With only one more day until opening day, and the first day of the NHL season complete yesterday, the Pittsburgh Penguins were free to make more moves to get their roster looking more like it should for hockey, instead of the accounting exercise needed to fit under the NHL's salary cap. From the team release:
The Pittsburgh Penguins have made the following roster moves, it was announced today by executive vice president and general manager Ray Shero.
Forward Beau Bennett was recalled from Wheeling of the ECHL. Forward Chris Conner and defenseman Harrison Ruopp have been re-assigned to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League (AHL).
What does it all mean? Well, it's complicated but Mike Colligan was on the case (as he always is regarding the financial intricacies of the team). In a nutshell, GM Ray Shero and assistant GM Jason Botterill had to wheel and deal to put the Pens in the best financial situation possible, given the injuries to Tomas Vokoun and Kris Letang, in order to shimmy the Penguins into cap compliance without having to make a trade as previously thought.
It's not really cheating the system, but it definitely is working it as far as possible, and Shero and Botterill definitely earned their paychecks to find a way again to wiggle under the confines of the salary cap limit.
Current Depth Chart
Given all the wrangling, one would be excused for forgetting how things have shaken out - especially with Chuck Kobasew sticking around at practices but not yet agreeing to a contract with the Pens (though it appears it could happen at any moment). Here's how the opening night lineup has filtered down to after all the moves:
FORWARDS (13): Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, James Neal, Chris Kunitz, Pascal Dupuis, Jussi Jokinen, Beau Bennett, Brandon Sutter, Chuck Kobasew*, Tanner Glass, Craig Adams, Joe Vitale, Dustin Jeffrey
DEFENSEMEN (7): Paul Martin, Brooks Orpik, Rob Scuderi, Matt Niskanen, Robert Bortuzzo, Deryk Engelland, Olli Maatta**
GOALTENDERS (2): Marc-Andre Fleury, Jeff Zatkoff
INJURED RESERVE (3): Kris Letang***, Matt D'Agostini***, Tomas Vokoun****
* See update below, Kobasew signed a one year deal with the Pens today
** Maatta is an under-aged player who can only play in the NHL or must be sent back to his junior team (London Knights, OHL). He can play up to 9 NHL regular season games before a year of his entry level contract is "burned", so if the Pens play him 10+ games, he's probably up for the whole season.
*** Can't play in games until at least 10/8, salary still counts against the cap
**** Out for a minimum of 10 games due to being placed on long-term injured reserve, salary will not count against the team's salary cap while on LTIR
Caught your breath? I think that's it, for now. Who would have guessed a month ago that Chuck Kobasew, Olli Maatta and Jeff Zatkoff would be on the Pens opening-night roster? Quite a roller coaster ride and the season hasn't even begun yet. Buckle up.
As alluded to above, the Penguins have signed Chuck Kobasew to a 1 year, $550,000 contract.