PITTSBURGH PA - FEBRUARY 10: Ryan Craig #23 of the Pittsburgh Penguins warms up prior to play against the Los Angeles Kings at Consol Energy Center on February 10 2011 in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
I debated skipping over Ryan Craig entirely since he didn't exactly shine in his six games with the Pens this season, but with respect to how many minor league players the parent club had to rely on this season I felt it was only right to at least give the 29-year-old veteran a quick review.
Player: Ryan Craig
Role: Center, fill the gaps, break in case of emergency
Contract Status: UFA heading into this offseason
Let's also give respect where respect is due. Back in November the Wilkes-Barre club voted Craig captain of the team, making him the 17th captain since the team's inception. It was a fitting move for a guy who played five off-and-on seasons with the Tampa Bay Lightning, totally 184 games, 32 goals and 31 assists. Unfortunately those numbers did not translate to the Pittsburgh squad.
In his six games with the Pens back in mid-to-late February, Craig finished with zero points, a plus-minus of -3 and 22 penalty minutes. Granted he was also receiving just around 10 minutes of ice time per game, but he did get to play a part in the brawl with the Islanders back on Feb. 11. I distinctly remember Craig having a few close calls in front of the net on some rebound goals but by that point in the season the Pens were really trying to hang on to whoever was healthy enough to lace up their skates.
His regular season contributions are definitely the sort of thing Tony will highlight in his continued reviews of WBS guys, but in brief: 71 games, 19 goals and 29 assists.
Funny highlight of Craig's season: If you go to his player page on the Penguins' site or NHL.com, the attached photo gallery that is supposed to show pictures of Ryan Craig actually shows two pictures of Craig Adams. See for yourself.
That about does it for Ryan Craig. Hard to say where the Pens stand with his contract next season, but I can't imagine he goes into this offseason as a high priority for the parent club. He made $500K last year and did get his "cup of coffee" with the Pens this season, but at 29 years old going on 30 on a team with a ton of depth at the center position, he's either looking at another season in WBS or an opportunity to hit the free-agent market and land on another team.
If I had to compare him to a former guy in the Penguins system I'd put him right up there with Jeff Taffe (remember him?). Taffe really wasn't one to light it up for the Pens and as one of the older minor league centers in the depths of the franchise, he likely wasn't getting his green light to the NHL by way of the Pens. He did get a chance to shine for over 40 games in 07-08, but since then he has played nearly three full season with AHL clubs for the Panthers and most recently the Blackhawks.
Tony would be the better source for input on Craig, but as for next season: Bring 'em back or let 'em go?