clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Radim Zohorna placed on waivers as the Penguins’ opening night roster comes into focus

Explaining a curious move and what the Pens’ roster out of training camp will look like.

NHL: SEP 25 Penguins at Blue Jackets Photo by Graham Stokes/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Penguins trimmed their camp roster to 28 players on Sunday, and Radim Zohorna remained on the NHL roster.

Perhaps sneaky enough, Pittsburgh also elected to place Zohorna on the waiver wire today, despite not cutting the forward out of their training camp roster.

The reason for this could be obvious - the Pens need centers to play in their NHL exhibition game tomorrow in Detroit with Teddy Blueger and Jeff Carter dealing with injuries. Zohorna can do that (assuming he doesn’t get claimed when announced tomorrow afternoon). And he has been named as a part of Pittsburgh’s lineup against the Red Wings.

If Zohorna clears waivers, the Pens will be safe to pass him down to Wilkes-Barre in the AHL later before the NHL final roster is due. This is probably the most likely and best case scenario for Pittsburgh.

This move indicates that Pittsburgh doesn’t see Zohorna making the team out of camp, despite a somewhat encouraging performance for him in the pre-season.

If/when Zohorna eventually departs the Pens’ NHL roster in the coming days, that action will essentially set Pittsburgh’s forward group coming out of camp.

The Pens have 16 forwards at the moment on their roster - including Zohorna. It’s known that Jonathan Gruden is injured and is not going to end up on the final 23-player healthy NHL starting roster. Sam Poulin was away from the club on a leave for personal/family reasons, but is expected to return and be in the lineup tomorrow night against Detroit.

If Gruden is out for longer than the pre-season, he will be moved to the IR and cleared off the NHL roster that way. Poulin’s long-term roster viability is linked in large part to the Carter/Blueger injuries, which neither are expected to last into the regular season. Cut away Gruden and Poulin and that brings the Pens to 14 forwards.

That 14 includes Zohorna. But should Zohorna clears waivers he also will likely be sent to Wilkes-Barre in the near future. If Zohorna is claimed by another team, he will be obviously out of the organization.

With that in mind, 16 will drop down to make the 13 starting forwards on the roster for Pittsburgh. That means the forwards are about set for the start of the regular season, barring any injuries to their top guys.

The only question is what the Pens might do with Poulin, who conceivably could be in the picture if the injuries to Carter or Blueger end up being more bothersome than initially expected. More than likely though, once the veterans return to health, Poulin and Zorhorna are the easy final cuts to set the NHL lineup.

Adjusting for the return for those short-term injuries, the Pens’ opening night forward group should look something like:

Jake Guentzel - Sidney Crosby - Rickard Rakell
Jason Zucker - Evgeni Malkin - Bryan Rust
Danton Heinen - Jeff Carter - Kasperi Kapanen
Brock McGinn - Teddy Blueger - Josh Archibald
Extra: Ryan Poehling

Now that the issue about the forwards who will start the season in Pittsburgh has become more or less settled, the focus for the final week of the pre-season will turn squarely to the defense.

The Pens are carrying nine healthy defensemen on the NHL training camp roster at the moment (plus injured WB/S captain Taylor Fedun, who will be sent to the AHL once healthy). Out of the nine healthy blueliners, Pittsburgh is likely to only to be able to keep seven defenders and still be able to fit under the salary cap.

This means that barring any injuries or trades, two blueliners must be assigned to Wilkes-Barre in the near future out of Mark Friedman, Pierre-Olivier Joseph, Chad Ruhwedel and Ty Smith.

Waiving Radim Zohorna (but also hoping to keep him to play in Detroit tomorrow night) goes a long way to say how the Pens will start the regular season. As long as there are no unfriendly surprises with injury, the forwards are now in place. For the final days of the pre-season, expect to watch a lot of drama play out on the back end of the lineup as Pittsburgh puts the finishing pieces in place on their roster to start the year.