The Pittsburgh Penguins loaded up with veteran talent before the trade deadline and entered the playoffs with Stanley Cup expect

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The Pittsburgh Penguins loaded up with veteran talent before the trade deadline and entered the playoffs with Stanley Cup expectations. Sheldon Rankins 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 TSN.ca 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 www.capgeek.com. 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 somekindofninja.com 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 somekindofninja.com 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 www.capgeek.com, 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 Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook. Terron Armstead Jersey . The 20-year-old overager has appeared in 35 games for the Ontario Hockey Leagues Erie Otters this season, scoring 41 goals and adding 27 assists with a plus-28 rating. Brandon Coleman Jersey . Groves signed with Cleveland as an unrestricted free agent last year after a season with Arizona. He was in the linebacker rotation and had a sack in the season opener against Miami. http://www.officialsaintslockroom.com/vonn-bell-saints-jersey/ . Smith has spent the last three seasons with the Rockies, playing both left and right field, and has a .275 batting average with 51 homers and 181 RBIs in 487 major league games.NBA Commissioner Adam Silver announced Tuesday that Donald Sterling is banned for life from the Clippers organization. As well, he has been fined $2.5 million. Finally, Silver will recommend to the Board of Governors that Sterling be forced to sell the team. Fine and Expulsion The fine of $2.5 million was not a surprise. The likely range was somewhere between $1 million and $5 million. However, the NBA went farther than expected by banning Sterling for life from the Clippers. That means that Sterling is not only permanently removed from the day-to-day operations of the league, but he cant be part of the franchise in any way. A suspension of 1 to 2 years was initially expected. Banning Sterling for life is a precedent setting punishment and appropriate under the circumstances. The comments were of course despicable and disturbing. As well, the majority of the NBA player population is of color. According to a 2013 report, 76.3 per cent of NBA players are African-American and 80.1 per cent are of color. So when the majority of the league workforce is African-American, the NBA has no choice but to ask as decisively as possible within its legal framework. Forcing the Sale of the Team This is where things get a bit messy. The NBA by-laws allow the league to remove an owner in limited circumstances, including if the team is in financial distress. We saw something similar in baseball when MLB took over the Dodgers when Frank McCourt made a mess of the team. The NBA by-laws, however, are unlikely to provide a reasonable basis for the league to terminate his ownership. Rather, the NBA will likely look to Article 35 of the NBA Constitution, which allows the commissioner to indefinitely suspend owners for "conduct prejudicial or detrimental to the association". Custom New Orleans Saints Jerseys. The NBA needs three-quarters of owners to agree to the sale. This is broad language and does provide an arguable legal basis to remove Sterling. However, I emphasize "arguable." This language does not unequivocally give the NBA the authority to hand down the most dramatic and substantial of all penalties - forcing an owner to sell. So that means its possible that Sterling could fire back with a lawsuit if forced to sell alleging that the leagues owners have acted unlawfully. That type of lawsuit could be worth $100 million plus for Sterling. Thats why the NBA didnt announce Sterling is being forced to sell; rather they announced they would recommend that he be forced to sell and take it from there. As part of that same lawsuit, Sterling could allege that the NBA doesnt have the authority to ban him for life, and that the penalty is disproportionately high. Not only does Sterling have a history of racially insensitive comments, he also has a history of suing the NBA. After acquiring the San Diego Clippers in 1981, Sterling moved the team to Los Angeles without the leagues consent in 1984. David Stern, Commissioner of the NBA at the time, fined Sterling $25 million. What did Sterling do in response? He sued the NBA for $100 million. The fine was later reduced to $6 million. So depending on how Sterling takes Tuesdays news, this may not be done. Cheap NFL Jerseys Wholesale Jerseys Wholesale NFL Jerseys Jerseys From China Wholesale NFL Jerseys Cheap NFL Jerseys Cheap Jerseys ' ' '

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