I heard that Kessel is a bit of a dressing room problem.
While not technically a question, it is a concern, and a fairly serious one. Deserved or not, Phil Kessel’s reputation ranges from that of a guy that’s a bit out of shape and doesn’t always try his hardest to a full-blown locker room cancer.
I’ve also heard others say that Kessel is a little bit misunderstood and that his social anxiety causes tension between him and the media.
Here’s what Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford had to say in his press conference this afternoon:
“I don’t have any concerns. Everybody gets a fresh start in a new place. You hear stories about different people in different situations, but I feel very comfortable getting Phil. I’ve done a lot of homework on this and I’ve talked to a lot of people.
I do believe that fresh start; getting out of Toronto where went there under the microscope from day one and he was always “The Guy”. He was always the guy that was blamed when things weren’t going well. He doesn’t have to be “The Guy” here. We have a bunch of them. I believe that he’s going to fit in very well.”
I think there’s a lot of truth to the last part of what Rutherford had to say. For the most part, hockey players are a friendly, gregarious bunch that has no qualms talking to the media. But just because someone is a great hockey player, doesn’t mean he’s automatically going to be great at the other things that go along with the job.
The problem in Toronto, the league’s largest media market, was that Kessel was the captain and the best player. That won’t be an issue in Pittsburgh. With Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Marc-Andre Fleury and Kris Letang to share the spotlight (and microphones), Kessel will just be another hockey player. I think he should be able to thrive under those circumstances.
With these departures and the trade has any salary been shed or are we still up against the cap?
How does this affect adding more help/depth to our Pens already being in salary cap hell?
These two are pretty similar, so I’ll take them together. The Penguins had roughly $11.78 million of salary cap coming into the day.
Sergei Plotnikov’s entry-level deal will cost close to a million, so let’s round up for simplicity. Also, the qualifying offers for Beau Bennett and Brian Dumoulin will cost another roughly $1.8 million. So the Pens had about $9 million of functional cap space coming into today.
After trading away Nick Spaling ($2.2 million), and adding Tim Erixon ($600,000), that left the Pens with about $10.6 million of space.
Phil Kessel’s contract carries an $8 million cap it, but the Leafs are retaining $1.2 million of that, leaving the Penguins to account for $6.8 million. My math leaves the Penguins with about $3.8 million in cap space left. (PSA: I’m not that good at math. There’s at least a chance all of that is terribly wrong.)
In summary, today’s move took the vast majority of the Penguins available cap space.
Here’s what the Penguins have to show for what they’ve spent: (PSA II: Don’t pay too much attention to the lines, I just players in places.)
So with their $3.8 million, the Penguins need three forwards. Some of that money could go to rookie Oskar Sundqvist, whose contract would pay him around $700,000 if he plays in the NHL or to restricted free agent Bobby Farnham, whose qualifying offer should be in the $600,000 range.
The Penguins are looking for a fourth line center on the free agent market. A good one usually costs around $1 million. So, the Penguins should have enough cap space to get what they need, but not a whole lot extra at this point.
Why was Sergei Plotnikov only signed to a one-year deal?
The NHL has rules regarding players signing their first NHL contract. Those contracts are called entry-level contracts, and there are strict guidelines on how many years and how much money teams are allowed to give out on them.
Because Plotnikov is 25 years old, the league mandates a one-year contract with a maximum value of $925,000.
Who is Kael Mouillierat?
Kael Mouillierat is an interesting player. The Penguins signed him to a one-year, two-way contract, along with three other players today that are, in all likelihood, headed for Wilkes-Barre this season.
Unlike the other three, Mouillierat isn’t a typical minor-league signing. Yes, he’s 27, which doesn’t really make him a prospect, and yes, he’s in his fourth organization, which pretty much qualifies him as a journeyman.
But Mouillierat didn’t ever really get a good shot at any point along his path. He played six games with the Islanders last season and had a goal and an assist. That’s an awfully small sample size to dismiss a player outright.
His AHL numbers are great. He’s improved every season, going from 23 points in 2011-12 to 42 in 2012-13 to 53 in 2013-14. Last season, he showed another side to his game, as he racked up 110 penalty minutes in a Steve Downie-type role for the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.
If Sundqvist doesn’t seize an opportunity to carve out a niche at the beginning of the season, I’d like to see what Mouillierat could do with an extended NHL look.
Finally, something that I wanted to share:
If Hershey Bears fans are any indication, Penguins fans are going to really, really like defenseman Steve Oleksy. Oleksy comes to the Pens after three years in the Caps organization and he was named team captain in Hershey at the end of last year. He clearly made a mark on Bears fans during his time there.
I had dozens of messages and comments on Twitter from Bears — and Washington Capitals — fans that were sad to see him go. It sounds like the Penguins got a quality human being in Oleksy on Wednesday, and that can’t be a bad thing.
Thanks to all that read, commented and asked questions throughout Wednesday’s coverage. It was a lot of fun.
Photo credit: NHLI/Getty Images
Salary info: Generalfanager.com