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

Pittsburgh's Top 10 in April

Pittsburgh's Top 10 in April

The 10 best things to do in April in Pittsburgh.
20 Great Biking & Hiking Trails in Western Pennsylvania

20 Great Biking & Hiking Trails in Western Pennsylvania

Each trail has been lovingly constructed and maintained, using old infrastructure to reconnect disparate communities.
A Superior Strategy? Kevin Sousa's Big Bet on Braddock

A Superior Strategy? Kevin Sousa's Big Bet on Braddock

Pittsburgh chef Kevin Sousa will draw on a fierce work ethic, community goodwill and faith in his own vision for Superior Motors, the progressive American spot he plans to open this year.
Getting Better Over Time: PNC Park at 15

Getting Better Over Time: PNC Park at 15

Adoration for PNC Park is near-universal. But would the park be the cherished baseball palace it is today if a few early proposals instead had become reality?
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags

On the Blogs


Everything That's Awesome About Pittsburgh Today
Cutch as a Steeler? Tomlin Likes the Idea

Cutch as a Steeler? Tomlin Likes the Idea

The Steelers coach says he has just the right role in mind for the Pirates outfielder.

Comments


Pittsburgh, only cooler
19 Ways Pittsburgh Earned the “Quirky” Label

19 Ways Pittsburgh Earned the “Quirky” Label

Stand proud, Pittsburgh: Our brand of quirky is a good thing — positive, uplifting, fun, colorful, imaginative.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
Culinary Excellence: 13 Renowned Chefs Serve Once-in-a-Lifetime Meal in Pittsburgh

Culinary Excellence: 13 Renowned Chefs Serve Once-in-a-Lifetime Meal in Pittsburgh

Justin Severino and Hilary Prescott Severino assembled locally and nationally recognized chefs for Wednesday's James Beard Foundation dinner.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
10 Best Hand Tools You Didn’t Know You Needed (and They All Cost Less Than $20)

10 Best Hand Tools You Didn’t Know You Needed (and They All Cost Less Than $20)

You don’t have to be a handyman to be handy with those spring projects, if you have the right equipment.

Comments


Bar Exam: bellfarm Kitchen | Bar

Bar Exam: bellfarm Kitchen | Bar

The Hyatt Regency Pittsburgh International Airport's new bar & restaurant wants to be more than just a hotel joint.

Comments


10 Reasons Why You Should Attend the Farm to Table Pittsburgh Conference

10 Reasons Why You Should Attend the Farm to Table Pittsburgh Conference

Get the lowdown on one of the best food events of the season.

Comments


Style. Design. Goods. Hide your credit card.
Spring Fling

Spring Fling

Add some warmth to your table with these nature-inspired plates and bowls from artist Lisa Neimeth.

Comments


This week's buzz from the PM editors
George Takei Appears at Pittsburgh's First Humanities Festival

George Takei Appears at Pittsburgh's First Humanities Festival

On Sunday, find out why the Daily Dot in 2012 declared Takei the most influential person on Facebook.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
Cultures Collide: Multi-Traditional Weddings

Cultures Collide: Multi-Traditional Weddings

When the bride and groom hail from different backgrounds, a planning balancing act ensues. Here are two weddings that incorporate Hindu culture with style.

Comments


The latest tips and trends to refresh your home.
Design Tip: Use Hardware to Revamp Dressers & Cabinets

Design Tip: Use Hardware to Revamp Dressers & Cabinets

Tailor knobs and pulls to each room in your home.

Comments


The hottest topics in higher education
Three Pittsburgh Heavyweights to Team Up on Data Mining

Three Pittsburgh Heavyweights to Team Up on Data Mining

With backing from UPMC, scientists at Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh on Monday announced a three-way collaboration to use the digital data to revolutionize health care.

Comments


Thinking outside the box (score)
Death to the NFL Salary Cap

Death to the NFL Salary Cap

It doesn’t provide parity or competitive balance. The salary cap just steals millions from players who, rightfully, want to retire before hits to the head could ruin their life.

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