A 5 part series of the 2005-06 Pittsburgh Penguins
Part 1: The summer of 05: The new CBA, Penguins strike gold and being structured into a ” Stanley Cup Contender”.
July 13th, 2005 the National Hockey League announces they have ended their year long labor dispute with the players association and that the NHL will be back better than ever. New rules including the elimination of the two line pass that will open up the game and the shootout which will benefit the fans. Key components of the agreement is a salary cap( max 39 million) that will provide small market teams like the Penguins the ability to compete on and off the ice. Following the announcement Craig Patrick announces that the Penguins will be big spenders in free agency and optimism brews in the burgh.
The Penguins win the Crosby sweepstakes
June 23,2005 The Pittsburgh Penguins strike gold and win the Draft drawling and obtain the #1 pick to draft phenom Sidney Crosby. From that very minute ticket sales start booming even before the NHL scheduel has been announced.
July 30, 2005: The Penguins officially draft Sidney Crosby with the #1 pick and owner/player Mario Lemieux proclaims during a interview with TSN that the Penguins will be very active in free agency to surround Sidney and himself with high profile players.
August 1st, 2005. The start of free agency is about to begin and word is the Penguins will bump up their payroll in the 30-33 million range. Their primary goals are a top flight winger – 3rd line center, puck moving defenseman, goaltending and a enforcer. Former Penguin Alex Kovalev was to be said a done deal in returning to the Penguins but as the first day of free agency came to a end, there were no reports of a Kovalev signing. Reports are the Penguins are making a strong pursuit of Petr Forsberg, Mike Modano and Scott Neidemyer.
Tuesday comes around and still no signings from the Penguins as big names such as Forsberg, Modano, Rafalski, Aucoin, Foote and Hatcher are off the board
Wednesday August 5th 2005: Pittsburgh Penguins sign defenseman Sergei Gonchar to a 5yr 25 million deal. i was esstatic at the time except for the fact why so much, but minutes later that happiness turned to sorrow as ESPN radio 1250 reported that the Montreal Canadiens not the Pittsburgh Penguins have signed Alex Kovalev to a 4y 18.5 deal. We would later find out that Kovalev a monster talent who had his best years in a Penguin uniform wanted to return to the burgh but the Penguins acted to late. Later in the evening the Penguins announce the signing of enforcer Andre Roy to a 3yr 3 million deal. A day later the Toronto Maple Leafs sign Tie Domi who was very close to joining the Penguins and his long time friend Mario Lemieux until at the last minute the Leafs sweetened their proposal
Friday August 5th: The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that Curtis Joseph’s agent is on the record as saying his client is very interested in coming to Pittsburgh but he hasn’t heard from the Penguins since the first day of free agency.
Saturday August 6th: Fans and talk show hosts are growing impatient at the lack of movement by Craig Patrick but around 12:00 p.m. est the Penguins announce the signing of right winger Ziggy Palffy 3yr 13.5 million deal and a few days later trade for goaltender Jocelyn Thiabault. The Penguins roundup free agency with the signings of left winger John Leclair and journeyman defenseman Lyle Odeline.
Super Mario has high hopes for his young star Sidney Crosby
Heading into training camp ticket sales are booming and experts are predicting the Penguins to be a top 6 team and some Vegas bookies have them as 10-1 odds of winning the Stanley Cup. Mario Lemieux proclaims that this team is a ” Stanely Cup contender”. Only time would tell whether those so called experts would be right. Despite the signing of big name players Craig Patrick didn’t bring back Morozov and didn’t address the need for a center who can win faceoffs. Two moves that he most likely would regret. Overall Craig upgraded this team drastically but could have done better. He wasted so much time trying to get players like Forsberg, Modano and Neidemyer who lets be honest here were never really coming to Pittsburgh. The signings of Gonchar, Palffy, Leclair, Recchi, Thibault were good signings but it looks like Craig could have done better in bringing in players that wanted to come here like Kovalev and Joseph. Despite the facts that management is heading into the season without all of it’s best players by sending down Fleury,Whitney and Armstrong, this star studded squad is still a playoff team that could do some serious damage.
The Penguins roster at the end of training camp.
Leclair Crosby Recchi
Malone Lemieux Palffy
Fata Peireta Koltsov
Roy Talbot Vanderbushe
Coming up in Mondays edition
Part 2: A season that goes from being a Stanley Cup contender to a 29th place finish