Penguins, Capitals might turn to two career AHLers to fill lineup gaps

keithaucoingoal.jpgAs Ray Shero discussed in a story we referenced on Sunday, NHL teams can’t stock their teams with high-end players like they did in the pre-salary cap days. Instead, general managers must look for bargains to fill out their rosters, whether that means a savvy veteran, a reclamation project or – sometimes – an AHLer.

The Hockey News’ Ryan Kennedy discusses two AHL veterans hoping to make the leap from the minors to the big-time. He discusses Brett Sterling, who came to the Penguins this off-season after failing to stick with the Thrashers and Keith Aucoin, a 31-year-old center in the Capitals’ system. As Kennedy points out, the two teams are in opposite situations; Pittsburgh needs wingers while Washington could use a center or two.

This is where Sterling can make his mark. Much like Haydar, Sterling has wreaked havoc on the AHL throughout his career – 97 points with the Chicago Wolves in ’06-07 (with Haydar, no less) was his best – but failed to impress in the NHL with Atlanta. Of course, as a left winger, he was buried behind Ilya Kovalchuk and Slava Kozlov at the time. In Pittsburgh, a good camp could mean Crosby or Malkin feeding him pucks.

Plus, the Pens have about $2 million in cap space left for the season and Sterling’s stipend is a very reasonable $500,000.

Pittsburgh’s archrivals, the Washington Capitals, have the opposite problem – great wingers, but only one great center, Nicklas Backstrom. Last season, the Caps tried to plug the second-line center hole with Brendan Morrison, but decided against a sequel this summer.

That opens the door for 31-year-old Keith Aucoin, another career minor leaguer with an impressive resume. The 5-foot-9 Aucoin (sensing a theme here?) actually had five points in nine games for the Caps last year, so he has contributed. Now, he’ll have to fight off fellow Hershey Bears alumnus Mathieu Perreault and Swedish rookie Marcus Johansson for a spot on the big club.

Considering the fact that both teams have Stanley Cup dreams, I’d imagine each club would rather not settle for AHL table scraps.

Still, if players like Matt Moulson teach us anything, it’s that some players take time to develop or simply benefit from a change of scenery. Time will tell if they finally find a way to stick in the NHL or if their teams go in a new direction.

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    Flyers want to prove doubters wrong

    Jakub Voracek, Claude Giroux
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    Jakub Voracek totally understands why nobody’s expecting much from the Philadelphia Flyers. When a team finishes 14 points out of the playoffs the year before, that’s typically going to be the case.

    “We weren’t good enough last year, let’s face it,” Voracek told CSN Philly. 

    So, no, it doesn’t upset him that the Flyers aren’t considered among the Stanley Cup favorites.

    That being said, “it makes you feel you want to prove them wrong.”

    The Flyers get going tonight with a tough game against the Lightning in Tampa Bay. They also play Saturday in Florida against the Panthers, before a rematch with the Panthers Monday in Philadelphia.

    “My biggest concern would be getting off to a good start,” GM Ron Hextall said. “That’s one thing that we need to do.”

    That’s something they didn’t do last year. In fact, they won just once in their first six games. By the end of November, they were 8-12-3 and in a big hole — one that proved too deep to climb out of.

    Related: Flyers to start season with seven defensemen

    Coyotes place towering enforcer John Scott on waivers

    John Scott, Brandon Davidson
    The Canadian Press via AP
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    The Arizona Coyotes might not be using John Scott‘s services after all.

    The team waived him this afternoon, per Craig Morgan. It’s possible that the Coyotes are simply giving themselves options as Scott clearing would allow them to send him down quickly at any point until he plays in 10 games or 30 days pass. At the same time, any team looking for a gritty fourth-line forward or third-pairing defenseman might be tempted to claim him in light of his affordable $575K cap hit for the 2015-16 campaign.

    Scott is an imposing presence on the ice at 6-foot-8 and 260 pounds, but he doesn’t bring much to the table other than his physical play and willingness to drop the gloves. In terms of offensive abilities, he’s among the least capable in the league. In fact, the four points he recorded last season with the San Jose Sharks represented a career-high for the 33-year-old.

    Meanwhile, Dan Cleary went unclaimed on waivers, according to Bob McKenzie, setting the stage for him to be reassigned to the AHL’s Grand Rapids Griffins.