Print Share


Penguins: Who Stays And Who Goes

Earlier in the week, former Pittsburgh Penguin Jaromir Jagr said that he had the best years of his career while playing in Pittsburgh.  With the media the way it is, it of course stirred up a conversation about a possible return to the ‘Burgh for Jagr.  While those rumors have slowed down over the past few days, the talks about which free agents the Pens need to retain are heating up.  The Penguins are coming off a surprising season without their “two-headed monster”, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, which allowed lesser known players to showcase their skills en route to a 4th place regular season finish in the Eastern Conference.

The possible free-agents that the Penguins have to decide whether or not to retain are: Craig Adams, Arron Asham, Mike Comrie, Chris Conner, Pascal Dupuis, Eric Godard, Dustin Jeffrey (restricted free-agent), Tyler Kennedy (restricted free-agent), Alex Kovalev, Mike Rupp and Max Talbot.  Each of these players played a pivotal role in the successful season the Pens had.  But with the salary cap in place, the Penguins won’t be able to afford to keep everyone.

While I’m a fan of each of these players, I’m going to narrow it down to the five I feel are the most important to re-sign for next season and beyond.

1. Craig Adams – Adams was claimed off of waivers in 2009 by the Penguins from the Chicago Blackhawks, and what a pickup he has become.  The casual hockey fan may not recognize Adams’ name or realize his value.  Adams has been instrumental on the penalty kill and is a lock-down defensive forward.  Adams’ price tag is favorable to the Pens also as he made the league minimum of $550,000 last season.  While he is the key free-agent in my eyes, I wouldn’t go higher than $700,000 for him.  I think he’ll return to the Pens, but there is a chance that a new General Manager may want to make a name for himself and make a splash by snagging someone like Adams.

2. Mike Rupp – Rupp is a fourth-line grinder who plays hard all the time.  We saw late in the season and in the playoffs that the line of Rupp, Adams and Asham was the Penguins’ best.  Rupp provides a big-body to put in front of the defender’s net and I feel he could be used on the Penguins’ power play unit as a screen in front of the opposition’s goalie (it couldn’t hurt the power play anymore, could it?).  At 6’5, 230 pounds, Rupp is also a physical force that will step in to protect his teammates.  Rupp is a do-it-all type of player whose value is under appreciated.

3. Pascal Dupuis – Dupuis saw his scoring drop with the absence of Crosby, but his familiarity with Crosby makes him a must-have.  Whether it’s a line of Crosby, Neal and Dupuis or any other combination they want Crosby to have, I think Dupuis is a perfect fit for him.  He’s a good third-option on the line and plays great on the short boards.  He also serves as one of their top penalty killers.  Dupuis and Talbot are the same player in my book and if I can only choose one, as much as I love Talbot’s energy and skill, I’ll take the more affordable and more productive Dupuis.

4. Mike Comrie – I know, he was hurt all year and only scored one empty net goal in the last regular season game, but let me explain this pick.  Comrie game to the Penguins last year making the league minimum and is a natural scorer.  The plan was to have Comrie on a line with Malkin and Jordan Staal, or have him center the third line.  Ten games in, Comrie had hip surgery and didn’t return until the last couple weeks of the regular season.  Comrie was hurt when he got here and tried to play through the pain and the Penguins could sign him for the same price as last year and let a healthy Comrie play.  I think that they need to keep the same approach as they had with him going into last year and let him prove he can play the whole season and be the scorer they thought he was.  He could be the steal of the bunch by this time next year.  Plus, having Hilary Duff in town doesn’t hurt either.

5. Chris Conner -  Coach Dan Bylsma is a huge fan of Conner and there is no way he will let him leave.  Conner comes with a cheap price tag of $550,000 and won’t see a substantial raise, but always made things happen when he was on the ice.  In 60 games, Conner had seven goals and nine assists and displayed a good game along the boards and did an outstanding job with forechecking.  Although undersized at 5’8, Conner hasn’t let that slow him down and is an intricate piece to the Pens’ future.

About the Author Subscribe to author's RSS feed
Written by
I'm currently pursuing my Master's degree in Communication and Journalism from Clarion University. I currently work for Ohio Valley Athletics where I serve as the West Virginia Football Beat Writer and cover West Virginia Men's Basketball as well. I'm a big Pittsburgh Pirates, Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Penguins, Pitt Panthers and Oregon Ducks fan. Follow me on Twitter at @MichaelWaterloo or visit www.ovathletics.com

Tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


In response to “Penguins: Who Stays And Who Goes”

  1. Kirk Butler May 14 20119:25 pm


    Hey there big guy… just a quick thought regarding the Penguins. Not to say that names listed above aren’t important but if the Penguins want to return to the status of a true contender they desperately need to bolster the “wing” positon in their top 6.

    Pascal Dupuis would be a definite keeper to me and Comrie is someone to walk on. The other three are great depth players however role players are a dime a dozen in the NHL and if you have to overpay in the NHL for depth it’s better to walk and find other options.

    They did add a nice piece in James Neal however I feel that need at a bare minimum 1 more winger however 2 would be ideal. Obviously all of this depends on who resigns and who doesn’t but the top 3 targets the Pens should focus on are as follows.

    (1) Ville Leino – Pens fans should be familar with this guy.. hard worker and has post season success. It is highly unlikely a Flyers team that is pushed up against the cap will be able to afford him.

    (2) Tomas Fleischman – I expect the Avalanche will try to resign him otherwise trading for him wouldn’t have made sense but if not he would definitely help add depth to their top 6.

    (3) Tomas Kopecky – Similar to the Flyers the Hawks were pushed up against the cap this year and I doubt they will able to afford him. Similar player to Fleishcman and while he isn’t my first choice sometimes beggers can’t be choosers.

    Crosby is hands down the best player in the league however come playoff time depth through your top 6 will give Crosby more time and space because honestly with their current roster a good defensive team would have no problem limiting the damage Crosby can do when he doesn’t have anyone to play with.

    Just my opinion… but if the Pens wan to win a bunch of Cups during the Crosby era they only have one part of the team to fix and that is their top 6!!

    1. Michael Waterloo May 14 20119:45 pm


      Hey Kirk,

      Thanks for the read and excellent comment. I am planning after the season is over, to discuss other free agents that the Pens should go after. I’m not saying the Pens must keep all 5 that I listed, just listing the order of importance of the free agents to be that played for them last year.

      I like your calls with Leino, Fleischman and Kopecky. All would be great fits. Only problem is that the Pens are up against the cap every year and they were able to get Neal last season with Malkins salary taken off since he was on ir. With Sid and Malkin making over $8 million and add Neals salary to that, the Pens don’t have too much room. I like the ideas of getting the above players you mentioned, but I just don’t know if they will be able to afford them.

      Rupp, Adams, Dupuis, Comrie and Conner will all come cheap and if they don’t sign them, they will look to sign cheap players who will produce. Great suggestions though!

  2. Kirk Butler May 14 20119:54 pm


    Yeah for sure, and if they can get the above mentioned players at a decent rate then keeping what you know when it comes to role players is a definite bonus.

    The NHL salary cap is quite the tight wire to walk eh! I guess one of the problems with having so much money tied up down the middle is there isn’t much left for the rest of your top 6. It’s too bad that Kunitz’s contract wasn’t expiring this year because I think he is drastically overpaid for what he brings to the table…. but what can you do!

    Even if they could land one of the three I mentioned it would go a long way to being able to spread out some of their talent….

    As a Pens fans have you ever pondered what could have been? I still can’t believe the Pens passed on Jonathan Toews to take Jordan Stall in the ’06 draft. Could you imagine having Crosby and Toews as your top 2 centres for the next 12-15 years…??!! Stall is a good player but he is no Toews…. with those two leading the squad I am positive you would have needed both hands to count the Stanely Cups won during there era.


    1. Michael Waterloo May 14 201110:13 pm


      Yes I couldn’t agree more, Kunitz hasn’t done what they expected him to do when they got him from Anaheim. He has been serviceable and they got Tangradi in the deal, but I expected more from a “top line winger”. Thanks for pointing that out about Staal and Toews, a lot of people don’t realize the Pens passed on him. Staal is good at what he does in that defensive offenseman role, but he is overrated and the worst of the Staals (possibly including the youngest). If they had Toews, you are right, they would be come this generations Red Wings/Habs.

  3. Niky May 15 20115:06 pm


    Having Hilary Duff in town is an excellent reason to NOT keep Comrie. Yuck

  4. Meghan May 16 20113:05 am


    You realize if the Pens had drafted Towes, Backstrom, or Kessel instead of Jordan they wouldn’t even be on the team anymore. The Pens wouldn’t have been able to afford any of them without trading Geno. I’d rather have Jordan at his 4 mill over Towes, Backstrom, etc any day of the week. The guy is only 22 years and is very good at what he does. Wasn’t he a Selke finalist a year ago? Every year expect for this year and his second year he came close to 50 pts. What’s wrong with that? Everyone had these unrealistic expectations for him. He isn’t Crosby or Malkin and if you expect him to be you’re going to be disappointed. He could have a hat trick in game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals and he would still get criticized. What more do you people want from him?

    If he hadn’t had to deal with not 1 but 2 injuries he would have put up the same kind of numbers he did before the injuries happened. 30 points in 40 some games is pretty amazing for a guy who didn’t have a training camp and missed the first 3 months of the season. He got screwed out of the Pens Masterson nomination.

    Like it or not he is a very important part of the team.

    Game 4 2009 Stanley Cup Final – ENOUGH SAID.

    1. Michael Waterloo May 16 201110:35 am


      Hey Meghan,

      Thanks for the read and the comment. It’s obvious you are a huge Staal fan, as am I. While this isn’t what my article is about, it’s a good side topic. Talking about taking Toews over Staal is like people saying what if the Blazers took Jordan instead of Bowie or the Chargers took Peyton Manning over Ryan Leaf. Or the Pirates took Buster Posey over Pedro Alvarez. It’s just fun to think what if because the teams would shape up differently.

      I for one, like what Staal brings to the team and as you said, he was a Selke finalist (I believe he lost to Getzlaf) and he gets unfairly compared to Geno and Sid. However, I do feel he is overpaid at over $4 million. Craig Adams is great at what he does but does he deserve to make more than his $550,000 he made last year? And I also do feel Staal gets more praise due do his brothers success.

      Again, I love Staal on the team and if he continues to do what he does, I’ll be happy. Once Geno leaves town in the next 2 years, I’m hoping they can sign Staal for longer and less money to open up more room under the cap.

      And you are right, Staals line during the Finals run was by far the best and he definitely shined for them.

      Thanks for the excellent points!

      1. Kirk Butler May 16 20113:09 pm


        Sorry, didn`t want to come across anti-Stall. He is one of the leagues best 3rd line centers (behind maybe only Pavelski in SJ)

        As for Toews though I don`t think you fully understand the nature of this kid. Like Crosby he is a win at any cost player… and that includes contract value. After winning the Conn Smythe he wanted to donate the large bonus he received for winning it to charity to help alleviate the teams Cap Problem. The league said no but the gesture shows you that he like Crosby would be willing to take a discount to help build a winner.

        Sorry as well for getting the post off topic.. just one of things though where as a hockey fan it would have been a real treat to see those two on the same team. Obviously you can tell that I think very highly of their work ethic, passion, talent and commitment to the game of hockey and winning.

        1. Michael Waterloo May 17 20117:27 pm


          Wow I never heard about that with Toews before….seems like a genuine guy which is what the sport needs! I agree with you also about Staal being one of the top 3rd liners in hockey! I couldn’t name 3 better than him in hockey.

    2. Miz May 17 20112:39 pm



      Your kidding about Staal. He isn’t Geno or Sid and never will be. If it ever came down to trading Geno or Staal the Pens need to trade Staal.

      Staal is only a specialist on the Penalty Kill and is only a defensive forward. He has only had one good season and then his stats have dwindled every year since.

      When Sid and Geno went down he had the chance to step up and take the lead of this team and it never happened. He didn’t even show up during the playoffs when you need your big guns and superstars to show up. He had one goal and no one noticed him until he did a header into the boards in game six.

      Geno is a Conn Smythe winner and yes plagued by injury the past two seasons defintely have derailed his career. But his stats don’t lie and without him the Pens don’t win the Stanley Cup back in ’09.

      Also with Sid’s concussion issue, you don’t want to get rid of your second best player on your team. Malkin is that and the Pens can’t afford to make another “Jagr like” mistake and get rid of 71 if 87 is going to have set backs. Staal would be the odd man out.

      1. Michael Waterloo May 17 20117:32 pm


        Hey Miz,

        You are right, Staal isn’t Geno or Sid but noone is Sid, and only a handful are better than Geno in the game. You are right, Staal is a specialist and when they drafted him, they knew that. While he may have only one good season too you, that’s based only on statistics. He has been what they wanted him to be since he broke into the league. He isn’t a scorer and as Meghan said, if you want him to be then you will be disappointed. I can’t name 3 better third line centers in hockey than Staal.

        I also feel that Geno would be the one to get rid of out of the three. His contract is up I believe in 2013 and like Jagr, he will want out of Pittsburgh for more money and to be the star of his own team. The Penguins had no choice but to get rid of Jagr. Would we like Staal to score 30 goals a year? Sure we would. Do I expect him to be able to look better than he does on breakaways? Definitely. But you can’t compare him to Sid and Geno because he won’t ever be them nor do the Penguins expect him to be.

        Thanks for the read and the comment Miz!

Add Your Comment