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Oct 11, 2013; Sunrise, FL, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Jeff Zatkoff (37) cannot stop a shot by Florida Panthers center Tomas Fleischmann (not pictured) as right wing Craig Adams (27) and defenseman Rob Scuderi (4) try to defend in the third period at BB&T Center. The Panthers won 6-3. Mandatory Credit: Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

Craig Adams, Rob Scuderi Possess Hazy Outlooks Next Season

All we ever hear about is the dense amount of quality prospects the Pittsburgh Penguins have in their system.

Problem is, we never know when they’re actually going to utilize them at the NHL level.

One would assume that with three defensemen leaving in free agency, Pittsburgh is set to recall a couple young blueliners to fill the void, but the organization then goes out and signs Christian Ehrhoff, and now has six currently rostered.

While there’s optimism first-round talent, Kasperi Kapanen, could crack the opening day roster, as it stands, Pittsburgh has 12 forwards under contract heading into the season, making it extremely possible he’s left off the team come October.

It’s time for Pittsburgh to see what they got with Simon Despres, and it may be a wise choice to keep Kapanen on the roster from the get-go. However, the slots occupied by both Craig Adams and Rob Scuderi are preventing that from transpiring.

Of course, Despres could be on the roster simply because of Olli Maatta‘s offseason shoulder surgery, but what happens after he finally does return? Adams and Scuderi may both have something to prove next season, and they are each capable of bouncing-back and being valuable contributors, but is it smart to trust in two aging players?

You want that veteran presence, however, from personally watching both of them last season, they seemed to do more harm than good. Both Adams and Scuderi looked lost out there at times, and as the season dragged on, their age began to show. Unable to pickup assignments and clear the defensive zone, it’s difficult to imagine both getting better with age. Scuderi attributes his ankle injury as a factor in his play last season because of the time he missed – two months – and that very well may be.

Mar 11, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins right wing Craig Adams (27) clears the puck as defenseman Brooks Orpik (44) and goalie Marc-Andre Fleury (29) and defenseman Rob Scuderi (4) defend against Washington Capitals left wing Jason Chimera (25) during the third period at the CONSOL Energy Center. The Penguins won 2-0. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

See, it’s tricky, because you know what these guys bring to the table when they’re 100-percent, and you understand the impact they can have on a club with their leadership qualities, but they’ve left Pittsburgh in a pickle with deciding to run them out there over grooming their younger players. And it’s especially hard to scratch two men who’ve been valued pieces of the organization for a number of years.

Personally, I believe Scuderi can return to form, and is a vocal captain Pittsburgh needs with their All-Star players. But on the other hand, Despres’ roster spot has been long overdue, and the Pens must figure out if he’s a player of the future or trade bait. Despres could land a player they heavily covet and in the end help them keep Paul Martin – who’s speculated to be dealt because of his impending free agency.

In the case of Adams, I trust he’ll give it all he’s got come game-time, but as to how effective he’ll ultimately be remains a mystery. Guys like Jayson Megna, Adam Payerl, Bryan Rust, Zach Sill, and Dominik Uher can all easily replace Adams on the Pens’ fourth-line. And with how much tenacity and grit Sill carried out each game last season, I think he’d fill Adams’ shoes just fine, if not better, on the fourth-line for Pittsburgh.

Point being, head coach Mike Johnston’s got some tough decisions to make.

Hopefully, a change in the coaching staff, and clean bill of health can replenish both Adams and Scuderi. You might as well pray it happens too, because I don’t envision Johnston going with players over these two.

You trust they’ll be staples in the Pens’ lineup for 2014-15, but their futures are certainly foggy, and present a bigger dilemma to Pittsburgh than one would think.

Tags: Pittsburgh Penguins

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