Rumbling’s on Polamalu’s Future, Norris Trophy Talk, Malkin/Crosby career lifers, Bennett & botching Iginla

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*Rumblings, Musings, Opinions*

Troy-Polamalu-dddd-copy-388x2581. Whether Troy Polamalu plays football in 2015 will come down to money. With the Steelers preparing to move on, though, no final decision has been made team officials indicate, Polamalu isn’t ready to give it up yet. He’s been training like a player who plans to play and at the end of the day, money ($5-$6 million per season) will dictate whether he’s forced into retirement or not. There is expected to be interest in Polamalu beyond the Tennessee Titans. But, will the money be good enough?
The Steelers were always under the assumption that when Polamalu could no longer play at a star level, he would walk away and not try to be one of those players who keeps going. That’s what has them surprised in Polamalu wanting to keep playing.
With the Steelers in relatively good cap shape, one thing getting overlooked is whether the Steelers can actually upgrade over Polamalu. They don’t have to release him as they’re not in “cap hell” like previous off-seasons. Despite the lack of splash plays, Polamalu remains effective in the box and graded out by ProfootballFocus as the 9th rated safety in 2014.
Ideally it’s time to get younger but can anyone see a safety tandem of Shamarko Thomas and Mike Mitchell being one of a Super Bowl Contender?. Might not be the worst scenario to keep Polamalu around as a 2-down player in around the box and let him groom a first or second round pick. Steelers coaches believe Polamalu’s struggles to cover led to issues for Mike Mitchell. Guess we’ll find out in September if that was the case or if the reality is Mike Mitchell just isn’t very good.

letang2. Lots of Norris Talk around Pittsburgh for Kris Letang, but unfortunately for him, the Norris Trophy isn’t voted on by the General Managers like the Vezina Trophy. If it was, Letang might be the clear front runner. With the Nashville Predators being one of the NHL’s best teams, the media (voters) has an obsession with Shea Weber right now and he’s going to win it.

Malkin2221-388x5823. John Buccigross did a feature on who’s the next Steve Yzerman, hence playing their entire career for one team. Going through all 30 teams, Buccigross highlighted Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, marking Crosby as a yes and Malkin as a no. Here’s what Buccigross wrote about Malkin:

“Evgeni Malkin turns 29 and his numbers are eroding as he does what many players do as they age: shoot less. Malkin’s shots per game have decreased for three straight seasons. His numbers this season are almost identical to his rookie numbers. Malkin is signed until he is 35 and his cap number is a hefty $9.5 million. (Crosby is $8.7 million) Do you trade Malkin for prospects, first-round picks and a roster player or cap space to sign a player as Malkin approaches 30? It’s a fun and difficult thing to ponder. Malkin is popular, a future Hall of Famer, helps make the Penguins profitable and is better than a point per game in the playoffs … BUT, he could get a big return for a team looking to make a splash. I say that eventually happens.”

With scoring down throughout the league, Malkin eventually getting traded for a significant haul to make the Penguins a more well rounded team could truly end up being the best long-term move for the Penguins as it’s not like the NHL is the NBA where if you put 2-3 stars together, the rest of league can’t compete.
With Malkin and Crosby no longer head and shoulders above the rest, assuming the Penguins don’t win another Stanley Cup in the next couple years, maybe they go down this road, though, some close to ownership say Mario Lemieux will never sign off on trading Crosby or Malkin. What problem the Penguins are going to have if they ever thought of doing a major shakeup is Malkin with his size projects to be a more dominant player in his 30’s than Crosby. But, from an off-ice standpoint they’ll never trade Crosby unless he pushed for a trade.

Bennett4. As Beau Bennett provides little impact on a nightly basis and is parked on the 4th line, whispers are starting to come out of the organization that he was rushed to the NHL during the lockout shortened season? Maybe and there might be a good argument there but now in year 3, he can’t even get a sniff in the top-6 and that’s a big red flag for a skilled player who as one source put it, has no identity as a player right now. His skill level isn’t enough to entice coaches to give him a more extensive role. The Penguins weren’t actively shopping Bennett at the deadline but had him in play similar to Simon Despres. Bet on the final chapter of his Penguins career ending like Despres in getting traded for a lower than expected return.

5. This guy can still play!

Jarome Iginla collected his 16th — 20 goal season of his career with a rocket of a shot past Marc Andre Fleury last night. 30 goals, 61 points last season and likely to top 25 goals this season, more and more the Penguins botched the entire Iginla situation back in 2013.
People continue to forget he initially picked Pittsburgh over Boston because he saw Pittsburgh as a spot he could play the final couple years of his career and chase Stanley Cups.

From the left wing fiasco to the Penguins system of having a head coach who didn’t adjust to his personnel, any interest in staying in Pittsburgh quickly faded away.
While Iginla didn’t end up being the type of Bill Guerin locker room presence Ray Shero had hoped, on the ice the Penguins have missed out on at least 2-3 impact seasons from Iginla they could have potentially got and Bylsma’s arrogance not to adapt is one of the main reasons Iginla was not a Penguin beyond the 2013 shortened season.

About The Author

William DePaoli

TIOPS Insider

William DePaoli is the President/Founder of Inside Pittsburgh Sports LLC and can be reached at wdepaoli@insidepittsburghsports.com

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