Training camp opens on Friday, so based on the list of players invited let’s set the stage for how it looks going into the beginning of practices and preseason games.
(* indicates AHL contract only)
LOCKS (11) — Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Dominik Kahun, Patric Hornqvist, Jake Guentzel, Bryan Rust, Dominik Simon, Brandon Tanev, Nick Bjugstad, Alex Galchenyuk, Jared McCann
PROBABLY ON GOOD SIDE OF THE BUBBLE (2) — Zach Aston-Reese, Teddy Blueger
NEED A GREAT CAMP (4) — Adam Johnson, Sam Lafferty, Joseph Blandisi, Oula Palve
LIKELY NO CHANCE (The rest) — Andrew Agozzino, Justin Almeida, Anthony Angello, Jordy Bellerive, Kasper Bjorkqvist, Joseph Cramarossa, Thomas Di Pauli, Jan Drozg, Ryan Haggerty, Nathan Legare, Jake Lucchini, Sam Miletic, Samuel Poulin, Ben Sexton*
DETAIL: While a trade, if necessary to open up salary cap space, it could change the outlook of things, otherwise the situation is pretty much settled. Even Aston-Reese and Blueger are likely pretty secure safe, but their salary is fully bury-able in the minors if necessary.
And 13 locks and no spots up for grabs isn’t as fun, is it? Besides, how on lock can a fourth line job be? By definition those spots never really have players with firm grasps on it, they’re very inter-changeable depending on performance. There’s probably the outside chance tremendous performances from the likes of guys like Palve, Johnson or Lafferty could change thinking or force the issue, though it’s not likely to be the case.
So admittedly the forward group is fairly known to start this season and only a future event (a trade, or injury) really opens the door to other possibilities. But those things are known to happen and change the picture in a moment’s notice, so stay tuned!
LOCKS (5) — Kris Letang, Justin Schultz, Brian Dumoulin, Erik Gudbranson, Jack Johnson
NEEDS A CONTRACT (1) — Marcus Pettersson
7TH DEFENSEMAN SPOT (1) — Juuso Riikola, Chad Ruhwedel, Zach Trotman
NOT THIS CAMP (6) — Matt Abt*, Calen Addison, Niclas Almari, Kevin Czuczman, Pierre-Olivier Joseph, Michael Kim*, John Marino, David Warsofsky
DETAIL: Likewise the defense is also pretty well sorted out. Other than shedding Olli Maatta the Penguins look to enter camp with largely the same group that closed out the last three games of the playoffs.
Behind them though, the depth is a bit better with Almari, Joseph and Marino all turning pro this year. That’s plenty exciting, though it remains unknown — and probably unlikely — that any are NHL options this season. Trusted AHL vets in Czuczman, Trotman and Warsofsky could probably pull the random NHL game or two in a pinch, as has been known to happen.
The real item to watch — as we’ve been watching all summer — is what domino falls with Marcus Pettersson and his next contract. In a perfect world, the Pens would love to lock him up long-term right now. But it’s not a perfect world (thanks to a big money fourth line free agent signing) so the team is left with a crunch. They could solve that a bit by waiving one of Riikola/Ruhwedel, which they surely would prefer not do, but such is life.
LOCKS (2) — Matt Murray, Casey DeSmith
A TRADE, OR?..... (1) — Tristan Jarry
ORGANIZATIONAL DEPTH (3) — Alex D’Orio, Emil Larmi, Dustin Tokarski*
DETAIL: The team could elect to waive DeSmith and keep Jarry, that would save $400,000 to the salary cap if DeSmith cleared waivers — which he might not as one of the league’s best backups last year.
The smarter play is to keep the better goalie to be the NHL backup, and DeSmith has always proven time and again that he outperforms Jarry head-to-head. It’s likely to be seen again this preseason and make the decision an easy one.
Outside of that, will Jarry clear waivers? At this point, why not? There’s no point for a team to claim him unless he was in their plans to stay on their NHL roster. Unless there’s an injury somewhere, it’s tough to see that happening.
Beyond that bit of intrigue, D’Orio and Larmi turning pro is an intriguing infusion of young talent to the position in the organization.