So the first month of free agency has come and gone. We saw the swift exit of one of our all time favorite Penguin blue-liners and the addition of two new ones. Many expected the Penguins to go after a top 6 winger. While that always seems to be the theme around free agency and the trade deadline, it wasn't Shero's top priority. As he rightly stated in his press conference following the free agent frenzy, offense wasn't the concern from this past season.
After the defensive hole was addressed we all sat back in anticipation waiting for the next move by Shero, though it seems he's content with playing the patient game, and for good reason. See at this point Ray has some options despite not having much wiggle room left. According to capgeek.com the Penguins have $2,174,354 left in salary space. While it may seem elementary to some, let's run down the scenario's Ray has in front of him at the moment...
- Veteran Depth: This is probably the most viable option, particularly because of how cap friendly veterans tend to be, hence its placement in this list. As in every sport, players toward the end of their careers tend to sign with championship caliber teams at a shot winning it all. Not only that, but based on the most recent CBA performance bonuses can be attributed to players over 35. As such, if you can convince a player like Guerin to sign at say $1MM, you then can sprinkle in some incentives which can 1) serve as motivation for the player to perform, and 2) not affect the salary cap. A team can exceed the cap by 7.5% to pay bonuses, but its salary cap for the following season will be reduced by the excessive amount.
- Prospect Treatment: This option may be a route Shero will consider if he thinks the asking price is too high for veteran players like Guerin, Kariya, et al. In most cases this isn’t something most GM's would really want to consider. Though for the Pens it’s not a bad alternative since there are a couple players such as Tangradi, Connor, Johnson, and Letestu that have a real good chance at securing a roster spot. The fact that these guys are always cap friendly puts this option in high regard to teams with a high payroll such as Pittsburgh. Not to mention it leaves room for the next option.
- Deadline Leverage: Assuming Shero goes with either the current roster and option 2 favors itself, he then leaves himself in a great trade deadline position. If the Penguins can find some good chemistry and have above average success early in the season, and if there aren’t any worrisome concerns, this could end up being a very good thing...here’s why: The longer the Penguins can wait to make a trade, the better. Reason, if Shero has $2MM left under the cap that means if waits until half the season is over,he can then acquire a better caliber player who typically make more, say around the $4MM range, depending on the structure of the trade; take the Ponikarovsky trade for example. Otherwise he may be able to move a guy like Dupuis (who is an UFA after this season) and then can add close to $1MM more at his disposal. Which means he could possible land a legitimate $5MM player (or two $2.5MM players). Obviously there are numerous scenario's, but you get the point.
- Offseason/Early Season Trade: This time of year it’s not often you hear about trades, but unlike the other major sports such as the NBA and NFL the option is still there. I’ve listed it as the last option for the very reason that it’s the least likely to happen, around this time anyway. Though it’s not entirely impossible, it almost goes without saying that this is probably not on Ray's “to-do” list. Certainly he fields offers as they’re always going to be out there prior to the deadline. However, unless a player strangely demands it or a relationship somehow goes south very quickly, this isn’t going to happen.
I’m confident enough in our GM that he’ll make the right decision(s) here for the team in lieu of next season. We do know this, he's not going to overpay a gritty veteran or bring a bad attitude to the locker room, that much is clear. We’ll see how things play out here in the next few months. Look for another offseason update from Joe Depto here in the afternoon to get the latest buzz on what's happening behind the scenes.