June 23, 2012
Quiet Day 2 at NHL Draft
By Chris Stevenson, QMI Agency
PITTSBURGH - In an NHL draft that unfolded pretty much as expected, it was left to the host Pittsburgh Penguins to provide the sizzle and inject at least a little drama into the proceedings which wrapped up Saturday with the second through seventh rounds at the Consol Energy Center.
Don’t be surprised if the Penguins continue to make waves heading towards July 1 and the opening of free agency season.
On a weekend which the scouts had trouble getting excited about the talent pool - “The worst draft I can remember,” said one veteran scout - the star of the weekend was Penguins general manager Ray Shero.
In dealing centre Jordan Staal and defenceman Zbynek Michalek to the Carolina Hurricanes and the Phoenix Coyotes respectively, Shero had a net savings of $6 million on the salary cap. Staal and Michalek each had $4 million charges while centre Brandon Sutter, who came back from Carolina, has a $2 million hit.
The defensive prospects the Penguins acquired in the Staal deal - Derrick Pouliot of the Portland Winterhawks, who they took with the eighth pick overall Friday night, and Brian Dumoulin, who was the ’Canes second-round pick in the 2009 draft - won’t cost them anything for a little while.
It looks like the Penguins are now positioned to get captain Sidney Crosby signed to a long-term extension and maybe make a run at anticipated free agents Zach Parise and defenceman Ryan Suter.
Suter said Crosby has always had a big picture mentality in his salary demands, balancing his salary against leaving some flexibility for Shero to add to the supporting cast.
“That’s part of the conversation. That’s what Sidney did last time. Let’s be honest. He’s a great hockey player and these players need to be paid. What he’s always been willing to do is to try and help the team out so we can continue to surround these players with good players. It’s a conversation I’ve engaged with him already. We’ll continue to talk. He’s never been reluctant to help the team out.”
Suter is an intriguing case for the Penguins who need another front-line guy to go with Kris Letang or at least to give them two good pairs. Shero was the assistant general manager in Nashville when Suter was drafted by the Predators, so there’s a familiarity there.
The Penguins have great players and are perennial Cup contenders, so they would appear to have a lot to offer.
“Just play that back, sounds good,” said Shero when asked what his sales pitch might be to free agents. “I think we’re in a really good position. I think we have a really good team, we’re well-coached, we have great ownership and a beautiful building as everybody sees. But there’s a lot of good teams out there and a lot of good situations. You don’t know what players are going to do. We have to formulate our game plan this week.”
Saturday was quiet as far as trades went, but Shero said there was a lot of talk.
“It wasn’t as quiet as you think. Just because the trades didn’t happen, I think a lot of things were being held up maybe by July 1 with notable free agents out there. There were certainly plenty of offers made, at least that came my way. I think you’ll see that pick up once we get to July 1 and beyond. Once things start to fall, it might be like dominoes,” he said.
Forward Rick Nash of the Columbus Blue Jackets and goaltender Roberto Luongo of the Vancouver Canucks remain the two other biggest names in play. The Ottawa Senators and New York Rangers remain in pursuit and the San Jose Sharks have an interest, but the Blue Jackets insist on Sharks centre Logan Couture being part of the package, which one Sharks source said Saturday is a deal breaker for them.
“A lot can happen over the next 10 days,” said Shero.