Penguins Free-Agent Update: Where’s the Beef? – Pittsburgh Penguins – PenguinPoop Blog

Penguins Free-Agent Update: Where’s the Beef?

In the wake of Ray Shero’s dismissal in May, Penguins owners Mario Lemieux and Ron Burkle repeatedly stressed the need to add more grit and character to their hockey team.

pp0492On the first day of free agency new GM Jim Rutherford devised a novel approach for addressing that need. He let the Pens’ grit-and-character guys bolt.

In a mass departure unrivaled since the Exodus Deryk Engelland, Tanner Glass, Brooks Orpik, and Joe Vitale exited the Steel City. So, too, went any pretense of shielding superstars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin from abuse. Indeed, the physical foursome accounted for 674 (or 31%) of the team’s 2162 hits in 2013-14 and 15 of its 29 fights.

In fairness to Rutherford, the Pens couldn’t afford to keep them. Certainly not at prevailing market rates. But as the team stands now, it leaves Robert Bortuzzo as the oh-so-only Penguin who’ll drop the mitts or stick up for a teammate. It also reinforces a deep-seated fear that Rutherford plans to transform the black and gold into a tri-state version of the soft-serve Carolina Hurricanes.

Perhaps restricted free-agent Bobby Farnham will earn a spot. A pocket-version of ex-Pen Jarkko Ruutu, the 5’10” 180-pounder is a fearless agitator who’ll tangle with anyone. Brawny Adam Payerl is another candidate for fourth-line duty, although he’s not known as a fighter.

A potential solution? Sign former Penguin Ryan Malone. The Pittsburgh native recently was bought out by Tampa Bay following his arrest in April for DUI and cocaine possession. He probably could be had for a song. Provided he cleans up his act “Bugsy’s” size, toughness, and scoring pedigree (six 20-goal seasons) make him an intriguing gamble.

Another option is defenseman Tim Gleason, who played for Rutherford in Carolina. Recently bought out by Toronto, Gleason hits, blocks shots and can swap punches with the best of ‘em. He, too, might be signed at a rock-bottom price.

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  1. kerrdog211's Gravatar kerrdog211
    July 3, 2014 at 6:02 pm | Permalink

    The addition of Steve Downie should raise the grit factor for this team. Personally I would be on the horn with our good buddies the New York Islanders. We need wingers which they have in spades, and they need defensive help; enter Paul Martin and Rob Scuderi. I know what everyone is going to say “no one will take on that Scuderi contract”. Here’s why they just might do the deal, he’s a New York guy, they have the cap room, and they would love to have Martin. Base the deal on the contingency you get both or neither. While we were at it I would be shopping Sutter as well, Goc can handle the third line and you may just pull two good wingers out of the deal. Just wishful thinking I guess.

  2. Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
    July 3, 2014 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

    Glad to see Rutherford re-signed Zach Sill. He’s a really tough kid.

  3. SimplePensFan's Gravatar SimplePensFan
    July 3, 2014 at 12:35 am | Permalink

    Honestly, I would love to see them not re up spalings qualifying offer if he is looking for $2.5 million. I would rather them, in a dream world, use that money and add it to what is left after Sutter and Simon hopefully resign for roughly $4.5 to 5 million between them, plus the re addition of zatkoff’s cap hit of $600,000 when he is most inevitably sent back to wbs, giving them about $3 million to go after one last physical depth player, Steve Ott. While extremely unlikely, this would give them some serious depth and one of the most imposing sets of bottom six forwards in the league.


    • SimplePensFan's Gravatar SimplePensFan
      July 3, 2014 at 12:41 am | Permalink

      Sorry didn’t mean “add” the 2.5 million for spaling, just don’t spend it.

      P.s – I greatly support all of the additions thus far given the terrible cap situation coming in.

      • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
        July 3, 2014 at 9:40 am | Permalink

        Hey SimplePensFan,

        A very intriguing idea. I like Ott, too, and think he would be a great addition to the bottom six as you suggest. But it seems the Pens like Spaling and plan to sign him…at least for now.

        I’m still a little thrown by the fact that Rutherford spent his big money on a defenseman (Ehrhoff) rather than a scoring winger. But JR may not be done dealing. A hockey buddy heard rumors that the Leafs covet Paul Martin, and that a Martin for Joffrey Lupul deal may be in the works. In that context, the Ehrhoff signing would make more sense to me.

        I do wish we had a Mike Rupp type of player to keep the opposition honest. But at this stage it might be wishful thinking.

        I agree that Rutherford’s done an admirable job thus far, given the cap-mess he inherited.

        • SimplePensFan's Gravatar SimplePensFan
          July 3, 2014 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

          I completely agree with what you said about the Ehrhoff acquisition. At first, it perplexed me with all the young talent the penguins have in blue chip defensemen ( Dumoulin, Puoilot, Despres). But recently I’ve started to notice that JR, I believe, is playing mind games. He’s older, already has had a brilliant career, so I believe he’s more enticed to do some gambling and make trades, have some fun at the end, maybe rewrite the fact that most believe he’s made mostly lack luster trades to this point. I believe he’s playing these games with both Martin and especially Sutter. He had Spaling and still resigned Goc? That gives him alot of options at the center position. Sounds to me like he’s sending a message to an rfa who might be stepping his bounds on what hes worth. So I’m in total agreement with you in that I believe the pens aren’t done dealing. Lupul would be a great addition, and wow what a second line that would be, but I’ve heard Florida and the Red Wings could be interested in Martin as well. Have you heard anything to that effect?

  4. Pen's 4ever's Gravatar Pen's 4ever
    July 2, 2014 at 8:00 pm | Permalink

    Not a bad signing, still need some Real wingers for Sid and Geno to play with..not Kunitz or Dupuis or Spalding..
    Still a very soft team as of right now, so if we start season and get beat up every game what next JR??

  5. July 2, 2014 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

    I totally disagree with this article! the Pens did a nice job on getting quallity depth 2 way players with some grit! Free agency is only 2 days old and the Pens need to free up some cap space before they go further!
    You can’t judge what they did by the feeding frenzy that happened yesterday!
    T5hey made smart moves without over paying! What more could you ask for!

  6. SK's Gravatar SK
    July 2, 2014 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

    And just like that they sign Downie. Like his past antics or not he ups the tough factor considerably and he signed for (1×1) SIGNIFICANTLY less than he made in previous years.

    Not surprising to see them address the tough factor on day two once other things fall into place and the market settles a bit.

  7. 55 on point's Gravatar 55 on point
    July 2, 2014 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

    They could have stayed home and watched it on TV. Maybe they should have. I didn’t mind Hornqvist and Spaling even though it was a “we don’t like James Neal anymore” deal. And Spaling will have to stick around to convince me it was at least a marginally good deal. As for free agency day, I feel as though I wasted an entire day getting ready for a hot blind date then found out it was with my sister. I doubt I’ll be joining the Jim Rutherford fan club any time soon. We don’t need a winger right now. Really?

    • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
      July 2, 2014 at 7:49 pm | Permalink

      The more I read about Ehrhoff, the more he sounds like a really good signing.

  8. Carolyn's Gravatar Carolyn
    July 2, 2014 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    I beg to differ on the article that these grit and character guys defended Crosby and Malkin. Crosby especially, was beat up on a nightly basis and no one stood up for him. Pens had no enforcers these past few seasons. Besides Orpik, I wasn’t at all sad to see any of them go.

    • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
      July 2, 2014 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

      Hey Carolyn,

      You’re right. The Pens didn’t do an especially good a job of protecting their stars the past couple of years. Ever since Eric Godard and Mike Rupp departed following the 2010-11 season (and giant-killer Arron Asham left in 2012) they’ve been vulnerable.

      Suddenly, Engelland had to take on heavyweights. And Glass, while a game and underrated fighter, didn’t have enough skill to play with Sid or Geno.

      Downie’s no behemoth, but at least he won’t be out of place skating on the top two lines.

  9. July 2, 2014 at 11:24 am | Permalink

    The thing that is amazing is the price these guys got on the open market. Teams are really looking for a combination of grit & skill and the Penguins just lost most of theirs. As it is right now, the team is sof, very sof.

    • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
      July 2, 2014 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

      VERY sof …

      … I was all set to suggest the Pens might need to reactivate Rick Tocchet, but they signed his protégé, Steve Downie, instead.

      A step in the right direction.


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