*Rumblings, opinions, musings*
1. The most interesting negotiation coming up for the Penguin is with third line center Brandon Sutter, a pending restricted free agent. Sutter is in his sixth accrued season meaning he could become an unrestricted free agent in July 2015. Sources say the Penguins have intentions of opening up discussions with Sutter’s reps at Newport Sports at somepoint in the coming months. Pittsburgh would like to sign Sutter to a long-term deal that goes into his UFA years. What is Sutter worth? Talking to those in the know, I get the sense his camp is going to argue for around a $1.5 million pay bump from Sutter’s current salary of $2.7 million, placing his salary in the low $4 million range. Sutter is a tough one. There’s a lot to like about him. Great d-zone instincts, kills penalties, wins draws, has a good skill set, skating ability, but the negatives with him is that he’s an extremely inconsistent offensive player and he doesn’t have the strength nor physical ability to be a true shutdown center against some of the elite players in the league. The Penguins should hold firm around $3.5 million.
2. Steven Stamkos injury is not just a huge blow to the Tampa Bay Lightning and possibly Team Canada but really to the game of hockey. The NHL does a poor job of marketing Stamkos who in some eyes is the second best player in hockey and up until his injury Monday afternoon, Stamkos was the MVP of the league as we near the quarter mark. Leading a resurgent Lightning team, Stamkos made great strides to become a more complete player this season and I really thought this was going to be the year he took home the Hart Trophy. The good news is there’s a strong sense that Stamkos will make it back this season with 3-4 months being viewed as an early timetable.
3. Just a couple weeks ago, some pundits were talking 150 points for Sidney Crosby which was ridiculous. The number to watch has been 130 points, something that hasn’t been done since Lemieux and Jagr in 1995-1996 and that’s a huge longshot. In the midst of a little mini-slump, Crosby is now on pace for 111 points. He’s averaging 1.35 points per game, well below the standard he started setting for himself in 2010-2011 when he averaged 1.61 points per game (41 GP) that season. Crosby averaged 1.68 points per game in 2011-2012, just 22 games played as he was still recovering from concussion symptoms, and last season Crosby averaged 1.56 points per game in 36 games. I think he perks back towards the 1.5 point range but in an Olympic year, 130 points just isn’t happening.
4. Matt Cooke has made a smooth transition in Minnesota and I’m hearing great things about the fit in Minnesota. Cooke has 3 Goals, 9 Points, +7 rating, and is 2nd on team with 35 hits. The Penguins losing Cooke is really going to show up come playoff time as a priority has to be for Penguins GM Ray Shero to add a physical third line winger, preferably a player with size who gets to the tough areas. Problem is not a lot of those players available and I hear the Penguins don’t see that type of player as a big need.
5. Losing Marlon Byrd is a blow for the Pirates but that’s going off expectations that he can repeat or come close to repeating his 2013 breakout season. A big question mark there. Keith Law pegged Byrd last week as one of the “worst values” among free agent outfielders. Because of the expected arrival of top prospect Gregory Polanco in 2015 as a full-time player, the Pirates just weren’t in the position to block Polanco with Byrd on what potentially could have ended up being a bad contract in year two.
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