The Penguins are expecting training camp to open on Saturday or Sunday (likely Sunday) of this week with the season starting on Saturday January 19th. Teams were informed today that camps won’t open no later than Sunday.
The NHL is looking to highlight rival matchups in the NHL season kicking off on Saturday the 19th and all signs continue to point to the Penguins facing the Flyers in Philadelphia for an afternoon start. The Tribune-Review first reported last week of the likelihood of Pittsburgh opening the season in Philadelphia. Word is a home and home series between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia is likely.
With a 48 game schedule in place, teams will play four games each against two divisional opponents, five games each against two divisional opponents and three games each against 10 conference rivals.
The Penguins brass hope to finalize their camp roster internally on Wednesday as they are now getting more details on rules for camp, ect.
The plan is to carry around 25 to 26 players with 15 forwards and likely 8 defensemen, although that number could end up being 9.
As of today, the Penguins still plan to bring Beau Bennett into camp and give him a look on the top-2 lines.
Expectations are 14 of the 15 forwards in camp will be Chris Kunitz, Sidney Crosby, Pascal Dupuis, James Neal, Evgeni Malkin, Matt Cooke, Brandon Sutter, Tyler Kennedy, Tanner Glass, Joe Vitale, Craig Adams, Eric Tangradi, Dustin Jeffrey and Beau Bennett.
With the decision for now to bring Bennett into camp, tying up 14 spots, are the Penguins considering any outside options to bring into camp at the forward position on a tryout basis?
It appears they haven’t rule it out as an agent of a free agent forward told me the Penguins were making some calls but a team contact tells me the options are slim and the Penguins are more likely to keep an eye on the waiver wire in the coming weeks if they are to bring in a forward.
One name who had been discussed for a potential tryout invite was 35 year old winger Radek Dvorak who would be a depth option and is still a solid checking line forward. Dvorak had 21 points last season for Stars and skates very well. Dvorak has been skating in Florida with former teammate Tomas Vokoun and agent Allan Walsh told me tonight Dvorak is looking to stay in the NHL. “Radek is actively seeking an NHL contract,” Walsh said.
To this point I haven’t heard any other names connected to the Penguins.
The slim pickings still out there include Daymond Langkow, Dominic Moore, Marco Sturm, Eric Fehr, Matt Bradley, Brad Winchester, Brian Rolston, Jason Arnott, Jason Blake, Andrew Brunette and Mike Knuble. Many on that list are headed towards retirement.
Winchester, a big tough rugged depth forward will find work and former Penguin Dominic Moore will at somepoint if he looks to play this season, but he is dealing with the tragedy of losing his wife who lost her battle with cancer.
36 year old Daymond Langkow was still a productive player last season with 11 goals and 30 points in the regular season for Phoenix but prior to the lockout, teams balked at his $2 million+ a year asking price. No longer a top-6 forward, but can still contribute in a bottom line role.
Among the aging group of forwards, a scout told me he thought 39 year old Brian Rolston still had some gas left in the tank in a shortened season. After being traded to Boston near the deadline, Rolston had 15 points in 21 games with the Bruins, including 3 points in 7 playoff games.
I checked in on him tonight and agent Steve Bartlett said he is “taking calls” on Rolston but said for Rolston to play this season, it’s going to have to be the “right situation.” Let’s just say if the Penguins called, Rolston would listen.
IS DESPRES IN CAMP PLANS?
Aside from Kris Letang, Brooks Orpik, Paul Martin, Matt Niskanen, Deryk Engelland, and Ben Lovejoy on 1-way contracts, Robert Bortuzzo and Brian Strait will also be invited to camp giving the Penguins eight defensemen.
Will that list grow?
The team continues to have internal discussions about Simon Despres and a decision on Despres is expected to be made tomorrow on whether to bring him into camp. The lockout might have hurt Despres chances to open the season in Pittsburgh more than any other young player in the organization. During the summer Bylsma had visions of Despres getting some time with Kris Letang in camp but with a shortened camp it wouldn’t be an exploratory pairing Bylsma could give an extended look . However, I’m told Bylsma continues to be a big believer in Despres being a top-6 d-men for the Penguins this season but the numbers game and Despres up and down play of late in Wilkes Barre has Penguins still mulling what to do with him.
How the Penguins blueline situation plays out remains to be seen as GM Ray Shero is already getting some preliminary calls from GM’s.
The Penguins are open to different scenarios but one team source said the safe bet is the seven defensemen opening the season in Pittsburgh being Letang, Orpik, Martin, Niskanen, Lovejoy, Engelland and Bortuzzo.
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