The Latest Penguins Buzz
*Sidney Crosby will not open the season on the long term injured reserve list, where he ended last season. According to the Penguins, since he was injured last season, Crosby can come off injured reserve at any time.
Players on Long Term Injured Reserve have to sit out the first 10 games/24 days of the season.
Buzz in Penguin circles is that Crosby is about a week to 10 days out from beginning a full two weeks of contact and clearance for game action would not come after that, if things go well.
*James Neal’s transition to right wing has not gone as well as the Penguins had hoped. However, I’m told the Penguins will remain patient and see how things go in October. Neal struggled mightily in the preseason finishing plays and in practices, after a strong start to camp in the first couple days.
*The Penguins gave no consideration to waiving Mark Letestu. But,
the team believes Letestu has value around the league and could easily move him for an asset, if a likely scenario comes about where he just doesn’t fit into the lineup. Letestu had a very poor camp.
*When healthy the Penguins have full intentions of opening a roster spot for Dustin Jeffrey who begins the season on IR. I spoke to a source close to Jeffrey at the start of camp who believed he was around four weeks away from being game ready.
Jeffrey was cleared for contact on Friday and things are moving into the direction where he could be ready to go by Mid-October.
With Jeffrey not that far away and Crosby likely returning at some point in the first quarter of the season, the Penguins forward position will be in flux. Jeffrey is eligible for waivers.
*Forwards under the microscope in the first couple weeks of the season will be Richard Park, Joe Vitale, Mark Letestu and even enforcer Steve MacIntyre. Two of the four will be on the outs once Crosby and Jeffrey return, assuming the Penguins stay healthy.
Vitale, Park, and MacIntyre are all on two-way contracts and would have to clear waivers.
Letestu is on a one-way contract.
*The Penguins feel defenseman Alex Picard will be needed and help this team at some point this season but the team is not overly confident that Picard will clear waivers.
*Defenseman Brian Strait helped his status in the organization with strong overall play but he’s one of those players who’s probably going to have to leave the organization to get a full-time NHL role.
*The Penguins made the right move in returning Joe Morrow to juniors.
*Joe Vitale is a good story who deserved to open the season at the NHL level. A beneficiary of injuries, Vitale outplayed several centerman in camp, including the likes of Mark Letestu and Richard Park and Vitale might be the team’s best fit at the 4th line center spot, even when the team is fully healthy.
*The decision to carry enforcer Steve MacIntyre on the opening night roster does not come as a surprise to me, based on extra cap space compared to years past, (to carry 14 forwards) and the Penguins feeling MacIntyre can skate for an enforcer and not be a big liability defensively.