In this blog i will make an attempt to discuss which upcoming FA's from the penguins roster should be re-signed, traded by the deadline, or walks away at free agency. The biggest name is of course James Neal and i will try to throw in a few players from the baby pens as well.
James Neal - We all expected Neal to improve his numbers from the slow start he had after he was traded to the pens, but few would expect him to be tied for 2nd in the league in goals scored. With 27 goals on the season, he only trails Stamkos (a former rocket richard winner) by 5 goals, and is currently tied with the blackhawks captain Toews. He currently leads the team and has one more goal than Malkin. He is a RFA next year and from the many blogs, comments, and rants about him, he could earn anywhere between 4-6 mil. So what do the pens do with him? I think anybody who is remotely familiar with the Pittsburgh Penguins knows that the team needs to resign him. "Like any other player we've wanted to sign, we'll find a way to sign him," Shero said of Neal. "And we'll find a way with James as well." There is little to no doubt that Neal will be wearing a Pens sweater next season, but for how much and how long remains undecided.
Steve Sullivan - Sullivan came into the season expecting to contribute on the power play and most likely with Malkin. At 1.5 mil, the cap hit isnt bad, but some did expect him to put up better numbers than what he has now, especially being on a line with Malkin. Of course the frustrating string of injuries to the team doesnt help, but Sullivan has (for the majority) been on a line with Malkin. He currently has 23 points, currently 5th best on the team, but he could be doing better given who he is playing with, and his +/- isnt the greatest at -7, but hey it could be worse (cough**michalek**cough). The good thing about this signing is that a player who is signed at only 1.5 mil and is on pace to eclipse 40 points in the season is always a good thing to have. The health of the team has thrown him into a little more demanding role, but with a healthy team he does add depth to the Pens. Give him another shot, re-sign him for another year and hopefully he gets a chance to play on a team with a healthy crosby, malkin, and staal.
Aaron Asham - Im going to keep his simple. If he remains injured and not 100% let him go, if he's healthy and picks up his game again then re-sign him, hes a good 4th line guy with decent hands and is not afraid to drop the mitts. Very loyal to his team and will throw the body around. His stats aren't the greatest this year, but the injuries to him and the team doesn't help anybody. He has much playoff experience and can't really beat his cap hit.
Richard Park - This year he has proven a spot on the Pens, but what about on a healthy team? With the emergence of Vitale and if Asham does resign he is not needed. This is a guy they can afford to let walk without missing much. Park has shown some great work ethic and speed, but he is not a necessity.
Joe Vitale - Well as i just said, with Vitale emerging, he has earned a spot on this team. Not the biggest guy, but he has gotten himself into a couple fights trying to prove his worth, and he has done a good job. He's not bad on the faceoffs and stepped up when the team needed someone. At 26, he's still fairly young and will continue to get better with more NHL experience. He deserves to be resigned to the team.
Matt Niskanen - There are too many scenarios with this guy. He is having a solid season and re signing him certainly wouldn't hurt one bit. I'd be all for re signing him if the names Despres, Morrow, and Harrington weren't a part of the Pens organization. The depth that this team has on D is great which makes Niskanen much easier to let go, but he is too valuable IMHO to just let walk away. I believe he is the most likely player to be traded by the deadline. Despres has shown to be just about ready to make his spot on the roster and Engelland has stepped up his game, almost mirroring the physicality of Orpik's. Niskanen will be a key component in a trade if the Shero decides to do so. His 1.5 mil cap hit also would be nice to be able to drop.
Brent Johnson - Sure he's not having the greatest year, but he has proven to be more valuable than his cap hit of 600k in the past. Last year he was able to keep the Pens winning when Fleury was a little off. With Fleury as your starting goaltender, Johnson is perfect. Let him settle down and let his game come back to him. Give him another year as the backup, and if he continues to struggle like this for the next year, then its time to replace him. As for a backup he has done the job quite well, and i don't think it's time quite yet to throw him out.
Keven Veilleux - He needs to be resigned not only for the Baby Pens, but i think he can still make a shot at the big team. He has solid skill and has a big body which can be helpful. I still think he can become the new Mike Rupp of the team if he can still impress.
Brian Strait - Another need for the baby pens. He has also proven to be a reliable call up when injuries nag the team. He definately needs to stay, in case we see the injuries plague the team again.
Robert Bortuzzo - Almost identical to Strait, he is a good call up when needed. Great for the baby pens and can be relied on as a 6th D-man if needed.
Eric Tangradi - Hmm... He was once a solid prospect at the time, and possibly still is, but the pens don't have much need for him. He isn't able to to prove a spot on the team because he doesn't get the minutes or linemates to prove it. He will be a good add on to any trade, which i think will happen to him. Tangradi deserves a chance to be prove himself, he just can't do much with a Penguins team that has a solid 3 lines.
There are a few others like Picard, Macintyre, and Williams, but i just flat out dont see them being resigned. This is what i feel could happen, but anything can really happen. There are some other Pens players i feel who can be traded, but didn't want to include them because they are not FA's. Hope you enjoyed it, and feel free to voice what you think will happen, or what the team should do.