Since the Penguins ouster in the first round to the Philadelphia Flyers, the biggest storyline this off-season was going to be how GM Ray Shero attacked his blueline this off-season, as the team has six defensemen under one-way contracts, three RFA's in Matt Niskanen, Robert Bortuzzo and Brian Strait who would beÃ‚Â qualified, giving the Penguins nine defensemen eligible for waivers next season, in addition to prospect Simon Despres who the PenguinsÃ‚Â have felt is ready for a jump to be a top-6 defenseman.
Nearly two months later, it remains Pittsburgh most pressing off-season question, not Jordan Staal.
With strong indications that Penguin management feels Simon Despres and Robert Bortuzzo are ready for full-time roles, the Penguins appear ready to move some bodies on the blueline and GM Ray Shero tells Dave Molinari of the Post-Gazette that he expects to trade a defensemen or two before next season.
Who is most likely out the door?
*The one no brainer is Ben Lovejoy who has one year left on his contract, carrying a $525,000 cap. Internally he's likely fallen to at least 10th on the organizational depth chart. Lovejoy is a very good bet to be moved. After Lovejoy, the Penguins have a lot of options and question marks on how to reshape the blueline: as the Penguins are getting calls on a number of defensemen.
Paul Martin, 31 years old - The word on Martin over the weekend is that while the team is willing to move him, they are looking for a hockey trade not a salary dump, seeking to add an asset to their NHL roster or to their system, through prospects or draft picks, if they were to move him. Martin has three years remaining on his deal with a $5 million cap hit. The intrigue with Martin is that several teams are in the trade market seeking a top-4 defenseman and willing to add salary. Teams still like Martin who just two years ago was among the most highly sought out defenseman in free agency. Martin has a no movement clause and a limited no trade clause.
*Zbynek Michalek, 29 years old - Like Paul Martin, Zbynek Michalek does not have a great contract and hasn't met expectations, carrying a $4 million hit and has three years remaining on his deal. He also has a no tradeÃ‚Â clause. Ã‚Â He's viewed by scouts as a system defenseman who fits better in a trapping style, but Pittsburgh is said to remain very high on him evolving into a shutdown defenseman in Dan Bylsma's system. Note - Michalek had off-season hip surgery.
*Brooks Orpik, 31 years old - Turns 32 in September and has played a physical type of style that puts a draining on his body. He's entering the stage of his career where he's best suited as a No. 3 - No. 4 defensemen moving forward, not a top-pairing guy. Orpik though is the heart and soul of this Penguins team and one of their lone physical presences, therefore, it's hard to imagine Shero would have any interest in parting with him. Orpik has a no trade clause (can reject trade to 8 teams).