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Insider Only If team stands pat, Penguins could still be forced to move Robert Bortuzzo or Brian Strait by the fall

The Penguins are closing in on new deals for restricted free agents Brian Strait and Robert Bortuzzo and while both are players the Penguins feel are ready for NHL action next season, the numbers game could still dictate the Penguins being forced to trade one of them next fall than lose them for nothing with Bortuzzo and Strait both eligible for waivers and Penguins brass certain that neither player would clear waivers.
“We’ve got younger defenseman that need to play, ” GM Ray Shero said last week following the Penguins failed pursuit of Ryan Suter.

Bortuzzo and Strait have been two players in particular mentioned frequently by Shero, Dan Bylsma and others in the organization of needing to play but there’s still a good possibility that there won’t be room for both them next season in the top-7, if the team stands pat,
As currently constructed, the Penguins have Kris Letang, Brooks Orpik, Matt Niskanen, Paul Martin, Deryk Engelland and Ben Lovejoy on one-way contracts for next season.
There’s no sense that Lovejoy is going to be in the top-7 next season, but barring a trade of the next five, Letang, Orpik, Niskanen, Martin and Engelland are locks to be apart of the top-7. Under this scenario, that leaves the Penguins two spots to fill in camp.
The Penguins wanting to give Simon Despres a legitimate shot in camp at locking up a top-6 spot and possibly playing a No. 1 pairing role with Kris Letang would enhance the chances of the Penguins being forced to move Strait or Bortuzzo in the fall.
“I can see him being a big body guy, being able to defend, putting him next to Kris {Letang} being a formidable pair there where you have big body guys who can defend but also have ability to make a pass, make a play, and add in every category of the game, ” head coach Dan Bylsma said this week of Despres being a fit with letang. “So, It’s an intriguing matchup, but you also see a young guy, also paired with a guy who use to be a young guy, had some maturity at a different point in his game. They’ve had some similar paths and Simon’s a couple years behind Kris and can rely on Kris as a pairing.”
Pittsburgh also has a viable depth option in Dylan Reese to fill a No. 6/No. 7 role if needed, and top prospect Joe Morrow is going to be pushing hard for NHL action, although both are big longshots to begin the season with the team.
If Despres truly does lock up a spot with Kris Letang, it will be interesting to see where Paul Martin falls as the coaching staff has viewed Brooks Orpik and Matt Niskanen as an ideal No. 2 pairing, team sources say.
The Penguins have been listening to offers for Martin but are only willing to move Martin if the team lands a top-4 defenseman via trade or free agency. There are no longer any top-4 options in free agency. It’s possible the Penguins would move Martin for a legitimate top-6 winger, if the opportunity presented itself.
Meanwhile, the Penguins have not been actively involved in trade talks with Phoenix about Keith Yandle or Calgary about Jay Bouwmeester. The team though is monitoring the Shea Weber situation and he’s the one player they would be willing to go all out for and offer a significant return for.
DEFENSEMEN UNDER ONE-WAY CONTRACTS: Kris Letang, Paul Martin, Brooks Orpik, Matt Niskanen, Deryk Engelland, Ben Lovejoy
VYING FOR SPOTS: Brian Strait, Simon Despres, Robert Bortuzzo, Dylan Reese, Carl Sneep, Joe Morrow

About The Author

William DePaoli

TIOPS Insider

William DePaoli is the President/Founder of Inside Pittsburgh Sports LLC and can be reached at

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