrible job identifying, drafting, and developing quality offensive prospects at forward to help augment the superstar model backed by Crosby, Malkin, and Neal. The team has good depth guys like Kunitz, Dupuis, Cooke, Kennedy, and Sutter but missing that obvious linemate for Crosby. If anyone thinks Tyler Kennedy shooting slap shots into the crest of the goalie’s jersey and equipment will make Crosby forget about the $4-5 million he left on the table, think again.

    4) Trade market is going to be tough. Bobby Ryan didn’t mind Anaheim but after putting feelers out there again as to his availability, he’s made it known that he doesn’t want to play in Anaheim and would prefer to play back home with the Flyers. Rick Nash isn’t a complete player and has fallen on some tough times in Columbus and considering his price tag at $7.8 million per season for six more years, Penguins can’t deal a bundle of prospects and picks for someone who may or may not work well with Crosby. I suspect the Rangers win the Nash sweepstakes as they have the forward depth and prsopect ranks to make a deal happen.

    5) The other players isn’t much better like Evander Kane (Jets – may not want to resign there), Nathan Horton (Bruins – lost most of season to concussion and due to cap hit, Boston needs the salary cap space), Ales Hemsky (Oilers – team is rebuilding at his $5m cap value, team is better off going younger), Rene Bourque (Canadiens – I’ve read twitter and other media mention Habs GM Marc Bergevin may look to move his salary for players who fit his and Michel Therrien’s mold), David Perron (Blues – returned from concussion and St. Louis might look to get away from financial risk), Chris Stewart (Blues – had a very disappointing season in St. Louis), Nikolai Kulemin (Maple Leafs – didn’t exactly produce much at all last year but he and Malkin are friends and Russian linemates, so maybe acquire Kulemin and move Kunitz back up to Crosby’s line), and Joffrey Lupul (Maple Leafs – final year of his deal, shouldn’t cost as much in terms of asset value and could be a short term stop gap. Back issues are a concern).

    6) I’m not a betting man but if I were, I’d put down a few bills toward dealing Tyler Kennedy, Simon Despres and a second round pick to Winnipeg for left winger Evander Kane. The Penguins have to be targeting this guy as the top winger to acquire as he’ll turn 21 in August having already played three seasons in the NHL scoring 14, 19, and 30 goals. He has the skating ability, shooting skills, sandpaper style to mix with Crosby and Dupuis.

    Good luck Ray Shero, expectations are high.

  14. Mike C. says:

    I just don’t see many options out there. And I can assume after the dust settled, the asking price of teams for guys like Nash is sky high right now.

    Semin??!? naaaaaaaaaaw no thank you
    seems like 2013 has a big FA crop, but that’s liiiiiight yeeeears away

    and an off topic question, I’ve heard ppl say Barmes’ run down where Pedro scored in the 2nd was a bone-head play to a planned heads up play.

    Wonder if DK or anyone can give me some insight on that.

    DK: With Pedro slowed by the cramps, I can’t imagine Barmes did that on purpose. Could be wrong. Pitcher on deck.

  15. Christian says:

    Let’s calm down and show some faith in Shero; he’s more than earned it.

    I am not devastated by not getting Parise. I’ve never been in love with signing the top free agent available, because you’ll usually overpay. Shero and his pro scouts are shrewd overall. A couple of poor moves over the years cannot diminish the slick personnel moves Shero has made over the years. (I would still do the Hossa trade even if we didn’t get Hossa, as Dupuis has been tremendous). Nash’s contract is too high, and he’s overrated. Bob Murray is desperate for a 2nd line center, and does not need defensemen, as the Ducks signed a number of free agent D-men, and are high on Cam Fowler and Sbisa. I would let Shane Doan know we’d love to have him in the event Phoenix doesn’t work out. He would be a rich man’s Billy Guerin, and he was made for our city. Assuming Doan stays in the desert, there are no other B-listers that excite me. Someone mentioned Malone; he has 3 years @ $4.5 per left. No way. I’d love Versteeg, but he’s an RFA and Tallon loves him, so he’d match.

    As for defenseman, I’d rather get rid of Martin. I’d take a flyer on Scott Hannan, just for some physicality and grit on the back end.

    Finally, I hope Shero addresses team toughness. Someone mentioned Ryane Clowe; he’d be perfect. More realistic, I wouldn’t mind seeing Krys Barch on our team. Either way, I have faith Shero will get it done. And no, I would not want Semin on our team. Can’t be trusted.

    LET’S GO PENS!

  16. yoprst says:

    No faith in Shero. None. He missed the chance to sign Parise and Suter, in the meantime lost time and opportunity to bring any other good FA’s that were available. Now the FA market is depleted, and we don’t have enough assets to make a major trade without losing someone important. After such a devastating playoff spring, we head into the next saeson with even worse roster than we had in April.

    Total, EPIC FAIL summer by Shero, total prfessional defamation.

  17. Mike C. says:

    thanks DK but just makes me more curious for some reason =p

    and I do believe we have one of the better GMs in the league in Shero, but maybe he did put all his eggs in the basket for 2 guys.
    no matter how good he is, just no one really good enough left out there (that’ll come with a fair trade price) IMO

  18. buggee says:

    >>> Parise and Suter to the Wild. Good, they’re both out of the Pens’ division so they won’t be haunting the Pens very much. Isn’t the Wild coached by Mike Yeo? Hope it works out for him, I like Yeo.

    >>> I don’t understand the complaints about the Pens’ defensive talent, nor do I see why they have to go outside the organization for defensive talent. Several young defensemen are NHL-ready with their skating and stickhandling. But there’s more to it than that, I believe. To me it seems like it becomes a matter of disciplined play. Morrow, Despres, etc., are effective skaters and do have size, can move the puck and have strong shots, but there is a propensity to want to jump in offensively. Stay-at-home and pound the boards to clear pucks out isn’t pretty or fun, but it wins games, especially playoff games. It’s also the most difficult aspect to teach and enforce.

    >>> The Pens lack of size on the wings was exposed during playoffs. Neal and Tangradi are 6’4″, what other wingers do the Pens have with that kind of size? Grit is not an issue (as it was in Kovalev’s last stint here); size and strength on the boards is.

    >>> Those glaring turnovers the Pens make in their own defensive zone drive me nutz! Martin was really bad in that area last season, and Tanger had more than a few gaffes as well. Sometimes it’s better to carry the puck out than trying to launch a long cross-ice pass out of the zone. Each opponent dictates which is the better method, and coaching has to be able to recognize what the other team gives and adjust. Bylsma didn’t. He stuck to his system come hell or highwater and Philadephia figured out was to beat his system. Terrible coaching job in that playoff exit.

    >>> Seems like the last few drafts have had overwhelming numbers of solid defensemen, which caused me to wonder (which is never a safe thing) why that is. Sure drafts favor certain positions moreso than others and that seems to be cyclical, but from a developmental perspective, perhaps there is this: Maybe kids who have been playing hockey since they were barely able to walk have been told (by those who should know like coaches, etc.) that they don’t have the skill-set/physicality/whatever to become the next Sidney Crosby at the NHL-level and so they won’t make it to the NHL as a forward. But they might be encouraged to switch to the blueline as being a more probable path to the NHL? Just a supposition…

  19. Christian says:

    Really, no faith in Shero? Guy, get off the ledge. Shero is very sensible. As for Suter and Parise, they WANTED to play in Minnesota and play together. I don’t care what a GM offered them or told them, they were going to the Wild. Please don’t be one of those fans who doesn’t see the big picture. Let’s see: Hossa trade, Neal trade, Kunitz trade, and the ability to keep those Big 5 together for longer than most thought he could are what Shero should be judged on. Yes, the Martin and Michalek signings did not at all work out, but what other moves, personnel wise, haven’t worked out? Adams on waivers, acquisition of Gary Roberts, Bill Guerin, and even getting a very good return on a trade in which he had ZERO leverage in Jordan Staal are deals people like you forget about. Yes, we need a couple of upgrades, but you don’t always get the exact player you want, and you definitely don’t overpay to do it.

  20. Jandy says:

    Absolutely NO WAY to Semin. You’d be better off giving ME a jersey and letting me play ;)

    I’d go after Doan first. I’m doubtful he leaves Phoenix, but you never know.

    Bring up some of our own D-men. Plenty of them had cups of coffee last season and did jsut fine. Depres would be my first choice.

    Wow, just got in the blog site just now. I’ve had withdrawals all day!

  21. Ed says:

    Why I don’t like Rick Nash for the Penguins:

    There is one main reason I don’t think he’d fit in, he’s one of those rare wings who prefers to handle the puck a lot.
    James Neal, for instance, is a typical wing, who likes to dish off the puck, especially to his center(71). Then, Neal
    is adroit at finding an open space–again, without the puck.

    The best analogy I can think of is in my least favorite N. American major sport, basketball. There are guys who work
    their way open for a shot without the ball, i.e. Pitt’s Ashton Gibbs, and there are others who prefer getting the ball
    first, then working their way free while in control of the ball, i.e. Sam Young in his Pitt days.

    Nash needs to control the puck, which would mean 87 would be stripped of one of his best talents. It doesn’t make
    sense to me.

    This is not meant to slight Nash, it merely speaks of styles. (Similarly, I believe Z. Michalek will better prosper
    with Phoenix’s style of defense next season than he did with Bylsma’s strategy.)

    Ed
    Delaware

    DK: Good stuff, Ed. Thanks!

  22. CWalton_67 says:

    Nash–no. He’s soff, among the things Ed listed above.

    Completely with Jandy–no on Semin. Can’t post my opinion of him here.

    With DK on Ryan Malone–think he’d be reborn back in the ‘Burgh.

  23. NewGuyTim says:

    Did Jordan Staal’s agent ruin Shero’s chances of getting full trade value for Staal by revealing to reporters that Staal rejected the Pens’ 10-year offer? According to ESPN.com, the Ducks want a second line center (plus prospects) for Bobby Ryan. Had Staal not announced to the league that he wasn’t re-signing with the Pens (and alluded to his desire to play in Carolina), he might have fit the bill for a trade with the Ducks; a trade that likely would have given the Pens more in return for Staal than what they got from Carolina — which wasn’t bad.

    Unless we see some major prospect development this year — maybe from Tangradi (still hoping) or Despres — I don’t know how the Pens round out their top-six forwards or top-4 defense. In 2 years, however, Morrow, Bennett, Dumoulin, and Pouliot should be ready, giving the Pens some trade leverage and a lot of defensive depth (if these guys pan out as expected).

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