Let's Call The Youngsters "Plan C"
A few days ago we discussed the external â€œPlan Bâ€ that might work out well for the Pittsburgh Penguins. But the options of Shane Doan and Alexander Semin have potential roadblocks that could put a quick halt to any plans.
For starters, despite a report that the Penguins were close to signing Semin earlier this week, the truth has surfaced that there may be some mild interest on the Penguinsâ€™ part, but that nothing is imminent. By the time â€“ if that time should come â€“ the Penguins increase their interest, Semin might be off the market.
As for Doan, heâ€™s a lifer in the Winnipeg Jets turned Phoenix Coyotes organization and is showing clear signs of distress over the possibility of leaving the franchise that drafted him. His original deadline of Monday for the Coyotes to clear up their ownership issues has been extended to next Monday â€“ and who is to say it wonâ€™t extend yet another week when time comes?
So, if Doan and/or Semin donâ€™t end up in the Black and Gold, what other options do the Penguins have?
As mentioned Tuesday, the free agent market is slim pickings, and any signing â€“ including Doan and Semin â€“ would come with inherent risks.
Really, though, at this point, what option doesnâ€™t have its risks?
All things being equal, the Penguins are discussing the options of trying out a young player or two on Sidney Crosbyâ€™s wing(s). The thought might be that they canâ€™t be any worse the scraps that remain in free agency (outside of Doan and Semin, that is).
Specifically, by name, the Penguins have mentioned highly-touted, but oft-injured winger Beau Bennett, who will turn pro this fall.
Bennett, according to developmental coach Billy Guerin via an interview with the Post-Gazette, “[is] a guy that finds open ice. He’s got a great shot, good hands, good release, things like that. He’d be able to make the skill play to get Sid the puck. So it would be a nice match.”
While anything is possible â€“ and we all know chemistry between players can elevate the games of all involved â€“ itâ€™s difficult to imagine Bennett making the jump from the college ranks to the NHL, let alone to Sidney Crosbyâ€™s wing, without some time in the AHL.
Another dark-horse could be Keven Veilleux, who, unlike Bennett, has paid his dues in the AHL, but, like Bennett, has had his share of injury problems. Veilleux is a big, semi-physical center capable of playing the wing. While far from the total package, Veilleux has spent the last few years (when healthy) developing his game to become more well-rounded.
Chances are, heâ€™ll spend another year in the AHL, likely finalizing team views on him as an injury-prone minor leaguer or a legitimate NHL prospect.
The third and possibly most controversial option is winger Eric Tangradi. Why controversial? Well, it seems the masses are genuinely split on the once highly-touted power forward. On one side, there is a group that feels heâ€™s young and, therefore, will continue to develop. On the other side, there is a group that feels his skillset is limited to that of a third or fourth liner.
Either way, Tangradi appears to be a lock to make the team this fall, so an extended look on Crosbyâ€™s left wing during training camp canâ€™t hurt.
Tangradiâ€™s biggest asset is his size, though he is just starting to learn how to use it effectively and, essentially, play mean. Additionally, he has good hands for a big man and could find himself making a home in front of the net.
That might just be what he is limited to, though, as his foot speed and overall skating are subpar. Keeping up with Crosby could become an issue if this area of his game doesnâ€™t improve â€“ and quickly.
Like Veilleux, this surely is Tangradiâ€™s last season to prove capable of advancing beyond his current status. Once touted as the teamâ€™s top prospect, Tangardiâ€™s time is running out, but itâ€™s worth noting that Tangradi is just 23 years old â€“ or one year younger than Ryan Malone was when he pushed his way onto the roster.
Itâ€™s common knowledge that power forwards generally take longer to develop, so hereâ€™s to hoping that Tangradi puts it all together this summer and enters training camp with the motivation and progress needed to carve his niche as a scoring line winger.