The Pens face some hard choices next season. Using Capgeek's Armchair GM and assuming a $68mil salary cap (Canadian $71m), here is the Pens lineup, having not resigned Sutter or Niskanen, resigning marginal RFAs for the minimum allowed, and resigning Glass at $1.4 and Engelland at $0.666 and Vitale at $0.6.These are fair, and if overestimates, all the better. As you can see, the Pens have no 3rd line to speak of.
With a little over $8million, the Pens would use most of that resigning Sutter and Nisky. I assume Sutter would go for $3.2m ($2.7 minimum) and Niskanen anywhere from $4.5m to $5m. Probably $5m.
So that's a conundrum. What are the Pens options?
Only sign one of them. This would probably be Sutter because he's an RFA. That leaves 4.78m in salary cap, though 3.78m if the Pens go with their $1m cushion. The Pens would sign 2 3rd liners hopefully.
Who can they sign, and who's affordable? Jokinen is out, probably. He will want at least $3m.
Goc can be had for $2m, and Stempniak close to his current cap at $2.5. But that's too much. Further, they don't give the Pens any size.
Two Free Agent recommendations:
Brian Boyle: Hulking. Ideal 4th line center, could play 3rd line center or wing. Currently earns $1.7. Pens could perhaps get him at $2m
Daniel Winnik: Another hulking winger. Plays for Anaheim. Earns $1.8. With a modest raise maybe he'd come back east for $2m
That would leave close to $0.78m left over. The lineup would look like this
Is this a Stanley Cup winning team? Who knows? It has more size, at least, but who knows if these two acquisitions can play the Dan Bylsma way? The Pens D will rely on Despres and Bortuzzo to be factors, and hope that Scuderi, Martin, and Letang don't miss too much action. Dumoulin would be the first call-up.
As much as I would like to resign Niskanen, it just doesn't seem possible. He will command most likely $5m on the market. Orpik is a goner unless he comes back for peanuts. It may be best that he move on.
To resign Niskanen and be more competitive in the FA market, two drastic course of action would be a) buyout Scuderi, Dupuis or both or b) Trade Malkin. A Malkin trade would only be possible under certain ideal conditions besides hell freezing over in the Pens front office, e.g., if STL flames out in the playoffs due to a lack of scoring. STL has assets to send back, and Russians for Malkin to play with.
Armchair GM is fun to play around with. In this lineup, the Pens let Nisky walk, buy out Dupuis and Scuderi, and traded Bennett and Despres's rights to Boston for Jordan Caron's and Matt Bartkowski's rights. They signed Sutter, Stempniak, Jokinen, and added Kulemin (a Malkin buddy), and Boyle.
In conclusion, if you have writer's block, or want to waste a bunch of time in your cubicle, Capgeek's Armchair GM is the way to go!