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Insider Only Scout Buzz: Penguins have question marks on makeup of projected third line and impact of 4th line

matt-cooke SCOUTS WEIGH IN ON THE LOSS OF MATT COOKE
The Pittsburgh Penguins will report to training camp next week with arguably the best group of top-6 forwards in the game. It’s a group that includes Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, James Neal, Chris Kunitz, Pascal Dupuis, Jussi Jokinen or Beau Bennett. Few teams can rival that and the strength of the Penguins top-6 will likely lead the Penguins to a division title but come playoff time this is a four line league.
The Penguins depth and style of play on the third and fourth lines is likely to emerge as a scrutinized area of this team as the season progresses.

The Penguins go into camp with a projected top-4 lines of:
Chris Kunitz – Sidney Crosby – Pascal Dupuis
Jussi Jokinen – Evgeni Malkin – James Neal
Matt D’agostini – Brandon Sutter – Beau Bennett
Tanner Glass – Joe Vitale – Craig Adams
Dustin Jeffrey
On the third line, the Penguins have the look of evolving into a finesse third line with Matt D’agostini, Brandon Sutter and Beau Bennett or Jussi Jokinen. It could be an effective third line in the regular season but it’s not an ideal third line in the post-season where you have to have grit and physicality.
D’Agostini is no lock to hold onto the third line LW job which could see Dustin Jeffrey as a wildcard but don’t we say that every year.
The 4th line right now is nothing to be too excited about.
I asked one scout about a projected third line of Matt D’agostini – Brandon Sutter and Beau Bennett / or Jussi Jokinen. His take:
“The third line has always been a staple for them,” the scout said via phone. “In the past they could rely on that third unit being a difference because of guys like {Matt} Cooke. “I really like the Bennett kid and Sutter, {but} who wins those critical battles in the corners and makes it difficult on the opposition?”
That is a burning question for the Penguins leading into the season.
I polled 4 talent evaulators and one senior advisor of an NHL team on what player among Jarome Iginla, Brenden Morrow, Matt Cooke , Tyler Kennedy and Douglas Murray was the biggest off-season loss for the Penguins:
Cooke was a consensus winner, receiving 4 votes and Brenden Morrow surprisingly received 1 vote among the NHL types.
Morrow remains unsigned but the Penguins have made no push to sign Morrow who has been seeking a two year deal worth around $3 million per season. Morrow has the Carolina Hurricanes and Philadelphia Flyers among four teams he is still talking to. The Blues, Red Wings and Canadiens are also among the teams to have shown vary levels of interest in Morrow this summer but of that group, the Red Wings are out and have been since early July, and it’s not clear if the Blues and Canadiens are still considering Morrow.
The Penguins will get by without Matt Cooke fine during the regular season, but where Cooke is going to be missed most will be the post-season.
The Penguins always upgrade their team leading up to the deadline, but this year could be different with the cap at $64.3 million and the Penguins likely to have little to no cap space all season.
The Penguins made earlier attempts this summer to replace Cooke, making a play to sign Dan Cleary, offering Cleary a two year deal worth just south of $4 million, an NHL source said. Cleary broke off talks with the Penguins on July 5th, and like Morrow, Cleary also remains unsigned and there’s been some talk of renewed discussions between the Penguins and Cleary’s reps at CAA Sports in recent weeks but there doesn’t sound like much chance of something getting done on that front.
Cleary told reporters in Detroit this week that he will make a decision on where to sign this Sunday. The Flyers, Ducks and Stars are teams getting some mentions.
So far the Penguins have done nothing to replace the Cooke, Morrow and even Tyler Kennedy. If that remains status quo by April, it will likely lead to their demise in the spring.

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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