Ray Shero and Dan Bylsma both requested Trial by Combat.
Sadly, their fates were already sealed.
They both ignored sound advice and fell on their swords. Some will say valiantly, others will say without taking advantage of the resources that were offered and available to them.
So with that said, I couldn’t help myself and came up with list of UFA's we should look at for production and depth. As we know the UFA market for Dmen is slim so it looks like Nisky and Orpik will have their pick of offers. Therefore, I believe looking at Anton Belov, Mark Fayne, Nikita Nikitin and Mike Kostka for stability and depth is a necessity.
Belov recently left Edmonton unceremoniously to go back to the KHL after criticizing Coach Eakins. So who knows if he's at fault or not. Originally his name stood out to me due to his size and defensive accumen. And after looking at his metrics you can see why he would be a welcome addition. At first glance you'll notice he's under 50% CF but his relative numbers are strong. Most importantly my eyeballs approve. If he's interested in the NHL we should explore this option since he won't break the bank.
Mark Fayne is solid for depth and would be an adequate replacement for Orpik if we can't sign him. And in case we want Harrington or Dumoulin to further marinate in WB, Fayne could bring his refined defensive awareness from NJ and stabilize a young D corp. Not only is he RH but he's big and has experience facing quality competition while logging substantial minutes.
Nikita Nikitin is pricier but worth kicking the tires on. I would link his metrics but we all saw him perform well for Columbus. Not the most physical but would be decent replacement for Nisky or Orpik. However I would rather try to re-sign Nisky and sign one of the lesser expensive dmen mentioned above. Problem is that UFA market for dmen suggests that Nisky will probably be offered more than the 4.5M that I would set as the max for Nisky.
Kostka is 28 but has been void of an opportunity up until this past season. Was stuck behind Chicago’s depth but asserted himself adequately in tampa this season. Believe if given the opportunity could fill depth needs well. Mobile RH dman with quality IQ. Won't bust the cap and I'm sure is hungry to prove what he can do with the opportunity.
Moving on to the Forwards, I'll probably sound like a broken record to those who have read my stuff in the past. So without further a due this conceivably could be our squad:
kuni-sid-evil stewie(4.15M) = 16.7M
super duper-geno-Vrbata(2.5-3M) = 16.25M
raymond/pouliot(1.5-2M)-Sutter-BB = 6M
winnik-goc-payerl/adams = 5M
Maatta-Letang = 8.144M
Flower + Z = 5.6M
Obviously the D pairings are up in the air subject to how things go with Nisky and Orpik. And for cap purposes I don't see how we can keep both PM and Piece, especially if signing a younger Nisky is at all a priority. Which according to Mr. Burkle and Mario is something they want to explore. So the known unknown in this situation would be who we get back in a trade.
Breaking down the wingers you see in the line chart, you'll see that they all fill a specific need or role. Evil Stewie as you all know is Chris Stewart who ended up in buffalo at the deadline so I refuse to believe he isn't available for the right price. I sincerely hope, at long last and after much begging and pleading that getting Sid some BEEF will be one of the top priorities for Mario and Mr. Burkle. I've been pleading for this move going back several seasons. Few posses the traits evil stewie brings to the table. Not only is he affordable and attainable but will finally bring Sid the kind of subtle protection that's been lacking. He's scored 28 goals twice without much Center support and during lockout season was on pace to have 30+ goals. And if Ol' Man Billy G can keep up with sid so can Evil Stewie. Even if he bounces around in top 9 his addition is NOT optional.
Radim Vrbata is a skilled RW who has been on my radar for several seasons now. Always viewed him as someone who can up his production if given opportunity to skate with a high end center. Even if he'll be 33 by next season you can pencil him in for 20-30 goals in any given season and if placed on geno's RW could end up outperforming the 2.5-3M we'd need to offer him by approaching his career high of 35 goals. Add super duper to the mix and you have yourself a very well rounded line with speed, grit, Character, skill and finish.
For the 3rd line I've identified Mason Raymond and Benoit Pouliot as options. Some of you may recall me pounding the table for Raymond last off season. We signed Kobasew instead. Sigh.
Pouliot, as we've seen is a solid bottom 6 player with speed and a straight line skill set that would blend well with Sutter and BB's skill and grit. Raymond may have better offensive touch and instincts but both can PK and either one would be a welcome addition to our top 9.
Winnik would be a solid addition for 4th line and teamed with Goc would make for a formidable 4th line that could cycle, play PK minutes and provide the size and grit our bottom 6 has been lacking. Goc was on my wish list at the deadline and his versatility and usefulness also makes him someone high on my priority list this off season. Anytime you have a center that can win 80% of FO's on any given night and can average 55-60% consistently, you have a center that is responsible for a significant swing in time of possession. And teamed up with Sutter can replace Staal by committee for matchup purposes.
You may have also noticed that Real Deal isn't in the picture. I've been a HUGE real deal supporter but really got turned off with the careless and even Lazy penalties. But 40 goal scorers don't grown on trees so I have no doubt that there would be interest in his services. Especially when you consider how correctable his flaws are. But for cap and depth purposes trading PM, Piece and Neal should be explored. It takes 2 to make a deal but somehow I think MN and GM Fletcher would listen if we called to gauge his interest in PM and Neal.
PM would get the extension he's earned and Neal would get a fresh start skating with the highly talented Granlund. Both would be going to an up and coming team and would help them take the next step. And with Heatley and Moulson coming off the books they would be foolish to not show interest in Real Deal.
However, we can't just give these guys away. Chances are that Granlund and Dumba are off limits. So I wouldn't accept anything less than Charlie Coyle, Jonas Brodin, Christian Folin and either Johan Gustafsson(goalie) or Gustav Oloffson.
Coyle can play center but I envision him being an effective RW. I'm sure MN won't want to part with Brodin but we would need to stick to our guns on making sure he would be included. No sense in trading a 40 goal scorer and world class dman unless we can get some legit talent coming back. Gustafsson and Oloffson are far from proven but either one would be a welcome addition for organizational depth.
The main reason I'm looking at MN is so that we don't send PM somewhere he doesn't want to go. The way he performed this season and playoff would make him a tough loss but don't think we can sign him to extension and there is something to be said for trading a player at peak value. X factor in this scenario would be whether or not Scuderi wants a trade. If we move his salary than keeping PM is a definite possibility unless we get an offer too good to pass up. Which is the ONLY way I consider trading PM. Not in a hurry to trade Piece either but clearly changes are inevitable and wouldn't shock me if they both request trades.
So if you add up the known knowns you come up with a payroll of roughly 57-58M for 13 forwards, 2 dmen and 2 goalies. That leaves roughly 10-11M for 5 dmen. If PM stays that leaves 5-6M for 4 dmen. Can we sign Nisky at 4.5M and keep PM? Only if we don't improve bottom 6 in above fashion. So a less expensive gibby, megna or sill can be employed in the stead of Winnik, Pouliot or Raymond.
But keeping Nisky and Orpik appear to be long shots so with that in mind Despres, Bortuzzo, Harrington and Dumoulin add up to roughly 3M. Which means we don't necessarily have to trade PM or Piece. Factor in those 2 and you're only left with 2M or so for final 3 spots. Signing Belov and/or Fayne won't be possible and Nisky would be elsewhere, which underscores importance of exploring above options.
If we follow this outline our next Trial by Combat may have more of a festive outcome.
The content expressed in fanposts does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the staff here at Pensburgh.com. FanPosts are opinions expressed by fans of various teams throughout the league but may be more Pittsburgh-centric for obvious reasons.