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Filling out a 4th line

How will the Pittsburgh Penguins round out their team for next season? Plenty of options to discuss, but also a salary cap to consider.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Using General Fanager projections (with the change made of demoting Tim Erixon and promoting Derrick Pouliot and Sergei Plotnikov) the Pittsburgh Penguins have just over $2.98 million in salary cap space for 2015-16. They have 7 defensemen and 2 goalies on the roster, both good enough to play. They 10 forwards on the roster, and need 2-3 more bodies to round it out.

Right now, for discussion purposes the team roughly looks like:

Chris Kunitz - Sidney Crosby - Phil Kessel

David Perron - Evgeni Malkin - Patric Hornqvist

Plotnikov - Brandon Sutter - Pascal Dupuis

??????????? - ??????????? - Beau Bennett

(The left side may change depending on what direction the Pens want to go, but that's more or less the picture, for discussions as of today at least.)

Now the question becomes, who can the Penguins sign on the cheap to round out the team? Given that it looks like the 4th line initially may feature Bennett, you would think this should be probably a more "skilled" type of line.

All names are in no particular order, other than this first one here.

Stephen Weiss

Bowser broke down Weiss earlier this month. Weiss had a disappointing stint in Detroit after signing a big contract and got bought out. He's not as talented or have the track record of a Brad Richards, but the situation could be similar. Look no further than the contracts that Blake Comeau ($2.4 million for 3 years) and Steve Downie ($1.75 million) signed. Or go back further and look at the pretty penny guys like Joe Vitale and Deryk Engelland got paid.

Weiss and Fleury square off (USA Today)

If a player comes to Pittsburgh, succeeds and goes back on the market, there's often a payday. If Weiss is willing to sign a Richards-to-Chicago-esque 1 year, $1 million contract, this would be a great spot for him, and also for the team. A 4th line with Weiss-Bennett looks more like a poor man's 2nd line than the dregs of the NHL (Craig Adams, Tanner Glass, Zach Sill) that have bogged down the Pens 4th line in recent seasons.

It's hard to say any unsigned 4th line/replacement level player is a priority, but if Weiss was interested in Pittsburgh and the money worked out, that should be a priority for the Pens.

Patrick Dwyer

This is a player who intrigues me, being as he played 2 minutes a night on the PK unit last season. I reached out to Bob at our friends at Canes Country and he said: "He is a very fast skater, maybe the fastest on the team last year, but his scoring dried up.  He is also a smallish guy which makes his job on the 4th line tougher when going against bigger, stronger players. He's an above average penalty killer, so that coupled with his speed makes him an interesting possibility, but he certainly has his flaws."

If the Penguins are looking for a more "traditional muck & grind" 4th line, a unit of Scott Wilson - Oskar Sundqvist - Patrick Dwyer would at least offer a lot of speed.

David Moss

Another guy previously discussed here. At 33 he's long in the tooth, but he gives size, PK'ing ability and pretty good advanced stats. If the rest of the line is young with guys like Wilson, Sundqvist and Bryan Rust , then a vet like Moss might help anchor and settle that line.

Internal options

Conor Sheary

You know his story by now- the small, but skilled undrafted player. Is he ready to make the jump? Unknown now but that question will be answered at training camp. It's great that a player like Sheary is at least an admitted candidate by the front office to win an NHL job, if he earns it. That's a sea-change from the past when 4th liners were unskilled pluggers.

Scott Wilson

I thought he had a good stint last year in the NHL, and the fact he was inserted into 3 NHL playoff games tells you everything you need to know about how the coaching staff and management feel about Wilson. The biggest question on Wilson might be his overall health and if his wrist (which kept him out of summer prospect camp) is strong enough to allow him to jump right into the NHL or if he needs some time to rehab and start back in Wilkes-Barre.

Bryan Rust

Loved Tom Fitzgerald's quote about Rust over the weekend: "If someone asked Bryan Rust what position he plays, I hope his answer would be, ‘Forward. Left, right or if you need me to play center, I'll play it. He's someone we're going to definitely give a shot to make this team, and his versatility is a big asset."

Rust will need to be versatile, being as Bennett works best on the RW and the top 3 RW's are locked, if healthy in Kessel, Hornqvist and Dupuis. If Rust makes the Pens out of training camp this year, it might have to be on the left side.

Oskar Sundqvist

Based off his solid NHL training camp last fall, and 2 years of experience playing against men, many Pens fans are very bullish on Sundqvist earning a spot on the NHL team, either as a center or a wing. At age 21 and brand new to North America, this is a big ask of a young, green player to instantly jump in and be a solid player in the NHL from Jump St. Maybe Sundqvist is capable and ready, but maybe he won't win the spot. There's certainly enough competition (especially if the Pens sign a center-capable player) that Sundqvist will earn his spot.
In the comments, let us know your ideal 4th line. Keep in mind to keep under $3 million and leave a little space for emergencies, eh?