The Penguins are looking to add one--and only one--more veteran forward to their lineup.
Who will be the final free agent forward to join the 2010-2011 Pittsburgh Penguins?
At present, 11 forwards are signed: Crosby, Malkin, Staal, Kunitz, Cooke, Dupuis, Talbot, Rupp, Godard, Kennedy, and Adams. Shero stated yesterday morning (on the Stan & Guy show) that Malkin and Staal will be on the same line next year. A lot can change between now and the start of the season, but for this post we are going to take Shero at his word. Thus, the Forward Lines currently look like this:
Assuming that Lovejoy and Tangradi** earn promotions, the Penguins will have approx. $2.1M to sign additional players now and/or use for midseason moves.
Today, John Kreiser at NHL.com compiled a list of the Top 40 free agents available. Many are out of the Pens price range or not a good fit or both. None are without drawbacks or risks, but here are three options that might look good in Vegas gold and black (poll at bottom):
|Bill Guerin||Pittsburgh||21-24-45 in 78 GP||Still a 20-goal scorer at age 39. Also valuable for leadership skills.|
Guerin made $2.0M last year, and he would have to accept a substantial paycut to return. That's the bad news. The good news is: his spot on Crosby's RW is still available, he'd get PP time, and he'd get one last really good shot at the Cup.
Guerin would slot back in at his familiar 1RW position. Talbot would need to move from 4C to 3C. Dupuis would start in a Top 6 slot with Tangradi on the 3rd line, but hopefully Tangradi (or other WBS prospect) would demonstrate that he has the chops to fill a scoring line role sooner rather than later. Kennedy is penciled in at 4RW, but he'd also be given a shot on 2nd and 3rd lines, too. The lines would look like this:
2. Sign UFA Rob Niedermeyer
|Rob Niedermayer||New Jersey||10-12-22 in 71 GP||At 35, still a useful checking-line center with some offensive ability.|
Niedermeyer made $1.0M last year. He's a character guy, and that's something Shero has stated is an important criterion. He's 6'2" 200 lbs., so he'd also bring more size to the 3C position than current options (Talbot and Adams). When New Jersey signed UFA Jason Arnott, Niedermeyer got bumped down their depth chart--and perhaps off altogether--making his signing a possibility.
Niedermeyer would slot in at 3C, leaving Talbot more comfortably at 4C. Dupuis would start in a Top 6 slot with Tangradi on the 3rd line, but hopefully Tangradi (or other WBS prospect) would demonstrate that he has the chops to fill a scoring line role sooner rather than later. Kennedy is penciled in at 2RW, and should benefit from his prior experience working with Staal, but he'd have to win that spot in camp. The lines would look like this:
3. Sign UFA Nikolai Zherdev
|Nikolai Zherdev||KHL||Averaged 24.5 goals his last 2 NHL seasons
||He's in his prime at 25, but will need to first earn his way back into the NHL-->>and then into his next big contract.
There is speculation that Pittsburgh could be a possible destination for him. Relevant excerpt:
Russian forward Nikolai Zherdev is expected to return to the NHL this season.
There may not be a ton of suitors, but there are a few teams interested.
Watch out for the Devils, Canucks, Sabres, Leafs and Penguins.
Zherdev scored 49 goals during his last two seasons in the NHL: 2007-08 with Columbus and 2008-09 with the NYRangers. At the conclusion of the 2008-09 season, Zherdev was awarded a one-year deal in arbitration, but the Rangers exercised their right to walk away, thereby making Zherdev an unrestricted free agent. Zherdev has Top 6 talent, but his work ethic scared away NHL teams, and he played last season in the KHL.
Apparently he is eager to return to the NHL and could be motivated to:
a) work harder, and
b) take a lot less money on a 1-year deal in order to demonstrate that he's worth his next big contract.
He can play either wing, and the opportunity to play on a line with countryman Evgeni Malkin could be attractive to him for several reasons.
Zherdev would slot in at 2RW. Talbot would move from 4C to 3C. Dupuis would start in a Top 6 slot with Tangradi on the 3rd line, but hopefully Tangradi (or other WBS prospect) would demonstrate that he has the chops to fill a scoring line role sooner rather than later. Kennedy is penciled in at 4RW, but he'd also be in the mix with Dupuis and Tangradi on the 1st and 3rd lines. The lines would look like this:
**NOTE: "Tangradi" is used as a placeholder for all the forward prospects that will battle at camp including, but not limited to: Nick Johnson, Dustin Jeffrey, and Mark Letestu. There are two reasons for this: 1) he's currently the team's highest-rated forward prospect, and 2) he carries the largest cap hit ($0.846M)-->>thus, if there is cap space for Tangradi, there is cap space for any of the other forwards.