By Kenny Lindberg
Now that all the dust has settled from draft weekend and the moves have been made its time to take a look at what’s next for the Pens as they enter Free Agency.
The offense is where I see the Penguins focusing in this Free Agency. With Zach Parise expected to test the free agency waters, I think that the Penguins should go all in at attempting to bring him to Pittsburgh. While defense lead to their demise in the playoffs, adding a player such as Parise could help with that as well. Parise is a crafty goal scorer who is also responsible in his own end and played a lot on the power play for the Devils. He could also stabilize the Crosby line for the foreseeable future just like James Neal has stabilized the Malkin line.
That being said, the Pens can roll four lines like in most other years while sticking with the three center model and [depending on Bylsma’s decision] could potentially see a four center model with Kennedy as the 4th center.
In the following line combinations you will see possibilities including Parise and also see the plans without. The fourth line could see some shuffling of players depending on the opponent, with all others staying largely intact barring injury.
Dupuis - Crosby - Sullivan/Cooke/Parise?
Neal - Malkin - Kunitz
Cooke/Tangradi - Sutter - Kennedy
Tangradi/Adams - O’ Reilly/Vitale/Adams -Jeffrey/Adams
Another option could include Aaron Asham if re-signed.
While many NHL experts are linking the Pens with Ryan Suter in terms of pursuit, I really do not see a need for him. That is of course unless Ray Shero decides to move Martin. With Kris Letang, Brooks Orpik, and Matt Niskanen all going to be locked into three of the six defensive positions, I would expect to see Derek Engelland and Simon Despres fill two of the remaining slots leaving the final spot to be battled for between Ben Lovejoy, Brian Strait, and Joe Morrow.
In my pairing projections, I did not add Ryan Suter in because I do not realistically see him coming to Pittsburgh with hearing of his preference to remain in the Western Conference and even to potentially stay in Nashville.
Letang - Niskanen
Orpik - Martin/Morrow?
Engelland - Despres
The goaltending situation is much easier to discuss at the roles here are already solidified. Marc-Andre Fluery will get the majority of the starts, however not nearly as many as last year. I would expect newly acquired Tomas Vokoun to start around 25-30 games this season which will give Fluery some much needed rest. Without a doubt Vokoun has to be the most solid back-up option the Penguins have had in years.