BREAKING DOWN PENGUINS ROSTER FOR CAMP ON DEFENSE
*= Players on 1-way contracts*
NHL DEPTH CHART
Brooks Orpik – Paul Martin
Rob Scuderi – Kris Letang
Simon Despres – Matt Niskanen
Deryk Engelland – Robert Bortuzzo
Burning Questions: How the Penguins get under the cap: The Penguins enter camp around $1.1 million over the cap. It has all eyes on Matt Niskanen’s future. Niskanen a free agent next summer carries a $2.3 million cap hit and will be the subject of trade rumors all camp. The Penguins, though, have some other options to help them get under such as combining to move a defensemen (Robert Bortuzzo or Deryk Engelland) and a forward via trade to get under. Although this is something the Penguins don’t want to do, another option discussed in the organization was sending Simon Despres ($840,000 NHL cap hit) down to the minors for the start of the season were the Penguins to need immediate cap space.
The Penguins enter camp with what they feel could be the deepest blueline they’ve had in the Dan Bylsma era at the NHL level. The key will be the top-2 pairs with Paul Martin – Brooks Orpik, and Rob Scuderi – Kris Letang. How the third pairing shakes out remains to be seen due to the Penguins cap situation but ideally the Penguins would love to find a way to hold onto Niskanen.
When breaking down the organizational depth chart, Brian Dumoulin should enter camp as the No. 9 defensemen on the depth chart. Dumoulin has showed great development in the past year and some scouts feel he could be playing in the NHL already this year. It just likely won’t be Pittsburgh due to the numbers game. The Penguins are very excited to see how he matches up against NHL competition.
Scott Harrington enters his professional season as he is out of junior eligibility. Harrington is the Penguins best defensive defenseman in their system and like Dumoulin it’s going to be very interesting to see how he matches up.
Top prospects Olli Maatta and Derrick Pouliot will participate in camp and are destined to return to juniors. The Penguins, though, will get the two in a few preseason games for valuable experience. Buzz among evaluators is that Maatta is closer to being NHL ready because of his overall game.
*Marc Andre Fleury
Roster Analysis: The Penguins return the goaltending tandem of Marc Andre Fleury and Tomas Vokoun. When breaking down the organizational depth chart, Jeff Zatkoff enters the year as the No. 3 goaltender with Eric Hartzell in position to be Zatkoff’s primary backup in Wilkes Barre.