May 7, 2012; Glendale, AZ, USA; Nashville Predators defenseman Ryan Suter (20) in game five of the 2012 Western Conference semifinals at Jobing.com Arena. The Coyotes beat the Predators 2-1. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-US PRESSWIRE
6 days short of free agency, here's one imagination of the roster, using the handy capgeek roster tool:
CAPGEEK.COM USER GENERATED ROSTER
My Custom Lineup
Chris Kunitz ($3.725m) / Evgeni Malkin ($8.700m) / James Neal ($5.000m)
? / Sidney Crosby ($8.700m) / Pascal Dupuis ($1.500m)
Matt Cooke ($1.800m) / Brandon Sutter ($2.067m) / Tyler Kennedy ($2.000m)
Eric Tangradi ($0.726m) / Joe Vitale ($0.550m) / Craig Adams ($0.675m)
Dustin Jeffrey ($0.575m)
Brian Strait ($0.650m)
Marc-Andre Fleury ($5.000m)
Tomas Vokoun ($2.000m)
CAPGEEK.COM TOTALS (follow @capgeek on Twitter)
(these totals are compiled without the bonus cushion)
SALARY CAP: $70,300,000; CAP PAYROLL: $54,224,333; BONUSES: $0
CAP SPACE (20-man roster): $16,075,667
We forsee the writing on the wall of a Paul Martin trade here soon, and figuring modest raises for Niskanen, Strait and Tangradi, here's a roster. Obviously you'd hope to sign a top 6 forward and a top 4 defenseman. Ryan Suter and Zach Parise are the big names, and with about $16 million in (current) salary cap space, the Penguins seem to be in position to make pretty healthy offers to each, should they choose.
Keep in mind the Penguins are also expecting to consider re-signing Steve Sullivan and Arron Asham this week. Both could be good options- Sully provided 48 points and nice ability on the PP to carry the puck through the zone, and Asham would add a little more grit to a 4th line that could currently use it. Regardless of what happens, from the trades Ray Shero made (especially the Michalek salary dump) it's pretty clear he's positioned the team to have a lot of room and only 2 key needs.
The framework of the team is ready, now the question (that we'll have to wait until Sunday to see answered) is can Shero and the Pens use their recruiting abilities to sell top-tier free agents like Suter and Parise on coming to Pittsburgh, and not some other suitor, of which the two players will have no shortage.
It's not going to be as simple as "offer 'em both $8 million and plan the parade route", but just as an exercise, this should go to show that Pittsburgh has a lot more flexibility and options that even a few days ago.