An Inactive Summer Bodes Well For The Future
Itâ€™s August 7, and the most prominent external free agent signing in Pittsburgh is Tanner Glass. Not a whole lot to get excited about.
But donâ€™t call Ray Shero lazy or incompetent. He also locked up Sidney Crosby to an extremely cap-friendly, lifetime contract, made a trade to acquire and sign Tomas Vokoun, and re-signed Matt Niskanen for two years.
Of course, losing Jordan Staal (and replacing him with Brandon Sutter) and Zbynek Michalek (and replacing him with no one) stings a bit, considering the freed up cap space was, supposedly, to be put toward top-end free agents Zach Parise and Ryan Suter.
Call me crazy, but I see a positive side to missing out on these two, and other pricey free agents.
As the NHL and NHLPA battle over the Collective Bargaining Agreement, one thing is for sure: we have no idea what the future holds. For all we know, the season could be canceled (check out the NHL hockey schedule), or the salary cap could drop â€“ and possibly significantly.
With Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang due for new contracts in a few years, adding more payroll now would put Shero in a tight spot to retain his homegrown stars for the longhaul.
That said, Shero tends to be a wizard when it comes to making the salary cap work to his benefit, and itâ€™s hard to believe he would have pursued Parise and/or Suter if it meant losing Malkin and/or Letang.
And thatâ€™s why his pursuit of top-dog Shane Doan not only seems plausible, but possible.
Rumors are swirling that the Penguins have offered Doan a four year contract worth as much as $24 million total. Thatâ€™s a $6 million cap hit for an over-35 player, meaning his entire contract will remain on the books under the cap whether he plays, retires, or gets sent to the minors.
Itâ€™s a risky move for a player who is in the sunset of his career, but it might be the one that â€œsaves the summer,â€ at least for those who view an inactive summer as a failure.
Iâ€™m not one of them.
While I would be strongly in favor of adding Doan (albeit at a lesser cap hit), I wonâ€™t be calling for Sheroâ€™s head should he fail to land the veteran winger.
You see, while we as Penguins fans watch as our team seemingly downgrades from one year ago, we have to remember that this summerâ€™s free agent crop was thin, and other big-time teams also were quiet.
Think the fans in Detroit are happy about losing Niklas Lidstrom without replacing him with Suter?
Think the fans in Philadelphia are happy about losing Jaromir Jagr, James Van Reimsdyke, and Matt Carle and replacing them with Luke Schenn (not Parise and Suter)?
Think the fans in New Jersey are happy about losing Parise, their captain, and replacing him with no one?
The fact is, this summer has been boring, and as fans, we translate boring to disappointing and/or bad.
But thatâ€™s just not the case.
The Penguins are not as good of a team as they were at the end of last season. But theyâ€™re a different team with significant room to grow, both in terms of on-ice productivity and in terms of cap space for external help.
Just as we donâ€™t judge the quality of a movie by itâ€™s opening sequence, we shouldnâ€™t judge the 2012-13 NHL season based on Sheroâ€™s free agency bashfulness.
With significant cap space and several young defensive assets, itâ€™s entirely possible Shero will swing a trade of significance at some point before the trade deadline, when the playoff roster is set.
Thatâ€™s when Iâ€™ll judge Sheroâ€™s success for the season and beyond.