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jokergreen Dec 7 '17
The Pittsburgh Penguins loaded up with veteran talent before the trade deadline and entered the playoffs with Stanley Cup expectations. Jack Butler Jersey . Not aspirations, expectations. And those expectations were dashed when the Penguins were swept in the Eastern Conference Final. Off-Season Game Plan looks at what promises to be a challenging summer for GM Ray Shero. When the Penguins were unceremoniously swept by the Boston Bruins, it raised questions about what changes could be in store. Shero quickly signed head coach Dan Bylsma to a contract extension, a vote of confidence that really shouldnt have been necessary for the coach of a team that finished with the best record in the Eastern Conference. If there would be no change behind the bench, then perhaps it would be goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury on the chopping block, after another disappointing playoff performance. No chance. "The faith I have in Marc-Andre Fleury hasnt waned," Shero said. Bylsma had Fleurys back too, saying, "Hes the number one goalie for this franchise and he will be going forward." That makes it pretty clear that the Penguins will maintain the status quo in the crease. Taking that stance may force the Penguins hand in other areas, however. Defenceman Kris Letang, who has one year left on his current contract, but is looking at a possible contract extension this summer, may be too pricey for the Penguins and could be traded. Pittsburgh also has five unrestricted free agent forwards -- Pascal Dupuis, Jarome Iginla, Brenden Morrow, Matt Cooke and Craig Adams. Given their current salary cap situation, the Penguins wont be able to keep all of them. They will have a lot of holes to fill if they dont keep any of them. Its not as though the Penguins should be looking to massively overhaul a roster that, fully healthy, was probably the most talented in the league, but its difficult to look at their playoff results and just try to maintain the status quo, because the Penguins are already the favourites for the 2014 Stanley Cup. The Rating is an efficiency rating based on per-game statistics including goals and assists -- weighted for strength (ie. power play, even, shorthanded) -- plus-minus, hits, blocked shots, giveaways, takeaways, penalty differential and faceoffs. (Stats are listed in this format: G-A-PTS, +/-, PIM, GP). Generally, a replacement-level player is around a 60, a top six forward and top four defenceman will be 70-plus, stars will be over 80 and MVP candidates could go over 90. Sidney Crosby finished at the top of the 2013 regular season ratings with a 93.65. Salary cap information all comes from the indispensable GM/COACHRay Shero/Dan Bylsma Returning Forwards Player Rating GP G A PTS +/- Cap Hit Sidney Crosby 91.80 36 15 41 56 +26 $8.7M Chris Kunitz 81.54 48 22 30 52 +30 $3.725M James Neal 78.76 40 21 15 36 +5 $5.0M Evgeni Malkin 78.15 31 9 24 33 +5 $8.7M Jussi Jokinen 65.87 43 13 9 22 -5 $2.1M Beau Bennett 64.56 26 3 11 14 +7 $900K Brandon Sutter 63.37 48 11 8 19 +3 $2.067M Joe Vitale 55.13 33 2 3 5 -7 $550K Tanner Glass 53.24 48 1 1 2 -11 $1.1M Free Agent Forwards Player Rating GP G A PTS +/- Class 12-13 Cap Hit Pascal Dupuis 80.32 48 20 18 38 +31 UFA $1.5M Jarome Iginla 72.01 44 14 19 33 -5 UFA $7.0M Brenden Morrow 65.64 44 12 13 25 -3 UFA $4.1M Matt Cooke 63.41 48 8 13 21 -2 UFA $1.8M Tyler Kennedy 62.80 46 6 5 11 -6 RFA $2.0M Dustin Jeffrey 57.80 24 3 3 6 +1 RFA $575K Craig Adams 57.12 48 3 6 9 -1 UFA $675K Penguins Forwards Usage Chart from When healthy, Sidney Crosby is the best player in the game, as he established for the first three-quarters of the 2013 season, before his jaw was crushed by a deflected Brooks Orpik slapshot. Over his career, Crosby has averaged 1.42 points per game, best among active players, and his 1.28 points per game in the playoffs is also tops among active players. While its a positive that Crosbys latest injury was about the jaw more than the concussions that have plagued him in recent seasons, health is an ongoing concern for the 25-year-old, who has missed 113 games over the last three seasons. For the sake of his career, a fully healthy season in 2013-2014 would be a refreshing change of pace. Riding shotgun with Crosby has worked out well for Chris Kunitz, a blue-collar winger who, despite Crosbys injuries, has scored 71 goals over the last three seasons, which is tied for 25th with Johan Franzen and Marian Hossa. Over those same three years, James Neal has scored 83 goals, which has him tied for 10th with Rick Nash and Jeff Carter. After a 40-goal season in 2011-2012, Neals ice time declined last season, perhaps a result of a more healthy Crosby and less healthy Evgeni Malkin, but Neal is a 25-year-old who has never scored fewer than 20 goals in an NHL season, making him one of nine players to surpass that threshold in each of the last five seasons. A shoulder injury caused Evgeni Malkin to miss 13 games, limited him in others (and he missed four games with a concussion), yet he still managed better than a point per game despite receiving his lowest ice time per game (19:42) since his rookie season. The Penguins made their decision on Malkins future, almost immediately after the season ended, signing him to a contract extension that will pay him $9.5-million per season starting in the 2014-2015 season; that decision emphasizes that the Penguins will hitch their wagon to their two generational centres and worry about filling in the spaces around them. Acquired when injuries (most notably Crosbys) shredded the Penguins scoring lines, Jussi Jokinen merely scored seven goals and 11 points in 10 games down the stretch, matching his point total in 33 games with Carolina. Jokinen is a versatile player and skilled enough to put up points playing with skilled linemates, but if he cant find a spot in Pittsburghs top six, then its harder to put him in a position to succeed, and thats why he was a healthy scratch about half the time in the playoffs. Drafted in the first round in 2010, Beau Bennett had 28 points in 39 AHL games and was spotted into the Pittsburgh lineup for 26 games, showing some promise, though if Bennett is expected to score in the NHL, some additional time in the AHL might help raise that facet of his game -- he scored 10 goals in 65 games between the AHL and NHL last season. Acquired as part of the trade for Jordan Staal last summer, Brandon Sutter got destroyed in puck possession measures but, playing behind Crosby and Malkin, hes not put in a position to succeed there. He gets the tough defensive assignments and his shifts start in the defensive zone more often than not and still tallied 11 goals in 48 games. Stocky checking forward Joe Vitale has 21 points and is minus-13 in 110 career games, the kind of production that puts a player on the fringe of the roster. He can provide a physical presence on the fourth line, or be stuck in the press box, depending on the day. Dressing for every game and playing 10 minutes per, Tanner Glass only scored two points, the lowest point production of any forward with more than 400 minutes last season. As the Penguins kept adding forwards throughout the season, Tyler Kennedy saw his role diminished. He played 12:28 per game, his lowest time on ice since his rookie season, he was a career-low minus-6 and his per-game point production (0.24 ppg) was a career-worst. He was effective, when given the chance to play, in the playoffs, but if the Penguins are looking to trim salaries, they may not be able to bring back a checking winger making more than $2-million per season, whether that means trading Kennedy or not tendering an offer. Dustin Jeffrey has been lingering around the edges of the Penguins lineup for five years, scoring 27 points in a total of 90 games; okay production considering he gets less than 12 minutes of ice time per game, but not enough to convince coaches that he deserves a bigger role. Filling out the forward spots will be a little challenging if the Penguins cant get any of their unrestricted free agents back. Pascal Dupuis is probably the first priority, after an outstanding season, but if Jarome Iginla, Brenden Morrow and Matt Cooke move on, that would still mean needing at least a couple top nine forwards, but potentially four or five. The challenge for the Penguins will be finding cost-effective solutions. Some external free agent wingers that might be worth a look include Clarke MacArthur, Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Danny Briere, Michael Ryder, Dainius Zubrus, Ryan Jones, Colby Armstrong or Danny Cleary. Thats a lot of names, but there could be a lot of spots to fill. Returning Defence Player Rating GP G A PTS +/- Cap Hit Kris Letang 89.32 35 5 33 38 +16 $3.5M Paul Martin 80.25 34 6 17 23 +14 $5.0M Matt Niskanen 68.63 40 4 10 14 +4 $2.3M Brooks Orpik 67.02 46 0 8 8 +17 $3.75M Simon Despres 65.44 33 2 5 7 +9 $840K Deryk Engelland 61.79 42 0 6 6 +5 $567K Free Agent Defence Player Rating GP G A PTS +/- Class 12-13 Cap Hit Robert Bortuzzo 67.93 15 2 2 4 +3 RFA $525K Mark Eaton 65.34 23 0 0 0 +9 UFA $725K Douglas Murray 64.04 43 1 5 6 -9 UFA $2.5M Penguins Defence Usage Chart from Since 2000, there have been three defencemen to score a point-per-game and have a double-digit plus rating in a season. Admittedly, 2013 was a shortened season, but Kris Letang was one of them (Mike Green and Nicklas Lidstrom were the others) and its looking like he may not be back with the Penguins next season. Its possible that recent trade talk is leverage, to get Letang signed to a favourable deal, but hes going to be looking for something in the $7-million range, the kind of thing that offensive defencemen who play 25 minutes per game have come to command in this league. One more for Letang: in the last three seasons, Zdeno Chara is the only other defenceman to have at least 100 points and a cumulative plus-50 rating and if youre one of those who dislike plus-minus as a measure of a players effectiveness, Letangs shot differentials are plenty good too. A late-season wrist injury undermined a strong season from Paul Martin, who played a career-high 25:20 per game and scored at career-best rates across the board (0.18 gpg, 0.50 apg, 0.68 ppg) and was productive in the playoffs, with 11 points in 15 games. If Letang moves on, Martin becomes very important as a puck-moving blueliner for the Penguins. Often overlooked as part of the Alex-Goligoski-James Neal trade, Matt Niskanen played more than 20 minutes per game for the first time since his rookie season, 2007-2008. While Niskanen may not ever become the point producer that it looked like he might be when he scored 35 points in his second season, hes been an effective, albeit sheltered, puck possession defenceman pretty much all along. Despite getting eaten alive in his puck possession stats, and without scoring a single goal (until he scored the series winner against the Islanders in Round One), Brooks Orpik was still plus-17, the fifth time in the last six seasons that hes been a double-digit plus. Zdeno Chara (all six), Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook are the only other defencemen that can make that claim. Orpik is a crushing hitter who gets the tough defensive assignments for the Penguins. Simon Despres had his minutes protected, but he was effective enough in that limited role as a rookie. Hes now played 51 NHL games and should be ready for a more serious role next season. After a bit of an emergence in 2011-2012, when he scored a career-high 17 points and played a career-high 16:09 per game, Deryk Engellands role was reduced in 2013. Hes limited, but a tough guy who can scrap and play third pairing minutes. A defenceman with size, toughness and 235 AHL games on his resume, Robert Bortuzzo got into 15 games with Pittsburgh last season and didnt look out of place in a depth role. The challenge facing the Penguins is what to do with their blueline should they decide to move forward without Letang. They have a very deep crop of prospects at the position, so one could jump into the role or, if the Penguins dont get a defenceman back for Letang, they could hit the free agent market for a steady veteran -- Jordan Leopold, Andrew Ference or Ian White, perhaps -- or maybe the Penguins would be willing to pay on shorter term to bring Rob Scuderi back into the fold. Returning Goaltenders Player Rating GP W L OTL GAA SV% Cap Hit Tomas Vokoun 83.20 20 13 4 0 2.45 .919 $2.0M Marc-Andre Fleury 72.42 33 23 8 0 2.39 .916 $5.0M Since 2005-2006, Tomas Vokoun owns a .921 save percentage, the second-best among goaltenders with at least 250 games played in that span, so he was an overqualified No. 2 when he signed with the Penguins last summer. When Marc-Andre Fleury faltered in the playoffs, Vokoun stepped in, played a career-high 11 playoff games with a .933 save percentage. Over the last three regular seasons, Marc-Andre Fleury has a .916 save percentage, which ranks 16th in that time; not outstanding, but decent. The trouble, of course, comes in the playoffs. Since winning the Stanley Cup in 2009, Fleury has played 31 games and posted an .880 save percentage, the worst among 25 goaltenders to play at least 10 playoff games over those four seasons. Ray Shero was adamant that the Penguins were pushing forward with Fleury, showing loyalty to a Cup-winning goaltender but, given his playoff performance, it sure seems like a risky proposition. Top Prospects Player Pos. Team/League Stats Olli Maatta D London (OHL) 8-30-38, +8, 57 GP Brian Dumoulin D Wilkes-Barre (AHL) 6-18-24, -11, 73 GP Derrick Pouliot D Portland (WHL) 9-36-45, +30, 44 GP Scott Harrington D London (OHL) 3-16-19, +21, 50 GP Anton Zlobin LW Val dOr (QMJHL) 29-62-91, +9, 61 GP Bryan Rust RW Notre Dame (CCHA) 15-19-34, +25, 41 GP Scott Wilson LW UMass-Lowell (HE) 16-22-38, +5, 41 GP Josh Archibald RW Nebraska-Omaha (WCHA) 19-17-36, +18, 39 GP Tom Kuhnhackl C Wilkes-Barre (AHL) 2-2-4, +3, 11 GP Philip Samuelsson D Wilkes-Barre (AHL) 2-8-10, +10, 65 GP A smart all-around defenceman, Olli Maatta was a first-round pick last summer and the 18-year-old got into three playoff games with Wilkes-Barre. He should excel in his third junior season next year. Part of the Jordan Staal deal, Brian Dumoulin is a puck-moving defenceman with good size who may be ready to challenge for an NHL job after a decent first pro season. An offensive defenceman who can skate and handle the puck well, Derrick Pouliot was the eighth overall pick last year. Hell need time to round out his game, but his puck skills give him a chance to put up points when he arrives in the NHL. A smart defensive defenceman, Scott Harrington was a second-round pick in 2011, but isnt going to have an easy time climbing the organizational ladder, given some of the Penguins other defensive prospects. Nevertheless, after a couple of seasons in the AHL, he could be ready. A skilled forward who has 167 points in 127 games over the last two junior seasons, Anton Zlobin will get a chance to move up to the AHL to see if he can keep scoring. 2010 third-rounder Bryan Rust finished a strong junior season at Notre Dame, making him worth consideration if he continues his development. Theres a chance that 2011 seventh-round pick, Scott Wilson, could provide real value. Hes put up 76 points in 78 games through his first two collegiate seasons. Drafted in the sixth round in 2011, Josh Archibald had a breakthrough sophomore season at Nebraska-Omaha and will have a few more seasons to develop. Limited to just 11 AHL games due to injury, Tom Kuhnhackl has struggled to put it all together since his 2010-2011 junior season, but hes a skilled forward. If he could stay healthy for a season, he just might be able to recapture some of that promise. A second-round pick in 2009, 21-year-old Philip Samuelsson has put in two AHL seasons. Could be tough to climb ahead of the other defencemen in the organization though. DRAFTNo first-round pick. FREE AGENCYAccording to, the Penguins have approximately $54.9M committed to the 2013-2014 salary cap for 16 players. Check out my possible Penguins lineup for next season on Cap Geek here. Needs: What I said the Penguins needed last year: One top nine forward, depth forwards, one top four defenceman.They added: Brandon Sutter, Tanner Glass, Simon Despres, Tomas Vokoun. TRADE MARKETJussi Jokinen, Tyler Kennedy, Kris Letang, Matt Niskanen, Marc-Andre Fleury. Scott Cullen can be reached at and followed on Twitter at For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook. Eli Rogers Jersey .Brady threw a 69-yard touchdown pass to Julian Edelman midway through the fourth quarter, and New England beat the San Diego Chargers 23-14 for its eighth win in nine games. William Gay Jersey . The Maple Leafs handed their embattled head coach a two-year contract extension on Thursday, while at the same time announcing that assistants Dave Farrish, Greg Cronin and Scott Gordon will not be back.As Wayne Rooneys milestone 100th cap at Wembley last Saturday and his three goals in two matches, edging him ever close to Sir Bobby Charlton’s all-time England scoring record, have captured English footballs imaginations and headlines of late, over this same time frame, the English women’s team have quietly, and rather assuredly, gone about their business some 100-plus miles outside of London, all climaxing, come Sunday morning our time, in a rather monumental moment for women’s soccer in England - in fact, make that for English soccer itself. The venue is Wembley Stadium. The occasion is a rather prestigious friendly between two footballing nations with rather large designs on the FIFA Women’s World Cup head in Canada next summer. The current European champion Germans will put their second-place FIFA ranking on the line against England, who just in early August, throttled fifth-ranked Sweden 4-0. That match was played in rather unfashionable Hartlepool in front of a crowd of less than 5,000. Some three months later, a 55,000-capacity Wembley Stadium crowd will be in full voice in what will be the first women’s match in the home of football since the US beat Japan in the final of the London 2012 Summer Olympics. You’ll remember that occasion where, following the final whistle confirming gold for the US, shortly after we, and what seemed to be the entire nation, witnessed the extraordinary pictures as the Canadian flag was hoisted to those world famous Wembley rafters when we picked up that rather famous bronze medal. A defining moment, which was not only one of the greatest moments for Canadian soccer but one our entire nation will always look back on rather fondly - deep Canadian pride and tears of immense joy in equal measure. However, that was then and Sunday will most definitely be England’s moment. No one could have dared to imagine when the English FA announced the friendly fixture, that more than a month before the kick-off, they would announce a sell-out. All 55,000 tickets having been snapped up by a crowd whipped up into a fever pitch-like frenzy for women’s soccer.The FA could have sold another 20,000-plus, but as long planned major transportation works are scheduled for London this weekend, together with the police, it was decided to cap Sunday’s attendance at that 55,000 mark. To put this figure into a much clearer perspective, in September Wayne Rooney and his world famous cast of BPL stars could only muster a crowd of 40,000 for a Wembley international against Norway. Following yet another abysmal World Cup campaign, the appetite for the England team is reaching an all-time low. So disastrous was their World Cup that their ranking dropped from a credible 10th to 20th in the FIFA rankings. Meanwhile, the English women’s team has climbed above even us, as they sit in seventh spot currently. Want to run the perfect World Cup qualification campaign, Roy? Just have a look at how England set about qualifying for next summer: Played 10, won 10 - England hit the back of the net an incredible 51 times whilst only conceding a solitary goal over those 10 matches. Only the Germans compiled the better record in qualification for a World Cup where UEFA will have eight nations competing. Seven of those places have already been decided, with the eighth and final berth to be decided when Italy and the Netherlands go at it over the dreaded two-leg playoff. The first leg will be played in the Netherlands on Saturday with the return fixture next Thursday. England have their sights set on going at least one better next summer than how they performed at Germany 2011, where they went out rather cruelly on penalties to France in the quarterfinals - the semi-final stage, where, most surprisingly, the then-world champion Germans also came unstuck to Japan. Darrius Heyward-Bey Jersey. Sunday’s match at Wembley between England and Germany is sure to be hotly contested. Bragging rights will certainly be on the line. An English victory would catapult the profile and prestige of women’s soccer close to that probe that recently landed on a comet out in distant space. England, though, is fully aware of the daunting task that lays ahead Sunday afternoon at Wembley Stadium against a team they are yet to beat. A pair of scoreless draws back in 2007 is the closest they have come against Germany, a six-time European and two-time World Cup champion. If England need any further inspiration or motivation they just need to look towards one of English footballs most inspiring of players and someone, come next summer, you’ll become rather familiar with in Fara Williams. Williams, who picked up her record-breaking 130th-international cap in August’s triumph over Sweden in August, lived for over six years as a homeless person. Yes, you read that correctly - the break-up of her family was reason why. Football would be Williams’s saviour - as the girl who was born a stone’s throw away from Stamford Bridge and grew up a huge Chelsea fan - spent her days on the street and her nights in a variety of London’s homeless shelters throughout this awful period of her life. If you think last season’s BPL was exciting as it came down to the wire in the final match, then in the Women’s Super League title race was even more mouth-watering. Three clubs had chance of the title going into the last game of the season. Williams’s club, Liverpool, needed both clubs above them, Chelsea and Birmingham City, to experience final day fixture blues. And that they duly did. Chelsea lost, Birmingham drew and, thanks to a Williams penalty, Liverpool ran out 3-0 winners and with it were crowned FAWSL Champions. England have been preparing for Sunday’s match, which falls a day shy of the 13th-anniversary of Williams’s England debut at St. George’s Park Football Centre, the national training centre where Roy Hodgson’s squad also prepared ahead of last Saturday’s Euro 2016 qualifier against Slovenia. Opened just over two years ago at a cost of £120 million ($215 million), St. George’s is home to all 16 national teams for both men and women and is set in over 300 acres of plush English countryside, 130 miles to the north of Wembley Stadium - the very same place where, last Saturday, Williams was special guest taking in the Euro 2016 qualifier from the comfort of the Royal Box. As Wayne Rooney was before the match on the occasion of his 100th cap, Williams was honoured on the pitch at half-time for becoming the most-capped player in women’s football for England. On Sunday afternoon, she gets chance down on the pitch along with her teammates, brimming with confidence, to finally overcome those über-successful Germans. With 55,000 cheering England on from the Wembley stands, the match has all the ingredients to go down as one of the more magnificent moments for English football. This in a stadium, which will always mean so very much for our women’s team and for all those who contributed to one of the most famous medals in Canadian Olympic history. @TheSoccerNoel on Twitter Cheap NFL Jerseys Cheap NFL Jerseys China Cheap Jerseys From China Cheap NFL Jerseys Authentic Wholesale Jerseys China Cheap NFL Jerseys China NFL Cheap Jerseys ' ' '