Tag: Beau Bennett

Kris Letang

Pittsburgh Penguins ’15-16 Outlook


The Pittsburgh Penguins have two of the league’s best forwards in Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, but last season they lacked the offensive depth to sufficiently back them up. GM Jim Rutherford is hoping he addressed that issue this summer, but there is still a big X-factor with this team.

Starting with the positives, newcomer Phil Kessel is one of the league’s top goal scorers and pairing him up with a superb playmaker like Crosby should make for a great combination. Combined with Patric Hornqvist, Malkin, David Perron, and Chris Kunitz and the Penguins have the potential to feature two very effective lines. Summer additions Eric Fehr and Nick Bonino will also provide the Penguins with some all-important depth up the middle.

After that though, their bottom-six gets a little hazy.

Theoretically, Pascal Dupuis would be an ideal presence on their third line and wouldn’t look out of place if the Penguins opt to put him in their top-six, but he’s also played in just 55 games over the last two seasons due to a torn ACL and a blood clot. Even if we presume that his health issues are behind him, one has to wonder if the long layoffs have negatively impacted the 36-year-old forward. The Penguins might be penciling Beau Bennett for a third line role as well, but he’s had injury problems too and hasn’t developed as hoped.

Health issues have unfortunately been a running theme for the Penguins.

They’re counting on Kris Letang to anchor their defense, but the 69 games he played last season represented a personal best since 2010-2011. Even Malkin is a question mark at this point, as he’s only surpassed the 70-game mark once since 2008-2009.

Now to be fair, if the biggest knock is “they might get hurt,” then that’s arguably a sign that there are not a lot of issues to begin with.

After all, the Penguins core — when healthy — is among the most impressive in the league. Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury can be firmly listed as part of that foundation as well as his performance over the last two campaigns has run contrary to the old narrative that he gets worse under the heightened pressure of the playoffs.

The jury is still out on the Penguins’ depth though and those aforementioned injury problems can’t be casually dismissed. This is a team that has been among the most prone to health problems from 2009-10 onward, according to Man Games Lost.

If that trend ends though, then this should be a very dangerous team.

For Pens, Tuesday’s moves were all about depth and finances up front

Jim Rutherford

Following a busy day in which he flipped Brandon Sutter to Vancouver for Nick Bonino and Adam Clendening, then signed ex-Capital Eric Fehr, Pens GM Jim Rutherford explained how those moves met two of his biggest objectives.

“The two deals went hand-in-hand so we can add more depth,” Rutherford said. “We have enough good players now that guys are going to have to compete for those spots [in training camp] and compete for them all year.”

He then addressed the money issue.

“When you look at the structure of our salaries and our cap, it’s important to get those bottom-six cap hits in better shape,” Rutherford explained. “That’s what we were able to do with these two deals.”

It’s not surprising that depth and finances were two of Pittsburgh’s biggest offseason priorities. Money allotment has been an issue — Sutter, a pending UFA potentially in line for a raise, was making $3.3 million while playing what amounted to a third-line center role.

Combined, Bonino and Fehr are a $3.9M cap hit.

(Lest we forget that, in the Phil Kessel trade earlier this month, Rutherford dealt away another relatively expensive third-liner in Nick Spaling, who makes $2.2M annually.)

Earlier, veteran depth guys Steve Downie, Blake Comeau, Daniel Winnik and Craig Adams were allowed to walk in free agency, giving likes of Beau Bennett ($800K), KHLer Sergei Plotnikov ($925K), Swedish prospect Oskar Sundqvist ($700K) and Czech Leaguer Dominik Simon ($692K) a chance to get into the rotation.

So that’s the financial side.

In terms of depth up front, Pittsburgh seems far better suited to deal with injuries — something that, you may remember, was a recurring issue in ’14-15. Kessel gives the club a bonafide scoring winger to play alongside either Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, while Fehr and Bonino, both natural centers, provide nice depth down the middle.

Fehr could even bounce outside if need be.

“Eric is definitely comfortable as a two-positional player,” Rutherford said. “He could possibly jump up into the top six, if that situation presented itself, but he’s coming off of a year where he played center.”

Pascal Dupuis is expected to return after playing just 16 games last year, and the club will get a full season of David Perron, acquired from Edmonton in January. Add it all up, and it’s easy to see why Rutherford is so pleased with Pittsburgh’s new-look forward group — it’s deeper, with a more sensible financial structure.

“If a guy falls off, there’s a guy waiting to jump right in there,” he explained. “I like the fact that we have enough guys that each guy can push each other.

“I like our depth at forward now.”

Pens sign Simon for three years, Bennett for one

Pittsburgh Penguins v New York Rangers - Game One

The Pittsburgh Penguins took care of some business on Wednesday, signing Beau Bennett to a one-year deal and Dominik Simon to a three-year, entry-level contract.

Financial terms for Simon’s pact weren’t revealed, but the team shared the fact that Bennett’s contract is worth $800K in 2015-16.

Bennett (pictured) has dealt with a slew of injuries so far in his career. The 23-year-old set a career-high for games played with just 49 regular season contests in 2014-15, yet he was limited to 12 points. The Penguins are likely banking on better future results for the 20th pick of the 2010 NHL Draft.

Simon, 20, was selected 137th overall in the 2015 NHL Draft. The Penguins singled out his work at the 2015 World Championships:

Simon, the youngest player on the Czech team at the 2015 World Championships, was paired on a line with the team’s most senior member, former Penguin Jaromir Jagr. Simon finished that tournament with six points (1G-5A) in 10 games.

That’s not the only blast from the Penguins’ past, as he played for HC Plzen last season, a team owned by former Pen Martin Straka.

Rutherford: Pens need a better ‘supporting cast’ for core

2014 NHL Draft - Round 2-7

Penguins GM Jim Rutherford is more than comfortable with the core of his roster.

And no, he has no plans to trade Evgeni Malkin, despite the speculation.

It’s the “supporting cast” — beyond Malkin, Sidney Crosby, Kris Letang and Marc-Andre Fleury — that Rutherford is taking it upon himself to improve.

For good reason, he sees Chicago as the blueprint for success in the salary-cap era.

“The Blackhawks’ core group have risen to the occasion over the span of these last three Cups,” Rutherford told the Post-Gazette. “Clearly Kane and Toews and Crawford and Keith and some others have been really key players, but all three times they’ve had a different supporting cast.

“The conclusion I draw from that is that 1, we have the core guys to win a championship and 2, it’s my job and the job of everyone in hockey [operations] to try to get the right supporting cast so that we can build enough balance, speed and youth to have a complementary group that allows us to make the same run.”

One of the areas where the Penguins have fallen short is player development. Case in point, Rutherford admitted at the end of the season that Beau Bennett hasn’t been brought along properly.

Bennett was the Penguins’ first-round draft pick (20th overall) in 2010.

That was also the year Los Angeles took Tyler Toffoli, one of the leading scorers for the Kings in their second Cup run, with the 47th overall pick.

The next year, the Blackhawks drafted Brandon Saad in the second round and Andrew Shaw in the fifth.

To stay competitive in the salary-cap era, teams need that constant “support from the bottom.”

The Penguins haven’t received that. We mentioned Bennett’s failure to develop into an impact player. Well, at least he’s still with the organization. Pittsburgh traded the first-round picks that came before and after him. Simon Despres (2009) went to the Ducks to get Ben Lovejoy; Joe Morrow (2011) went to Dallas to get Brenden Morrow.

The Pens do have some good prospects in Derrick Pouliot, Kasperi Kapanen and a few others. The key for Rutherford will be to develop those prospects properly, while also acquiring the right veterans, for the right price, to fill out the rest of the roster.

Related: Rutherford insists Pittsburgh is ‘very appealing’ for free agents, even with ownership situation

Rutherford: Pittsburgh ‘very appealing’ for free agents, even with ownership situation

Jim Rutherford

Penguins GM Jim Rutherford says the big news of this week — that owners Mario Lemieux and Ron Burkle are exploring a possible sale — won’t affect how the club works free agency.

“Nothing changes as far as how we run hockey operations,” Rutherford told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “We have a great city to play in and the best facilities of anyone in the league with the opening of our new practice facility.

“That should be very appealing to a free agent.”

Just prior to Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final, TSN broke news that Lemieux and Burkle hired Morgan Stanley “to explore the possibility of selling some or all of the NHL franchise.”

Shortly thereafter, the Pens released a statement:

“We conduct periodic reviews of our business and, because we have received several inquiries about the franchise in recent years, we decided to engage Morgan Stanley for their insight and counsel.

“After buying the team out of bankruptcy, ensuring its long-term future in Pittsburgh and creating a strong foundation for continued success, we believe it is time to explore our options.”

Before the club can begin exploring free agents, it needs to reach decisions on the eight players set to become UFAs: Daniel Winnik, Maxim Lapierre, Steve Downie, Blake Comeau, Paul Martin, Thomas Greiss, Christian Ehrhoff and Craig Adams. One decision has already been made — Adams has been told he won’t be brought back — and Ehrhoff’s agent recently suggested his client will go to July 1.

The club also needs a new deal for RFA forward Beau Bennett, and RFA d-men Ian Cole and Brian Dumoulin.