With the bulk of the exhibition games now completed — including two games in two days this weekend — the time was right for the Penguins to make a second round of cuts to their roster today, and they did so, nearly halving the group.
From the team:
Pittsburgh assigned 17 players to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins of the American Hockey League, including forwards Andrew Agozzino, Justin Almeida, Anthony Angello, Kasper Bjorkqvist, Joseph Blandisi, Joseph Cramarossa, Thomas Di Pauli, Ryan Haggerty, Sam Lafferty, Jake Lucchini, Sam Miletic and Oula Palve; defensemen Niclas Almari, Kevin Czuczman, Pierre-Olivier Joseph and David Warsofsky; and goaltender Emil Larmi.
Agozzino, Blandisi, Cramarossa, Czuczman, Di Pauli, Haggerty and Warsofsky all must clear waivers before they can join WBS.
The Penguins have also returned forwards Nathan Legare (Baie-Comeau; QMJHL) and Sam Poulin (Sherbrooke; QMJHL) to their respective junior teams.
The Pens have two more preseason games, both at home, Wednesday against Detroit and then Saturday against Buffalo. This last week of the preseason should be where we really start to see the NHL players getting tuned up for the regular season. Kris Letang and Sidney Crosby still haven’t made their preseason debuts — and Crosby was on the ice with his teammates Sunday after a Saturday “workload management” excused absence.
The lineup that remains:
Goaltenders (3): Casey DeSmith, Tristan Jarry, Matt Murray
Defensemen (10): Brian Dumoulin, Erik Gudbranson, Jack Johnson, Kris Letang, John Marino, Marcus Pettersson, Juuso Riikola, Chad Ruhwedel, Justin Schultz, Zach Trotman
Forwards (14): Zach Aston-Reese, Nick Bjugstad, Teddy Blueger, Sidney Crosby, Alex Galchenyuk, Jake Guentzel, Patric Hornqvist, Adam Johnson, Dominik Kahun, Evgeni Malkin, Jared McCann, Bryan Rust, Dominik Simon, Brandon Tanev
The surprises might be that Lafferty was cut and Marino remains. Both have played in all four pre-season games to date. While the Penguins certainly do not need to keep any extra forwards, they’ve still kept Adam Johnson (at least for the time being) and opted to send Lafferty down to Wilkes-Barre prior to their training camp opening tomorrow.
Marino also has almost no shot at remaining in the NHL, but has clearly impressed the staff with his play and ability in his first professional season. If there’s been any sustained unexpected positive surprise from a prospect this fall, so far it would be him for sure.
Legare and to a lesser extent Poulin also impressed and both have signed entry level contracts (that will now slide one year). But they still receive signing bonuses which is always a good camp for a young player to secure some money.
The Pens need to be under a 23 man healthy roster and the upper limit of the salary cap by next week. They still might have a tough decision on whether to carry eight defensemen or make a tough cut they might rather not (like Ruhwedel or Riikola). They also need to come to a determination on which backup goalie they want to keep to go along with Murray and waive or trade the other.
But, other than that, the Pens’ roster is almost exactly what anyone would have expected it to be all off-season. There’s no Juuso Riikola in 2018 magical story really replaying this year, though it certainly is nice to see Marino earn a few more unexpected days in NHL camp.