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Thread: Should the Penguins re-sign Bill Guerin?

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    Default Should the Penguins re-sign Bill Guerin?

    Q: After the collective bargaining agreement expires at the end of next season, do you see "small-market" teams like the Penguins pushing for the league to rework the agreement? In the "old NHL," teams like the Penguins couldn't outbid the big-market teams for free agents. Now, most of these teams are financially secure, but they have difficulty retaining players because of the salary cap. Do you think this will lead to any big changes, similar to those of the 2004-05 lockout?

    Adam Smith, Nitro, W. Va.

    MOLINARI: While some franchises that were financially distressed when the previous CBA expired -- the Penguins were prominent on that list -- it is quite a reach to suggest that all 30 clubs are free of serious financial concerns now, and that's just one of the reasons it's hard to imagine many owners will agree to, let alone push for, major changes in the nature of the labor deal.

    One obvious deterrent is that the relatively level playing field established by having a salary-cap system allows every club to legitimately believe that if it does a good job of identifying, developing and coaching quality players, it will have a realistic chance of competing for a championship. That certainly wasn't the case before 2004, when deep-pockets teams like Detroit, Philadelphia and the New York Rangers were able to hoard personnel because they could outbid other clubs for their services.

    The situation was not terribly unlike that now found in major-league baseball, where a handful of clubs (almost invariably based in larger cities) compete for the championship every year, while others (generally located in smaller cities) seem to have no hope of ever seeing the sunny side of .500. Now, other factors certainly influence the amount of success baseball teams have, but when there is a huge disparity in the size of payrolls, it's inevitable that a similar gap in the ability to compete will exist.

    Also, the owners of teams that used to spend liberally in an effort to win Stanley Cups -- that sounds better than suggesting they tried to "buy" championships, doesn't it? -- are able to pocket millions of dollars that used to go toward bringing in, and retaining, big-ticket players, so the current CBA isn't exactly a lose-lose proposition for them. They might prefer the way things used to be, but having a better bottom line has to be a nice consolation prize.

    There's no question teams that now rank among the league's elite, including the Penguins, have to make painful personnel decisions pretty much every year, allowing valuable contributors to leave via free agency (or trades) simply because there isn't enough cap space for everyone. That doesn't do much for anyone's chances of establishing a dynasty, but it certainly helps to enhance competitive balance, and that's a good thing for the league as a whole.

    Don't forget that Penguins officials maintained for years that they needed two things to be consistently competitive -- a modern venue and a more owner-friendly labor agreement. They have both now, and if they continue to use their resources wisely, should be profitable and competitive for years.

    Supporting a major change in the CBA for a selfish, short-term reason -- like improving their chances of holding on to a couple of guys who otherwise might leave via free agency over the next few years -- ultimately would not be in the best interests of this franchise, let alone the league as a whole.

    Q: With the Pens signing Deryk Engelland to a one-year extension and Ben Lovejoy ready (hopefully) to step in next year, what does that mean for Mark Eaton? Neither Engelland nor Lovejoy looked out of place last fall during their extended stints. Eaton is a solid, positionally sound, smart defenseman but his $2 million cap hit (if it stays similar to this year) could go toward a winger or another defenseman similar to Brooks Orpik.

    Ryan, Morgantown, W. Va.

    MOLINARI: Eaton is one of four potential unrestricted free agents on the Penguins' defense -- Sergei Gonchar, Jordan Leopold and Jay McKee are the others -- and is one of the best bets of that group to still be here in the fall. He has made it clear that he'd like to re-sign here, and the Penguins have been quite satisfied with his performance since he joined the team as a free agent in 2006, although it has to be pointed out that, in most cases, money is a major factor in determining where a player ends up.

    While resolving the Gonchar situation is the Penguins' priority on defense at the moment, it's unlikely that whether he stays or goes will have a profound impact on what happens with Eaton. That same is true of the expected arrival of Lovejoy (and perhaps Engelland) next season.

    Eaton doesn't generate many headlines or highlights with his style, but he's sound and reliable and, at 33, should be able to remain so for at least a few more years. Every team needs guys like him on its blue line, and it will be a surprise if the Penguins don't move somewhat aggressively to re-sign him in the next few weeks.

    Q: While Billy Guerin is a fan favorite and did what you could expect from a 40-year-old, do you really think it's wise for the Pens to even consider re-signing him? Given the number of decisions that Ray Shero has to make with various positions, isn't it obvious that spending money on Guerin weakens Shero's ability to strengthen the team elsewhere?

    Brad Krenicky, Plymouth Meeting, Pa.

    MOLINARI: Shero still hasn't shared the finer points of his strategy for the offseason -- and no one should hold their breath waiting for him to do so -- but the thinking here is that bringing back Guerin is a fallback position of sorts, an option the Penguins will pursue only if they conclude that other possibilities for a right winger to play with Sidney Crosby aren't viable.

    Trouble is, the crop of quality wingers available in free agency next month is underwhelming, and that likely will drive up the already-inflated prices of the ones who will be on the market. Since the Penguins don't have the luxury of seriously overpaying for free agents, it seems like a long shot that they'll be able to fill that role on, or shortly after, July 1.

    Guerin did, as you noted, perform about as well as could be expected in 2009-10, but there's only so much that can be counted on from any player his age. The lack of goal-scoring wingers has been an issue for the Penguins for several years, and is a by-product of Shero's decision to invest heavily in his top three centers. The belief here is that his strength-down-the-middle approach to assembling a contender is well-conceived, but it puts Shero in the position of constantly having to seek short-term solutions for the problem of finding capable wingers for the top two lines.

    That's what led to Guerin being acquired in the first place, and is why he hasn't been squeezed out of their plans for 2010-11. Not yet, anyway.

    Q: Why aren't the Pens considering promoting Eric Tangradi to play on Sid's line, or even on Evgeni Malkin's line? Watching him during the last game of the season, he was all over the ice, and the puck followed him everywhere. He seems like a no-brainer to crack one of the top two lines next season but, from what I've heard, they are already talking about keeping him with the Baby Pens next season. What gives?

    Chris, Raleigh, N.C.

    MOLINARI: Contrary to what you apparently have been told, the Penguins definitely will consider keeping Tangradi on the NHL roster this fall, and do not have any ready-made issue with plugging him into a top-six role.

    He will, however, have to prove during training camp that he is ready to contribute at this level, or else he can expect to end up back in Wilkes-Barre. That approach doesn't reflect any concerns about his development or potential; he's still a clear-cut choice as the top forward prospect on the organizational depth chart. However, Tangradi has played just one season of pro hockey, and it's become pretty clear over the past four years that Shero isn't interested in force-feeding the NHL to players until he's confident they're ready for it. That's because if you put a good young player in the league before he's prepared, you're more likely to retard his development than to accelerate it.

    As for how Tangradi performed in the regular-season finale, no, he didn't look out of place at all. However, one probably shouldn't read too much into a single performance, especially in a game that was virtually meaningless for either team. (Except, of course, for seeing whether Crosby could pile up two weeks' worth of points in 60 minutes to steal the NHL scoring championship from Henrik Sedin.)

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    Default Re: Should the Penguins re-sign Bill Guerin?

    For $1M or less..... YES!

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    Default Re: Should the Penguins re-sign Bill Guerin?

    Sorry, No. Much like Gary Roberts and the Wrecking Ball, Billy looked every bit his age last year and his value as a vet is not as great since they have now won a cup. I love what he brought to the team, but the time for youth is to be served. Time for Shero to get younger and find Sid or Geno a solid winger. Use the money saved on him and Feds and find one.

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