TIOPS DAILY FIVE
*Rumblings, Musings, Opinions*
1. Once ownership delivered a mandate to Jim Rutherford immediately after the Penguins first round loss to the Rangers that trading Evgeni Malkin would not even be a discussion internally, the Penguins had two proper ways to attack this off-season.
I: Go younger in sort of a re-tooling manner, stay competitive, but look more towards 16-17 and 17-18 by shying away from the win-at-all cost mentality in adding marginal players who don’t move the needle and see if players like Kasperi Kapanen, Derrick Pouliot, can be the ones in 1-2 years who can provide the big jolt.
II. The other scenario was going out and adding a true game changer, elite type player who has the ability to impact a game in a way that few others can. That’s the direction Rutherford went in adding Phil Kessel, and previously also looking into Ryan O’Reilly, who is a game changer with his two-way play, just not in scoring goals.
Adding a T.J. Oshie or Jeff Skinner would have helped the Penguins, but not in the significant matter they need. Phil Kessel is that player who could provide the home run the Penguins need. He’s far from a perfect player and he was only available for the cost the Penguins got him at because he has some baggage and is not a complete player, but he does something better than almost everyone in the NHL and that’s scoring goals.
Oshie, Skinner or Sharp could have been good support players here, Kapanen also might have been eventually, but the Penguins have enough of those. They needed to add a player who can be a great support player who not only puts in 40 goals but also elevates the play of Crosby or Malkin. Kessel has a great chance to be that player here.
The best goal scorer the Penguins had during the Crosby era was James Neal. Like Kessel he was also a 40 goal scorer but the difference is Kessel being a superior player at creating his own scoring chances.
The Penguins have bolstered the top-6 where there’s no more excuses that Crosby and Malkin no longer have enough help but where this roster remains flawed is on the 4th line and the backend. Don’t plan the Cup parade just yet.
2. The myth surrounding Evgeni Malkin and Patric Hornqvist as linemates.
[Patric Hornqvist Goals For per 60
With Sidney Crosby 3.61
With Evgeni Malkin 4.05]
Having an excellent forechecker and net-front player has always been ideal for Malkin, dating back to Ryan Malone in 2007-2008.
If Mike Johnson doesn’t give Sidney Crosby the first crack at playing with Phil Kessel than he’s overthinking things.
3. Has the interview period made NHL GM’s smarter? Some Executives believe it has. It’s been fascinating to watch how many agents over played the market. Cody Franson is still out there because the agent thought he was a lock to get his client Matt Niskanen money. Justin Williams agent Thane Campbell was shocked at contending teams not willing to go 3-4 years for his client. What’s been impressive was General Manager’s only dishing out 2-3 year terms to players like Ward, Vermette, and Williams, who fell in that 32-34 year range.
Elsewhere, Matt Beleskey turned down a 4 year, $16 million from Anaheim. The Beleskey camp was certain he was going to get a deal in the 5 years, $27 million range. Beleskey ended up with a 5 year, $19 million contract from the Bruins. It’s going to be the summer of bargain signings, especially these next couple weeks where quality players remain out there.
4. Which top-6 trade target was the primary focus of the highly publicized animated hour long discussion on the draft floor at the Penguins table where things got heated between Tom Fitzgerald and Jim Rutherford?
It was Fitzgerald’s frustration of Rutherford breaking off talks with the Blues for T.J. Oshie, a source says.
5. The Pirates have been dealt their first significant injury from the big league roster with Josh Harrison going to miss more than a month with a torn ligament in his left thumb. Can Jung Ho Kang handle the workload at third base?
Kang’s hitting just .216 since June 1 with 1 home run, 8 RBI. He has just 3 extra base hits during that span.
The other injury situation to now watch is Starling Marte who’s dealing with a left side injury.