Penguins Say 'До свидания' to Sergei and 'Ahoj' to Zbynek



So, this LeBron James guy ...

Just kidding. Hockey rules my world.

The Pittsburgh Penguins spent $45 million on a pair of defensemen during the opening week of NHL free agency. That’s almost half a Tiger Woods divorce settlement spent on blueliners.


$100 million? Mulligan?

Minnesota-born Paul Martin, formerly frustrating you as a member of the New Jersey Devils, and Czech-born Zbynek Michalek, formerly invisible to you as a member of the Phoenix Coyotes, are your newest Penguins.

Meet Big Z

Michalek is a shut-down specialist who has a penchant for absorbing rubber. Remember Anton Volchenkov, the former Ottawa Senator defenseman who seemed to block every puck the Penguins threw at the net in last season’s opening playoff round?

Over the past two seasons, Volchenkov has blocked 352 shots. Guess how many Michalek has blocked?

427. Only one other NHL player has more in that same span. While he won’t light the lamp, Michalek should bring back that soothing, reassuring feeling you used to have when Robert “The Piece” Scuderi was on the ice.

Meet Professor Paul Martin

Boring name aside, Paul Martin is just an all-around swell player. He’s a smooth-skating son-of-a-gun with a high hockey I.Q. and a career plus-minus total of +55. When Mr. Martin is on the ice, opponents don’t score.

 
That’s Paul. See how smart he looks?
I think I copied off his Algebra test once.

Remember when we’d play the Devils and you’d start gallivanting around your house in a confused frenzy, asking anyone who would listen -  your cat, your wife, the wall, the bottom of an Iron City can: "WHY CAN’T WE SCORE? WHY?!"

 
Your cat is just hearing gibberish, Chief.

Part of the reason New Jersey frustrated us into submission was Paul Martin. And now he’s on our team. Sexy pick-up? No. But for a team with the fourth-worst save percentage in the league last season, he’s just what we need.

While many see him as a replacement for the dearly departed Sergei Gonchar on the Penguins’ not-so-Powerful Play, Martin is more of a distributor than a goal scorer. Expect him to provide perfectly placed saucers passes for Malkin or Goligoski to one-time from the point, but don’t expect him to “shooooooot” very much. He has averaged just over one shot on goal per game for his career.

Cool story: Martin was highly pursued on the free agent market. According to his agent, Ben Hankinson, Martin turned down bigger offers elsewhere in order to sign with Pittsburgh. The tipping point was when former Penguin Jordan Leopold called his buddy Martin and “gave Pittsburgh a huge plug.”

Amazing when you consider that Leopold had only been with the Pens for three months. It is just another example of why Mario Lemieux and the Penguins’ first-class organization matters. Pirates, are you taking notes? Of course not.


"I’m gonna make Nutting an offer he can’t refuse"

 

Dee-Fence. *Clap, Clap* Dee-Fence.

By locking up Martin and Michalek for the next five seasons, the Penguins have arguably assembled a top-5 defense. But in a salary cap system like the NHL, everything is a tradeoff. Check this out: For the next three seasons, the Pens have the following core group signed.

 

  Salary per Season (in millions)
Forwards  
Sidney Crosby 8.7
Evgeni Malkin 8.7
Jordan Staal 4.0
Matt Cooke 1.8
Defense  
Paul Martin 5.0
Zbynek Michalek 4.0
Brooks Orpik 3.75
Kris Letang 3.5
Goalie  
Marc-Andre Fleury 5.0

 

That’s more than $44 million of the $59 million salary cap, or 75% of the team’s budget, allocated to 9 players. It’s an extremely solid core, but one must ask: Does the team have enough lunch money left for a bag of chips? Will they be able to fill out the 23-man roster with competent wingers with a slush fund of $15 million per season?

The remainder averages out to about $1 million per player (Max Talbot’s salary) for the rest of the team. For reference, former Penguins hustler Colby Armstong just signed a contact with Toronto for $3 million per season. Armstrong scored only 15 goals last season. The Penguins don't have the funds to purchase a 20-goal scorer for the top line and will have to rely on Eric Tangradi to put on his Big Boy hockey pants and step into a regular role this season.

 
Hey, speaking of lunch money. My junior high used to let us order “double french fries” at the cafeteria as a means of nutrition. You could literally substitute your entree (usually some variety of taco pizza) for an extra heaping of greased-up, salted-coated fries, in addition to your complementary side of fries. This bonfire of starch was accompanied by an apéritif of “Mondo Grape” Kool-Aid and an effin’ sugar cookie. Sometimes I wonder why I have to use my cell phone calculator for simple addition and subtraction, then I remember that during sixth-period math class I was crashing so hard that I was sleeping under my desk like a trembling subway vagrant.

So while the Pens fans should be excited about acquiring two stellar defensemen, visions of signing a top-flight winger for Sid or Geno are surely over for the foreseeable future. It will be all high-mileage, discount veterans, minor-league call-ups, and trade deadline rentals on the flanks.

One has to wonder - will the tail wag the dog? Will GM Ray Shero’s personnel moves force head coach Dan Bylsma to re-think his attack-minded, fire-wagon offensive philosophy?

Are we in for tamer times at the Consol Energy Center? Will the Penguins turn into a more conservative team keen on possessing the puck and slowing the game down?

And, as a fan, is that the kind of on-ice product you want to see, even if it means a better chance at winning Stanley Cups?

Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Review: Salt of the Earth

Review: Salt of the Earth

Brandon Fisher is the latest chef behind Salt of the Earth’s modern-American dishes.
2014 Pittsburgher of the Year Award: The Fred Rogers Company

2014 Pittsburgher of the Year Award: The Fred Rogers Company

Sharing the DNA of the father of children’s television, the Fred Rogers Company reinvigorates a beloved legacy while creating new hit characters and content that help children to grow, giggle and learn.
Update: The McMutrie Sisters' Mission 5 Years After the Haiti Earthquake

Update: The McMutrie Sisters' Mission 5 Years After the Haiti Earthquake

Jamie and Ali McMutrie were PM's 2010 Pittsburghers of the Year after airlifting 54 youngsters to safety. Now, they have forged a relationship with a major global player to continue their work to prevent struggling Haitian families from surrendering children to orphanages.
PittGirl's New Year's Resolutions for Pittsburghers

PittGirl's New Year's Resolutions for Pittsburghers

Four ways to make the city even better in 2015.
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags

On the Blogs


Everything That's Awesome About Pittsburgh Today
Destined to be a Classic: Pittsburgh Penguins 'Christmas Vacation' Parody Video

Destined to be a Classic: Pittsburgh Penguins 'Christmas Vacation' Parody Video

Evegeni Malkin is priceless at the end.

Comments


Pittsburgh, only cooler
The World-Famous Yinzer Gift Guide: 2014

The World-Famous Yinzer Gift Guide: 2014

You can't miss with a gift from PittGirl’s list of 13 'Burgh-related must-haves.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
Broadening Pittsburgh's Meat Horizons

Broadening Pittsburgh's Meat Horizons

A partnership between a local couple and a local farmer has resulted in more pasture-raised lamb and pork being sold at the market.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
10 Best Lunch Spots That Won’t Bust Your Budget

10 Best Lunch Spots That Won’t Bust Your Budget

Come lunchtime, these Pittsburgh eateries serve food that's big on flavor and low on cost.

Comments


Bar Exam: OTB Bicycle Cafe North Park

Bar Exam: OTB Bicycle Cafe North Park

The northern outpost of the "bikes, burgers, beers" bar takes the Bar Exam.

Comments


The Perfect Homemade Gift: Drunken Pirouettes

The Perfect Homemade Gift: Drunken Pirouettes

Julia Erickson, co-founder of Barre, shares the recipe for a homemade energy snack, fueled with a touch of Wigle’s organic rye whiskey.

Comments


Style. Design. Goods. Hide your credit card.
Elf for Your Shelf

Elf for Your Shelf

Artist Ken Wagle draws on his Pennsylvania Dutch heritage to create unique carvings of the North Pole’s biggest elf — Santa.

Comments


This week's buzz from the PM editors
Last Call: Kennywood Holiday Lights

Last Call: Kennywood Holiday Lights

Make plans to enjoy the array of family-friendly activities and performances the park has to offer.

Comments


Award-winning sports commentary by Sean Conboy
R.I.P. Corporate Penguins, 2009-2014

R.I.P. Corporate Penguins, 2009-2014

Fire Bylsma? Fire Shero? The Penguins' problems run deeper.

Comments

Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags