Well that sure didn’t play out how the Pittsburgh Penguins and their faithful hoped it would.
Gone are the top free agent forward and top free agent defenseman and left are a bunch of average and soon-to-be overpaid players.
The Penguins, meanwhile, have $10.54 million of available cap space for next season, according to CapGeek.com. That’s a lot of available cash to spend for a team that traditionally spends within $1 million of the cap.
So now what?
Helpful free agent forwards are limited to questionable characters, such as Alexander Semin and aging veterans, such as Shane Doan, while helpful free agent defensemen are limited to players with major holes in their game, such as Matt Carle and Cam Barker.
Beyond free agency, there are a few trade options to consider. Forwards Bobby Ryan (Anaheim) and Rick Nash (Columbus) as well as defensemen Keith Yandle (Phoenix) and Jay Bouwmeester) are said to be available.
Reports out of Columbus this afternoon say Nash’s list of acceptable destinations per his no-trade clause includes Pittsburgh, but it’s difficult to imagine the Penguins having enough of the right assets to acquire him or Ryan.
And while Bouwmeester is extremely overpaid and likely not on the radar for Penguins general manager Ray Shero, Yandle reportedly was targeted by Shero during the draft and could be pursued once again now that Suter is off the market.
At this point, Shero has a lot of options. Unfortunately, though, none of them come without risks.
Any trade would involve giving up assets, such as defensemen Simon Despres or Joe Morrow, as well as high draft picks in future drafts. Any free agent signing would likely be short-term, thus putting the Penguins in the familiar situation of seeking a winger for Crosby yet again next season.
Then again, if we have learned anything over the years, it’s that Shero has an ability to pull rabbits out of his hat, especially with regard to trades. He’s a savvy general manager who has significant pressure to field a competitive roster year in and year out. Leaving $10-plus million of cap space isn’t an option, and we’re sure to see something — and my guess is it comes out of left field when everyone least expects it.