What an up and down ride its been from the absolute elated joy Sunday morning (when the tentative agreement was announced at around 7am), seriously…I was literally jumping on my bed to the bizarre drunken screaming at a podium in mid December. No matter how bad it hurt to watch, if there was any chance of a deal the past three plus months, I was stuck to twitter refreshing every minute hoping for some kind of logic to prevail. Now finally the season will start in Mid January instead of the originally scheduled Early October and I could go on and on about what a pathetic and embarrassing process this has been and what a f–king travesty it is that there was even the slightest chance we wouldn’t have a season again after the NHL was the first professional sports league to cancel a season just a short 7 years ago but I’m tired of typing the letters CBA and the names Fehr and Bettman so let’s move on eh?
Thank god there will be something to write about again and we will get into the season preview and all those great things soon enough but I’m going to take this time to give Ray Shero a quick handski before we get into the players and coaches. During the off-season Shero made a few key moves that may not have made sense at the time but now that everything has played out lets take at how Ray Shero has put the Pittsburgh Penguins in perfect position to compete in the shortened season and under the newly agreed upon CBA.
1. Shero trades a 7th round draft pick to the Washington Capitals before free agency started to be able to talk to (and eventually sign) goaltender Tomas Vokoun before July 1. A lot of people were left curious if acquiring a second goalie to outshine the Stanley Cup winning goalie already have was the best way to approach the situation especially with the disparity in age. Well turns out that Vokoun (in my opinion) was the biggest pick up of the off-season for the Penguins and should be instrumental if the Penguins are to succeed this year in a crammed 48 game schedule. The last time there was a 48 game season was in the 94-95 season and in that season the Penguins played 14 games in 27 days in both February and March, and had a total of 9 back to back games. Now with one of the top goalie tandems in the league the Penguins are in prime position to make another run at the East.
2. On Draft day Shero traded Jordan Staal for Brandon Sutter, Brian Dumoulin, and Derrick Puliot and traded Zbynek Michalek to Phoenix for a prospect. No one wanted to see Staal go but he was going regardless and Shero acquired maximum return for Staal by pulling off the trade at the draft rather than wait for the trading deadline or playing out the season with him. The Penguins were able to get two touted defensive prospects and Sutter who will have a salary cap hit of half of what Staal’s would have been this year. I’ve spoken at length about how I felt that Brandon Sutter will be perfect to fill in the role Staal once filled when the Penguins won the championship. Add that to the salary dump that was the Michalek trade and the Penguins salary cap was reduced by almost 10 million dollars. Most experts and fans at the time thought they’re freeing the money to go after Parise and maybe they did take a run at him but take a look at it now and the freedom that Shero has ensured himself is even more impressive. The Penguins salary cap sits at 60.9M. The agreed upon salary cap that will go into effect next season is 64.3M. Add a buyout of Paul Martin’s absurd contract to that after this season and Shero has allowed himself ~9M dollars in wiggle room going into next season without leaving any gaping holes in the roster.
The Penguins have their problems, don’t get me wrong, the defense put too many question marks in our head after the Flyers series but the way Shero was able to work preemptively to assure the Penguins would be in a position to make changes when the season finally starts is a true work of art. The Penguins are favorites to win the Stanley Cup against vegas at 8/1 odds. I don’t know about you but I wouldn’t bet against Shero.