The Penguins finalized their roster Monday in advance of the NHL's 5:00 PM deadline, except that they really didn't.
Injuries to Kris Letang and Tomas Vokoun, as well as the team's above-cap salary situation, made Monday's roster announcement an exercise in clandestine cap maneuvering.
Here's what we think we know.
G Jeff Zatkoff
D Harrison Ruopp
D Olli Maatta
F Matt D'Agostini
Vokoun's long-term status is up in the air, so Zatkoff gets the nod in lieu of any free agent parts-bin signings. D'Agostini, injured during an early preseason game, is still on the roster but has not received Injured Reserve designation. Without that IR status, he's likely to be ready for the first game or soon thereafter.
The big surprises are on defense, where Olli Maatta, just entering his first full season in professional hockey, will apparently stick with the club.
Letang's injury no doubt made room for the youngster, who will get, at most, a nine-game cup of coffee before being returned to Wilkes-Barre Scranton. Any more than nine games and a full year would be burned off his three-year entry-level contract. With so many NHL-level defensemen in the system, keeping him all season would be insane, regardless of how well he handles his first NHL work.
Ruopp was a surprising move. His promotion means his salary at the NHL level must be less than that of Simon Despres, who was demoted to Wilkes-Barre Scranton despite having the NHL experience that Ruopp lacks. It's hard to say definitively whether or not this is the case, though, since all of human endeavor lacks the vocabulary to describe what's going on here.
F Beau Bennett
F Andrew Ebbett
F Chris Conner
D Simon Despres
D Derrick Pouliot
Lots of paperwork here. Beau Bennett goes to Wheeling until Thursday, when he'll be back in Pittsburgh and in the lineup against the Devils. This is nearly identical to 2010, when the Penguins sent Eric Tangradi to Wheeling in a similar move that we also don't understand.
Despres, too, is back in the minors. He was a likely candidate to be demoted, given his two-way contract and waiver-exempt status. Letang's injury seemed to be his opening to remain with the club, but call-ups for Maatta and Ruopp have made Despres the odd-man out. Despres is more likely to contribute to the team than either rookie. His cap hit must be what's keeping him on the other side of the state.
Ebbett was a long-shot to make the team, and didn't. Pouliot will continue his development with his junior team in Portland.
Who's Got an Owie
D Kris Letang
G Tomas Vokoun
The Pens were going to have a hard enough time making their roster fit under the cap without injuries and LTIR status clouding up the numbers.
Letang, apparently injured during a practice last week, has been placed on injured reserve. How much of his $3.5 AAV will be available to bring up other players on a replacement basis will depend on the duration of his IR stint.
As for Vokoun, reports have had him contemplating retirement and preparing to resume light workouts in the same day. His injury and LTIR status seem to say he'll be unavailable for a significant amount of time, but its irresponsible to speculate.
In any event, it'll be up to Zatkoff to prove he can hold down the backup job as long as needed.
Chuck Kobasew hasn't been tendered an offer, but he hasn't been released. He'll remain on his pro-tryout contract until one of those two things happen, similar to Mark Eaton's path to the roster last season.
If Kobasew signs, the Penguins will have 14 forwards on the roster, including Bennett (Conner still appears on the roster via the team site, but was waived on Sunday). The team may have the room to sign Kobasew once the season begins and the gymnastics subside a bit, and the team seemed to be high on his ability to fill Matt Cooke's vacancy as a veteran, crash-bang forward.
Everything here is a lie. See you Thursday.