http://www.everythingpittsburgh.net/...l-push#more263



With just twenty games remaining on the schedule and sitting in fourth place in the conference, one point out of a tie for second, we have a lot of work to do after the Olympic break. I am going to look at the current situation, the trade deadline, the statistics, and the must bury teams for the rest of the season.
Follow up:
After 62 games, we are 36-22-4 with 76 points, good for second in the division, fourth in the conference. We are one point out of a tie for first in the division, second in the conference. The team ahead of us? The NJ Devils. They beat us everytime we have played this season, shutting us out the last two, and that is before they picked up Ilya Kovalchuk. We have to play them two more times before the season is out as well as the Washington Capitals twice, who also beat us in every meeting this season. That is a combined 6-0 versus our two biggest competitors. We will more than likely see at least one of these two teams in the playoffs.

Here we go, the big trade deadline. We have to add to our team to be competitive in these playoffs. Now I know we are basically the same team as last year, possible a better team, when we all play together, but we barely beat the Capitals. They are a significantly improved team this year. There are a ton of UFA's and RFA's, but that isn't necessarily what we are looking for. I don't see Shero giving up too much for a rental. I see us trading for a player with an RFA or at least an extra year on their contract. If not that, a player that is cheap enough to resign, you know they will want to.
First, lets look at who we have to offer:


UFA
Ruslan Fedotenko-----30---------$1,800,000
Matt Cooke-----------30---------$1,200,000
Bill Guerin----------38---------$2,000,000
Sergei Gonchar-------35---------$5,500,000
Mark Eaton-----------32---------$2,000,000
Jay McKee------------31---------$800,000
Brent Johnson--------32---------$525,000

RFA
Kris Letang----------22---------$625,000
Ben Lovejoy----------25---------TBA

Neither, but tradeable
Alex Goligoski-------24---------$1,300,000
Pascal Dupuis--------30---------$1,400,000
Ruslan Fedotenko-----31---------$1,800,000
Martin Skoula--------30---------$600,000
Tyler Kennedy--------23---------$600,000


Looking at this list, there are a few I would love to cross off the list, but I am not sure we can see that happen. For instance, Jay McKee, he is one of our lead defensemen, however, he is an UFA. I realize he only makes $800,000, but that is because St. Louis pays the other $3,200,000. We can't resign him for that money unless we dump some contract money. Another name is obviously Alex Goligoski. He is signed for a multi-year deal for cheap. I also would love for the Pens to resign Kris Letang. I know that they can't sign McKee, Goligoski, Letang, and Sergei Gonchar.

Who do we sign? I was thinking that Letang is the must sign out of this group. He is the next Gonchar. Maybe he would finally be able to quarterback the powerplay properly if Gonchar was gone. That would also bring in $5,500,000 or a name or two to which we need.

Out of all the players we could trade, I would think we would could benefit from trading away Dupuis, Skoula, Fedotenko, or Kennedy without losing anything as long as we received something in return. We also have quite a few guys down in Wilkes-Barre that we could bring up that would do just as good or better in the same roles. In other words, package them up to create more money under the cap so we could go after some of the better players.

Who are the better players? Well, according to what I think the Pens want, here are a few names that might fit the bill:

Alexander Frolov----LW-----27------LA-------$4,000,000
Games: 60 Goals: 13 Assists: 24 Points: 37 +/-: -5 PIM: 22
Ups:
This is a down year for him, so resigning him would be easier for less money.
He is Russian, perfect for Malkin.
He is big and has the goal scoring touch.
Downs:
If would be lined with Malkin, his numbers would most likely improve, so if they can't sign him for more than a year, he could get more expensive real quick.
He is coveted by the Kings.

Raffi Torres----LW-----27------CBJ--------$2,750,000
Games: 58 Goals: 18 Assists: 11 Points: 29 +/-: -8 PIM: 30
Ups:
On a line with Geno, he would more than likely improve.
He is a solid guy size wise and would be a great net crasher.
Downs:
He is not a big scorer, he would fit in on the first or second lines unless he plays a role like Chris Kunitz plays.
He is cheap, can fit under the Salary cap without moving anyone.

Alexei Ponikarovsky----LW-----29------TOR-------$2,500,000
Games: 61 Goals: 19 Assists: 22 Points: 41 +/-: +5 PIM: 44
Ups:
Generally a big guy.
Very good at parking himself in front of the net.
Pretty cheap, would fit in without losing anyone.
Downs:
Toronto doesn't have that many solid players left on their team, he is one of them, so they are going to ask alot.


Owen Nolan-----RW-----37-----MIN---------$2,750,000
Teemu Selanne--RW-----39-----ANA---------$2,000,000
I am going to throw them both in the same category, older, potential injury risk, once dominant.
Ups:
Very seasoned.
Great leaders.
Downs:
Older.
Injury risk.
Definitely not to be resigned, unless something Guerin-like happens.

Andy Sutton-----D------34-----NYI--------$3,500,000
Games: 53 Goals: 4 Assists: 8 Points: 12 +/-: -3 PIM: 73
Ups:
Huge guy.
Decent plus/minus, considering the team he plays for.
Not afraid to fight.
Very Shero-esque.
Might provide the grit the Pens are lacking right now.
Will probably fit under the cap without dropping anyone.
Downs:
High priced for his skills.
Somewhat a goon.
He is 34.

Dan Hamhuis----D-----26-----NASH------$2,500,000
Games: 56 Goals: 4 Assists: 12 Points: 16 +/-: 1 PIM: 38
Ups:
Once again, another guy that is cheap and possibly fit in under the cap.
Would fit in well with the Pens.
Young, very signable.
Downs:
Coveted by Nashville.
Overall, I like all of these guys. They are just a few out of many. For the most part, I would like anyone that would fit in under the cap without dropping anyone. The purpose of this is because next season, we aren't going to be able to sign someone, but we don't know who. We might as well have a capable body in there, ready to roll.

Ok, now for the things that we need to improve on despite whether or not we get that quality player we are looking for.
The Powerplay:
We are currently ranked 26th at 16.5%.
We are improving, however. We were, at one point, dead last in the NHL. The return of Sergei Gonchar compelled the Situation to improve, also making him a hard move to make. So, we have to continue to improve.
Goals Scored versus Gaols Allowed per game:
We are ranked 5th in goals for at 3.03, 22nd in goals allowed at 2.87.
You can obviously see which section we need to improve. You can look at this one of two ways. First, the Dan Bylsma approach, more offense makes better defense. I like this, but since we are ranked 5th in goals scored, maybe defense is where we need to improve this time.
Faceoff Percentage:
We are currently ranked 19th at 49%.
Aside from Sidney Crosby at 56.7%, Jordan Staal is the only other player close to acceptable at 47.4%. Malkin and Rupp are low in the 40% range. There is one bright spot. If you want to account the mere 74 faceoffs by Mark Letestu, he is clicking at 55%. Maybe we need to give him more work.
The last thing we need to improve on isn't in numbers. It is consistency. We need this more than anything else. I watch the games. I see us killing teams sometimes and blowing it other times. If we are waiting for the playoffs to play like we can, well, then I sure hope we can make that leap.


We have teams we need to make a statement by the end of the season. Out of 20 games left, we have 10 at home. This includes only one against Washington. The other nine are played against teams that when combined make up only two other playoff teams in Philadelphia and Buffalo. These are teams we can beat. Out the 10 away games, two are against New Jersey, and one more against Washington. The others include two potential playoff teams, Atlanta and Detroit. The odds are that we should fare well to the end of the season. If we win the games against the non playoff teams, that would give us at least 12 wins. If we win a couple out of the playoff teams, we could hit my prediction of 16 wins. I think there is potential for more, but I figure 16-3-1 is a pretty good rip going into the playoffs.

If you add up the current 36-22-4 and 76 points to my prediction, you get 52-25-5 and 109 points. That should put us right in the thick of things. Hopefully the Caps, Devils, Sens, and others continue to slide while we rise before the playoffs kickoff. We will see though. Worst case scenario, we lose half those 20 games for 20 more points instead of 35. We will still sit at 96 point, probably sliding us in the playoffs at the bottom of the bracket. I doubt Bylsma will let that happen. If Shero adds the right pieces, we could end up on the good end of this whole thing. Also, we played a better division than teams like Washington and Ottawa/Buffalo this season because our division is more competitive. We will be more prepared for the playoffs.
This should be fun.


Let's Go Pens!