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Insider Only Morning Pens Buzz on Scouting Meetings, Open competition in goal, Bortuzzo/Strait & Knuble interest?

The Penguins pro scouting meetings are underway this week beginning yesterday and here’s some rumblings coming out of Penguin circles:
— As the dust has settled a bit since the signing of Tomas Vokoun on Monday to a two year, $4 million deal, strong indications now out of the organization is that this signing was made with implications of their being an open competition next season at the goaltender position. Marc Andre Fleury has responded well in the past when challenged by a backup playing well with prime examples being Ty Conklin in 2007-2008 and Brent Johnson in the first month of the 2010-2011 season. What’s different here is the type of goaltender Vokoun is, compared to Conklin and Johnson who were true backups and not number 1 types, and Fleury regardless of how things played out in 2008 and 2010, was not going to lose his job in the long-run to either goalie. This situation will be different with Vokoun around.
Another reason to expect an open competition next season is head coach Dan Bylsma. Bylsma who has two years left on his deal, does not enter the season on the hot seat in the eyes of GM Ray Shero, but the pressureis going to be on Bylsma to get off to a good start after another early playoff exit. He’s not going to be married to Fleury and feel he has to stick with him, a source says.
Tomas Vokoun receiving a no trade clause makes it ten players on the current roster who have received some sort of no trade or no movement clauses in their contract (when eligible): Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, James Neal, Chris Kunitz, Matt Cooke, Brooks Orpik, Paul Martin, Zbynek Michalek, Marc Andre Fleury and Tomas Vokoun.
— In the past couple weeks, I’m told GM Ray Shero and assistant GM Jason  Botterill have had a number of internal discussions with team scouts and the coaching staff about defensemen Brian Strait and Robert Bortuzzo making the jump for full time roles in the NHL. The consensus inside the organization is that both players are ready for full-time roles, and the pending RFA’s are hot topics internally because they are also eligible for waivers and both will be difficult to slip through waivers. Due to the fear of not clearing waivers, one or both could become trade candidates if the Penguins decide not to open a spot based on how things develop this summer. The presence of Strait, Bortuzzo and even Simon Despres could impact Matt Niskanen’s future with the team. Meanwhile, it’s hard to imagine Ben Lovejoy will be back and he’s likely trade bait.

— I think the Penguins will take a pass in the end, but there’s been some minor discussions among Penguins brass about 39 year old winger Mike Knuble who won’t be resigned by the Capitals. Despite seeing his offensive production plummett, scoring 6 goals and 18 points last season and being demoted to the 4th line after a 24 goal season in 2010-2011, the Penguins are said to see Knuble as a possible fit, front-net presence player and an excellent fit in the locker room.
At a reduced rate from the $2 million he made last season, there’s talk right now the Penguins may took a look at Knuble.
The Penguins loved Knuble going into free agency on July 1, 2009 and Dan Bylsma was the first call Knuble received at 12:00 p.m on July 1. He’s obviously not the same player he was three years ago, but just wanted to relay the info.

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William DePaoli

TIOPS Insider

William DePaoli is the President/Founder of Inside Pittsburgh Sports LLC and can be reached at

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