A weekly look at the nuggets in Elliotte Friedman’s 31 Thoughts that can apply to the Pittsburgh Penguins and stuff that captures our interest from the news and reports going around the league at the more national level.
1. As rookies approach their nine-game marks, recognize that most teams worry more about the next threshold much more than this one. Although a 10th appearance erodes one season on the contract, a player does not gain credit towards free agency or salary arbitration until they are past the 40-game threshold. (They do not have to play, just have to be on the roster.) In fact, there are teams/agents who think keeping a rookie past nine (but not 40) benefits the club when it comes to a second contract, because stats are lower.
This is important for the Penguins with regards to Daniel Sprong. As you may remember (seems so long ago now!) just two years ago in the fall of 2015 then-coach Mike Johnston kept Daniel Sprong around for more than 10 games, even though he was still only playing 8:43 per game. So that burned his ELC year, and Sprong will be a restricted free agent after this season.
But, like Friedman says above, this won’t hurt the Pens (or help Sprong) for getting closer to UFA or arbitration, which is good for the team’s cap. Also, it shouldn’t be a tough negotiation with no leverage for the young player with not much of an NHL resume. So despite the misplay by the Pens with how they handled Sprong in 2015, it should have minimal impact in the future, at least
6. A lot of talk about penalties in Calgary, but don’t expect the Flames to ask Matthew Tkachuk to change much. He’s taken six, two back of Sidney Crosby for the NHL lead, but has drawn nine, which is best. The Flames didn’t like a roughing penalty Tkachuk took at the 20-minute mark of the second period last Thursday against Carolina, since it was 200 feet from their net. They’d like him to drop that foul, but don’t want to tamper too much with his style.
Speaking of Crosby, something got into his cornflakes. He’s already got more penalty minutes in 2017-18 (28) than he had all of last season (24). He is on-pace for a whopping 255, although I’m sure that pace will ebb. Crosby’s career-high is 110, from his rookie year.
Far be it from anyone to tell Crosby how to play hockey but hey, he probably does need to tone it down a little and stop taking so many penalties. Which is weird since the refs are supposed to be in the tank for him and all, according to many fans, so that doesn’t quite make sense..
31. At the ceremony, Mario Lemieux received the Keith Magnuson Man of the Year Award, Craig Cunningham the Ace Bailey Award of Courage. In a decision that was made before Gord Downie’s passing, The Tragically Hip earned the Honorary Alumni Award — which gives an individual or group who’s never played in the NHL a one-day membership in the NHLAA.
Congrats to Mario Lemieux!
And, not a Friedman thought but the claiming of Antti Niemi made me think about goalie depth. Last year it was a major reason (perhaps the defining reason) why the Pens were able to win the Stanley Cup again after Matt Murray got hurt and Marc-Andre Fleury played so well against Columbus and Washington.
Fast forward a few months and the goalie situation is Murray and....1 career NHL game in Tristan Jarry, none in Casey DeSmith. With as much as GM Jim Rutherford openly favors and covets goaltending depth, I wonder how long this situation lasts. Obviously they don’t have the trade pieces or cap space to make a major external move in a trade, but where there’s a will there can be a way.
Also, from the for what it’s worth file, 10 games in (12% of the season) and Pittsburgh’s on a 106 point pace for the standings, despite not really playing all that well for the most part. Big picture, things aren’t so bad besides that injury bug starting to creep back out again.