One Center, Two Center, Three Center, Four…If We Want to Three-Peat, We Need More! – Pittsburgh Penguins – PenguinPoop Blog

One Center, Two Center, Three Center, Four…If We Want to Three-Peat, We Need More!

We are in day seven of free agency. I am reminded that NHL free agency is not a 100-yard sprint race but a very long and strenuous 26-mile marathon.

I must confess to our readers, I get very excited about all the big-name signings and all the drama that goes with it. The media does a very good job of ensnaring us with their constant coverage and potential trades that never materialize.

If you listen to some national media sports sources, they have it all figured out on who will win the Stanley Cup 11 months from now. Thus, there is no need to play the season. These are the same people who get paid big, big money to tell you what to think. Some of them with the big names are pretty good at it, too!


One little problem is they often get it wrong! Take the top 25 North American hockey experts and ask them if they picked the Pens to win the Cup in 2017. Eighty percent of them would have said no!  Washington, Chicago…fill in the blank…but not our beloved Penguins. Four get it wrong and one gets it right. Funny how that works.

How about in 2016? Ask any of those same 25 hockey experts on October 1, 2015, if the Pens under Mike Johnston were going to win the Cup that year. After they stopped laughing, all would say no way. But we did.

To my point, these same experts are still here. And, whether we like it or not, their faulty opinions influence our game on a national, international and…unfortunately…local level as well. I’m reminded of the old adage, believe half of what you read and a quarter of what you see.

You do not need an expert to tell you what we already know. Our Penguins in 2016 and again more amazingly in 2017 defied logic and beat all the experts, winning back-to-back championships! Let us never forget this. No one can ever make light of these accomplishments! The other 30 NHL franchises do not have to like us, but they darn well will respect us!! We’re the back-to-back champions…and you don’t find them in a box of Cracker Jacks.

96To the elusive three-peat! Our 2017-2018 edition of the Penguins need some help. That is most definitely an understatement. Left wing is an area of concern. Defense as well. We need Brian Dumoulin re-signed at a reasonable rate in the worst possible way. He may not be flashy as some of the other bigger names on our team, but as Don Cherry of CBC fame said, “He moves the puck well. He’s good under pressure. He gets the job done.”

What more do you want your 4-5 d-man to do?

Then we have the issue at center. I’m hoping Matt Cullen returns for another year to anchor the fourth line. We need a replacement for Nick Bonino–we have a few options inside our own system for a temporary fix. As I mentioned above, we are running a marathon…not a sprint. With that in mind, we have time and flexibility to make the right trade at the right time. I’m sure Pens GM Jim Rutherford is of that mind set.

One of my most knowledgeable hockey friends made a very good point. One I’d never considered before. We have Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. We have no center problem, Penguins fans!

They play about 22 minutes a game, my friend noted. Jordan Staal used to play 26-28 minutes a game as a defensive center every night. There are many elite centers that can play 26-28 minutes per game on a nightly basis. No effect on overall performance. If you increased Sid’s and Geno’s ice time to just 25 minutes a game, your need for a third-line center would become much different. Especially if you were going all in to three-peat, as our plan would be for 2018. There are very few teams that can do that!

His main concern was whether Kris Letang would come back stronger than ever after surgery and give us 28 strong minutes every night. My friend believes Letang will, and that’s why the Pens are a force to win it all again. Edmonton and the Pens are his prediction for 2018 Cup Final!

For me? I still want to see us add that two-way center, with size, skill, speed before next Christmas, and another large left winger to balance the attack.

I’m already thinking “Dumo” is signed. Mother always told me I shouldn’t count my chickens before they hatch.

What I’m happiest about? Due in part to JR’s fine work (signing Justin Schultz and Antti Niemi for just over 6 million) and a helpful boost in the salary cap, we have some money to build a better team.

So, when these national and international hockey experts all predict we will not three-peat, we can all rest easy knowing they have been wrong many more times than they get it right.

I’m okay for now. How about you?

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  1. Pens's Gravatar Pens
    July 11, 2017 at 3:52 am | Permalink


    • Pens's Gravatar Pens
      July 11, 2017 at 4:02 am | Permalink

      I don’t see the pens getting a guy like Duchene or Staal, just too much salary and it probably wouldn’t be wise with a lot of the young guys comin up in the organization that will be lookin for contracts in the near future! But I really like the comment about Adam Lowry! I think he would be an awesome fit, and it could work! Maybe even Kadri because of the situation Toronto is in. But the pens have a chance to do something very special this year and I think that 3rd line center is gonna be the difference or not! I’m happy with everything about the rest of the team, defense, wingers, goalies but that 3rd center is key! Thanks

      • James Arthurs's Gravatar James Arthurs
        July 11, 2017 at 7:05 am | Permalink

        Hi Pen’s,
        Welcome..Thanks for your post. I too like the idea of Lowry in a Pens uniform.
        The biggest thing for me is that JR has some time to make the right trade and he does not have to rush and over pay for a center.
        Let’s make it 3…

  2. pen's 4ever's Gravatar pen's 4ever
    July 8, 2017 at 8:05 pm | Permalink

    I still say no to Kadri, but I found some time to look at some players…
    How about UFA’s
    1. Jay McClement
    2. John Mitchell
    3. A trade for Jets Adam Lowry
    Lowry could be part of the future and now as he is 24, played third line, all 82 games had 15 goals, has awesome size and is gritty also kills penalties and comes in at $1.125 mill. and RFA next summer.
    Just some thoughts, I think Kadri and Matt and RNH will handcuff the salary cap for JR and staff, then we will end up like Chicago, Tor and Edm.

    • the Other Rick's Gravatar the Other Rick
      July 8, 2017 at 8:33 pm | Permalink

      Hey Pen’s4ever,

      I do understand what you are saying, Kadri would be 31yrs I believe at the end of his contract and he his skill set may not be there. There are also a couple of kids in the Pens org that I will be keeping my eye on at the collegiant level, Angello and Pavychev that I must admit intrigue me. Neither really projects as a top C but could serve as a solid 3 or 4th liner. Angello may even be able to step up for brief stints to cover 2nd and play on the PP. But if the Pens are really commited to 3peating they may look at Kadri for the short term.

    • James Arthurs's Gravatar James Arthurs
      July 9, 2017 at 8:03 am | Permalink

      Hi p4e
      Last night the pundits were saying that of the 4 teams mentioned,Pittsburgh did NOT have the pieces necessary to acquire a Kadri or Bozak with out blowing up the team.For that reason they doubted that JR will be able to do a deal with Toronto. ( Been wrong before).
      They also made a good point in that every center man available this year will be linked to Pittsburgh until they actually find one. Based on past Pens performances.
      What would you need to send to Winnipeg to get a Lowry ?

      • pen's 4ever's Gravatar pen's 4ever
        July 9, 2017 at 11:27 am | Permalink

        It make take Pouliot and a prosepect like Dane Birks and or a pick 3rd or 2nd.
        Although Angello is younger same size, but like I said just some thoughts!! Both are long shots!!

  3. James Arthurs's Gravatar James Arthurs
    July 8, 2017 at 11:57 am | Permalink

    Hi all..
    Interesting article below about the merits of signing Duchene or Staal.Both make 6 million a season.Duchene for 2 more years and 6 more for Staal. JORDAN IS 29.
    If you get a chance you may want to read it.
    For me paying 6 million a year is a lot of cash for someone who will be 35 when his contract expires. Looking 3 years down the road is it wise to have your 3 centers aged 32, 33, and 34 making 24.2 million in Cap hit? That is one reason I would be against acquiring Staal.
    Any ideas?

    • July 8, 2017 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

      I read that article earlier today. I thought it was kind of unfairly skewed towards just last years stats.

      I wouldn’t take Staal back after his leaving Pittsburgh for somewhere else. Plus I don’t think he has the drive he used to. If Carolina paid half his salary the rest of the way I would think about it but only if all else failed.

      I think the Pens should try to work out deals for one of these 3 centers:
      Nazime Kadri
      Matt Duchene
      Ryan Nugent-Hopkins

      • The Other Rick's Gravatar The Other Rick
        July 8, 2017 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

        Hey Jim and Phil,

        My 2 cents; Staal, no, I agree with you Phil, if Carolina picks about about half of his contract yes, otherwise no.

        Duchene, I was a big fan of going after and still think he may worth a look at the right price, 2 first round picks and a prospect is way, way over-priced. Maybe his bad year was tied to a bad team, but then again, if any part of that bad season attributable to him just going through the motions because things weren’t going his way could make him a cancer in the locker room, so he could be a gamble.

        So, like you Phil, I think Kadri is the guy the Pens should look at first. Toronto has themselves in a financial mess and may be forced to some extent to deal Kadri at a reduced price to get back under the Cap.

        Ryan Nugent-Hokpkins may be had cheaply too, so again, I would look into this as a back-up plan. Now with Draisaitl wanting a comparable extension to McDavid’s, since Edmonton went there with McDavid, they now have to deal with the fall out, and Nugent-Hopkins may be had for a reduced price to gird the organization for the Draisaitl negotiations.

        • James Arthurs's Gravatar James Arthurs
          July 8, 2017 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

          Hi Other Rick,
          I agree that Edmonton is now in a mess and the fun is just starting. Everybody wants to get a piece of the gold NOW before they have even won a thing. The only thing I see in Edmonton now is DEBT !
          They have that new fancy downtown rink that somebody has to pay for as well ! 🙂
          How ironic the two teams with the brightest future in young talent are the ones that may self destruct before they even get a chance at the Cup finals.
          Lets Go Pens !!

          * I want to remind my American friends that Toronto has an unlimited supply of money thru the Rogers Group of Companies. Just like Madison Square Gardens and the New York Rangers. Edmonton does not !!
          FYI ..The Oiler’s new arena is named the Rogers Center !!
          Just a friendly reminder to the Oiler fans who really runs the out fit in Canada.

      • James Arthurs's Gravatar James Arthurs
        July 8, 2017 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

        Hi Phil,
        If we could land any of the 3 you mentioned, here are the numbers.
        1. He is the youngest of the group at 24 years old.
        2. He is 6′,198 #. Only 43.2 % in Career Face off wins. He was Minus 10 last year. He scored 18 goals and 25 assists in 2017.
        A two way forward. Needs a change.
        3.His salary is 6 million for 3 more years.

        Matt Duchene:
        1. He is 26 years old.
        2. He is 5’11”, 196#. Last year he was 62.6 % on Face Off wins. 52.7% Career FO wins %. He scored a career low last year 18 goals and 23 assists.Also career low of – 34 on +/- stats last year.
        3. His salary is 6 million for 2 more years. He also needs a change.

        Nazime Kadri:
        1. He is 26 years old.
        2. 6′, 195#. He scored a career high 32 goals and 29 assists in 2017.
        He was 47.8 % on face offs in 2017. Career average is 46.6% on face offs.He scored 12 power play goals in 2017.
        3.Since 2012-13 Kadri has led the league in penalties drawn with 164…. 46 more than second place Dustin Brown of LA.
        That is handy to have on your team.
        4. His Cap hit is only $ 4.5 million for 5 more years. This year his actual salary is 5 million and falls the next 2 years to $ 4.5 million a season than $ 4 million a year for his final 2 seasons.
        5.Cap friendly stated that next year a modified NTC begins so if Toronto wants to move him, NOW is the time.

        I like Kadri by the numbers …

        • The Other Rick's Gravatar The Other Rick
          July 8, 2017 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

          Hey Jim,

          I had to laugh when you talked about penalties drawn. I agree, it is really handy to have a guy like that around when you have Crosby, Malkin, and Kessel working your PP.

          Thanks for digging all of that out for us. I was just liking the idea based on the fact that Toronto will be in Cap bind the closer they get to the season and have to deal making the market price m,ore friendly. Looking at your reasons just makes him all the better.

      • James Arthurs's Gravatar James Arthurs
        July 8, 2017 at 5:26 pm | Permalink

        Hey Phil, OTR, Rick,
        Reports out of Toronto are saying that Mike Babcock reported today that he was very pleased with the new acquisitions,the development of the new kids and their increased player depth.He also states that the Leafs are now in a win- win mode for this season.
        He goes on to say unfortunately we have 4 really good players, Centers Tyler Bozak, Nazem Kadri, and forwards James van Riemsdyk and Leo Komarov and only have spaces for 2 of them on the 2017-18 Leafs team.
        The article went on to say they are looking to trade for a defense man and they will be dealing with the issue asap.
        Could be interesting days ahead. Who do we give up ?

        • the Other Rick's Gravatar the Other Rick
          July 8, 2017 at 7:56 pm | Permalink

          Hey Jim,

          With Markov still out there, I do think that I do think if we had to give up Maatta or Dumo, that I would still make the deal. But really, that wouldn’t really do it, the numbers won’t work out so how adout this; Maatta and next years 1st round pick and maybe Pouliot, Taylor, or Prow, for Kadri and Komarov then sign Markarov? JVR and Bozak have M-NTCs.

          I know that I am not a big fan of trading 1 rnd picks but for that trade, I may do it. With Kadri and Komarov, I think the Pens migh be loaded for bear so their pick would at least in the late 20s. Then if Sprong and Aston – Reese do develop Hagelin and Hornqvist look really expendable and they could be dealt at the dealine for a 1st pick, at least Hornqvist could to a team that at worse will roughly equal to the pick we gave up.

          • the Other Rick's Gravatar the Other Rick
            July 8, 2017 at 8:00 pm | Permalink

            I would start with a 2nd or 3rd pick bur I would still consider the trade if I had to give up a 1st rounder.

          • James Arthurs's Gravatar James Arthurs
            July 9, 2017 at 8:29 am | Permalink

            Hey Other Rick,
            Great ideas Coach. How about trading our elephant ?
            (I do not dare mention his name because the readers will have my head !)

  4. James Arthurs's Gravatar James Arthurs
    July 8, 2017 at 9:55 am | Permalink

    Hey Guys and Gals, FYI
    Jussi Jokinen,age 34 has just been signed to a one year, one way deal with Edmonton for 1.1 million dollars. He scored 11 goals and had 17 assists last year for Florida. Florida bought out his contract to save $ 2.67million.
    Dallas signed 23 year old, RFA forward Brett Ritchie to a 2 year contract at 1.75 million per year.Ritchie scored 16 goals and had 8 assists in the 2017 season.
    Florida signed 25 year old RFA defense man Mark Pysyk to a 3 year deal for $2.73 million dollars per year. Pysyk scored 4 goals and had 13 assists in 2017.
    He was drafted 23rd in the first round.
    Brian Dumoulin scored 1 goal and had 14 assists in 2017 for comparison.
    Connor Sheary scored 23 goals and had 30 assists in 2017.
    We have $ 10.1 million cap space available as of this morning.
    The prices are getting pretty high for players in 2017.
    What do you think will happen to Brian and Connor?

    • July 8, 2017 at 10:20 am | Permalink

      I have no idea how arbitration works. Do they consider playoffs? They should. Dumoulin led the Penguins in minutes played in the playoffs and had the best defensive +/- at +9. He should easily get $3-$4 a year arbitration. Pens should sign him 5 years @ $3.75-$4 per year. He is a defenseman with experience leading the defense to two Stanley Cups.

      Sheary is probably in for an unworthy $3.0 – $4.5 arbitration because of skyrocketing prices. If they consider the playoffs, it could be way lower. He had the team worst +/- @ -5 and had 2 goals in 22 games. If your keeping track at home, that is the same amount of goals that Ron Hainsey had. Penguins should keep Sheary if his pay is $1.5 or lower. Use him in a trade for a quality center if he comes in higher.

      I would sign Sheary for $1.5 per year for 3 years. I really think Rust, Sprong, Wilson would all be able to fill in admirably if not better.

      • James Arthurs's Gravatar James Arthurs
        July 8, 2017 at 10:34 am | Permalink

        Hi Phil,
        Like you I have less problem giving Dumo a bigger contract than Sheary. They say numbers do not lie but I can not accept Sheary scoring 50+ points on any other team than ours. Breaking it down further playing with Sid.
        So why do we pay him 3.5 to 4 million based on one season ? It does not make sense to me.
        Dumo because big d men with proven experience are at a premium right now we will have to over pay a little.
        I am okay with that but not Sheary.
        I am wrong in my reasoning?

  5. Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
    July 7, 2017 at 8:11 pm | Permalink

    Hey all,

    Nothing earth-shattering, but I just discovered that Pens free agent Kevin Porter signed a two-year, two-way deal with Buffalo back on July 1.

    A former Hobey Baker winner (and center), Porter tallied three assists in 43 regular-season games for the Pens over the past two seasons.

    Still waiting for official word on Josh Archibald, Jean-Sebastien Dea and Derrick Pouliot. As RFAs, I’m assuming they signed their offer sheets, but I haven’t seen any announcement to that effect.


    PS–Speaking of ex-Pens, Beau Bennett signed with St. Louis. So did Chris Thorburn.

  6. Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
    July 7, 2017 at 6:27 pm | Permalink

    Rumor has it, if Rick Tocchet becomes head coach of Arizona, the Pens are going to hire Michel Therrien specifically to coach Phil Kessel.

    KIDDING … 🙂

    Great article, Jim. Sure hope we can get that big left wing of yours.


    • James Arthurs's Gravatar James Arthurs
      July 7, 2017 at 8:37 pm | Permalink

      Hi Rick,
      Losing Tocchet will be another blow to the Pens. But we still have Martin or maybe Gonchar who could take on additional duties. I saw the article from the Trib about Tocchet and his positive effect on Phil. There has to be someone else who can massage Phil’s idiosyncrasies with in the organization.
      Make Cullen a player Coach..haha ( His full time job is Kessel) .
      I am still in shock over the Edmonton situation with Mc David and Draisaitl.

  7. pen's 4ever's Gravatar pen's 4ever
    July 7, 2017 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

    Great article James, we do have a third line center problem, but I’ m not worried.
    Even though I’m not a fan GM JR has done a good job, he will find that center we need and I hope Brian gets signed.
    Maybe through trade now, with it being summer and my family and I spend a lot of time outside and camping so I’m not sure who would fit or is available, not Duchene!! That would screw up our cap situation, I’ve heard Kadri’s name come up.

    • James Arthurs's Gravatar James Arthurs
      July 7, 2017 at 8:13 pm | Permalink

      Hi p4e,
      Thanks for the kind words.
      I wanted to write something optimistic and not just be a critic all the time. The pen’s have issues for sure. But so do all the other 30 NHL Teams. Now a days you have to be careful for what you wish for. Edmonton and Toronto for all their riches in players have real problems in the future. $$$$. They better win it all next year because there will be a major player sell off when all the kids start getting the BIG pay days.
      You and your family will go to the lake country up North??
      Enjoy your summer…

  8. the Other Rick's Gravatar the Other Rick
    July 7, 2017 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

    Right there with you Jim,

    First, how can anyone call the experts experts when they are usually wrong?
    Then, JR take your time and address the the C, LW, and D positions without panic. Toronto fresh from there stinging defeat against Washington in the playoffs ran out in panic and signed 37yr Marleau to $6mil contract and are over the Cap and may lose a good young player.

    The Wild Card here really is, what will some of these kids who were at the developmental camp look like during training camp. They could open up some interesting options.

    • James Arthurs's Gravatar James Arthurs
      July 7, 2017 at 8:24 pm | Permalink

      Hey Other Rick,
      You raise a good point about the kids and training camp. For better or for worse we are entering a new era for the Pen’s. MAF…One of the untouchables just a few years ago is no longer a Pen. All great teams go thru transitions and 2018 marks the start of that for our Pens. We heard rumors of Hornqvist or Hagelin being used as trade bait this year and I believe that almost any player except Sid and Geno could be used as a trade if the return was big enough.
      So that means more opportunity for the kids as you noted. Great times to be a fan.

      • GENO 871's Gravatar GENO 871
        July 9, 2017 at 1:49 am | Permalink

        fyi Toronto is only over cap til two players are placed on long-term ir . when that takes affect they will be under cap 10mill. and some change they are able to go over 7% of the total cap so they can spend roughly 2mill. more. kadri will be staying with Toronto because he can play every were c or wing and his cap hit decreases the remainder of his contract and none of the others will fit our play style

        • James Arthurs's Gravatar James Arthurs
          July 9, 2017 at 8:20 am | Permalink

          Hi Geno 871,
          Nice to hear from you.You raise a good point.
          Toronto’s real problem is a rags to riches story. They have so much talent in their minor systems, plus 5 or 6 elite young talents that will require major raises soon to keep them all.
          It is almost impossible to do. I know they are really trying to move left winger JVR and I would love to have him on our team for at least one season to help us 3 peat, but we need a third center more.
          Regarding Kadri, next season a limited no trade clause comes into affect and if Toronto wants another talented d man they may just be required to move him now. I just do not think that JR will give up the pieces GM Lou Lamoriello will want in return.
          Given all the cash that the Leafs have nothing would surprise me .


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