Penguins Begin Quest to Repeat on a Tight Budget

Editor’s Note: This article contains an all new episode of The Burgh Show podcast at the bottom of the page.

The Penguins will be partying with the Cup all summer long (some will be carousing down by the river), but General Manager Ray Shero has his work cut out for him this off-season.

The Penguins are entering the July 1 free agency period with the fifth least salary cap space in the NHL. While Shero has the core of Crosby, Malkin and Staal locked up for the next four to five years, there’s bad news, too. All three players will be getting a raise in the upcoming season. In fact, Evgeni Malkin will see his paycheck increase by about $5 million in 2009/2010.

This past season, the Penguins were “buyers” at the trade deadline and loaded their roster with veterans like Bill Guerin for the Stanley Cup run because they were only paying the NHL’s leading scorer a modest $3.8 million for his 49 goals and 100 assists.

Unfortunately, the Penguins are on a tight budget. Any lascivious daydreams you may have about Ray Shero finally bringing in a 30-goal scorer to play on Crosby’s wing are utterly implausible. With only $6 million to play with, the Penguins need to fill three vital holes:

First Line Winger: Guerin would have to take $2 million less than he made last season to stay in Pittsburgh. As Will Ferrell once cried out after a rendition of “Dust in the Wind”You’re my boy, Blue! You’re my boy. Goodbye, Billy. You were a legend. Replacing Number 13’s calm leadership, patience with the puck, steely nerves and incredibly thick beard is an impossible task.

Second Line Winger: With Guerin’s likely departure, re-signing the affable, oft rosy-cheeked Ruslan Fedotendo should be the Penguins’ top priority this summer. While Fedotenko started off the season slowly – to be fair – former head coach Michel Therrien wasn’t patient enough with the early season pairing of Satan, Crosby and Fedotenko. When Ruslan was matched with Malkin, he not only started putting pucks in the net, but he worked hard in the corners and finished the season +18.

Fedotenko’s seven big-time goals in the playoffs are nothing to scoff at, either. In fact, his three goals in the Capitals series are a big reason why the Penguins even made it out of the Eastern Conference.

Plus, Fedotenko is a fantastic teammate – he’s extremely close with Crosby, Talbot and Fleury, and above all, he’s one suave gentleman.

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The guy on the left hasn’t seen a female undergarment since the Hoover administration.

Lock-down Defenseman: The final, and arguably most crucial hole that the Pens need to fill is the crater that will be left by Rob Scuderi when he inevitably puts on a pair of Wayfarers, dabs a line of sunscreen on his nose and heads for Los Angeles, Phoenix or some other sad sack NHL city with too much money to spend.

Let’s face it: “The Piece” has done a lot with a little. He’s coming off of an unbelievable playoff run that gained him national exposure. There’s a ton of cash-flush teams out there with young, unstable goaltenders who would love to sign a shot-blocking, poke checking machine like Scuderi. As a 30-year-old player with a lot of mileage and a lot of scars on his body, Scuds has every right to take the money and run on July 1.

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With a 3.5 million dollar a year deal in his sights, Scuderi is set to make more profit in 2009 than General Motors. Goodnight, Detroit – try the veal, tip your waitress!

See? Times are tough. The Penguins are on a budget, and unless a proven winger is willing to take a considerable discount to play alongside Sid the Kid, Ray Shero will likely wait until the trade deadline to acquire another plug-and-play veteran like Guerin. Like your mother, the Penguins will spend their summer buying 2 liters of generic Dr. Bold instead of Dr. Pepper.

Screen Captures14You blew it again, mom. And for the last time, it doesn’t taste the same if you drink it out of a Chardonnay glass.”

So what will we do? Who will we buy? Can we repeat as Stanley Cup Champions on such a tight budget?

Oh, you’re in luck, mon fraire, because The Burgh Show podcast is back with 25 minutes of aural pleasure. Mike P and SeanCon will address all your free agency concerns.

Just click here, or hit “play” on the audio player below:

Categories: Pulling No Punches