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First off let me just say that the amount of questions I received was terrific, it was really nice to see that kind of response. It wasn’t easy to narrow the questions down for the list.

Two part question.

Do you think it is realistic for Kapanen to make this team out of camp? If the organization feels he is ready to make an impact out of the gate, then it makes sense to hold on to Martin for the time being.

Do you agree?

Also, if Martin is not dealt now I feel as if it would be a mistake to move him at the deadline (unless we are for some reason out of it). I think at that point he would be too valuable to move and would rather risk losing him in the offseason for a better chance to win a cup. Do you agree? – kfinl170

First things first I will have to admit that like most people, I did not watch Kapanen play last year. I can only go by what the draft reports have said about him. Speed and skill are a non issue, he should be good to go on that front, the real question will be his ability to adapt to the NHL game. Something that should at least help a little bit in his transition is that he wasn’t playing junior hockey, he was playing against men in Finland. That will certainly help his cause but the NHL has a slightly smaller rink surface and the talent is of course way better. Kapanen could make the team, young players make the NHL more frequently these days. The key for the Penguins will be making sure he can legitimately contribute if they are going to keep him up. You don’t want to see a Mikhail Grigorenko situation. It seems as though he will be given every opportunity to make the team. Should be fun to watch.

As for Paul Martin, if a guy like Kapanen were to make the team that would fill a void and would do so on the cheap. You could effectively keep Paul Martin and have a really solid defense corp. I agree with you, I do not believe that Paul Martin will be a candidate to be dealt at the deadline. It is going to happen now or it is not going to happen.

Since you have gone through the hole tanking for Sidney/Malkin, what are your thoughts on Buffalo’s similiar path of McDavid/Eichel? – georgeb716

I think the Buffalo Sabres are in a terrific spot. They have one of the best prospect pools in the entire NHL and they are certainly a candidate for landing another top end draft pick next year. The only problem for the Sabres is that they probably waited a little too long to start their tank job and now the best odds you can get for the top pick in the NHL lottery is at 25% (potentially shrinking to 18% next year). The Sabres had a decent offseason, perhaps too decent. I don’t think they are the runaway favorite to be the worst team in the NHL anymore. The additions of Moulson, Gionta, Meszaros, and Gorges are not ground breaking but they are an upgrade over what they had. Future is bright in Buffalo and with the new Harbor Center opening up it will be a great time to be a hockey fan in Buffalo.

Question After what has so far transpired this off-season, who do you see as the 8 playoff qualifiers in the Eastern Conf. for the upcoming season? – boss_tweed

It is never easy to answer this question in July but I will give it a shot anyways. I believe Pittsburgh, Columbus, Boston, Tampa Bay, New Jersey, New York Islanders, Detroit, and Montreal will be the playoff representatives in the East.

I think the Islanders have really done some nice things (I’ll go into detail later), the Rangers lost a lot of what made them a very good team (depth), and the Flyers did nothing to make themselves a better team. The Hartnell trade certainly wasn’t a good hockey trade, at least in my opinion. The Devils were a great possession team last year and were sunk by Martin Brodeur’s horrific goaltending. With Brodeur out of the picture the Devils are in much better shape.

Take this with a grain of salt, there are many many more player personnel moves to be made from now until the start of the season.

Question Do you think the Penguins are a better team now, taking everything into consideration, than they were at the end of the season? – JLorenz94

Yes, I do believe that they are better. It would have been difficult for them not to be. The bottom 6 forward grouping was a train wreck last year with many players who were below replacement level. The only player that remains from that sub par grouping of players is Craig Adams. By having competent NHL players throughout the forward ranks Mike Johnston will be able to give his star players more advantageous matchups. The top 6 forward group as it currently stands is not as high end as it has been in the past, but it will still be decent enough even if Dupuis and Bennett have to play up there. The Penguins defense is really good with Martin, Letang, Maatta and Ehrhoff leading the way. Rob Scuderi is the only soft spot. Any of the kids coming up to play this year will be an upgrade over Orpik/Scuderi, who are both bottom pairing defensemen at best these days.

Question Where do you stand on Nick Spaling? I think he is the X factor in the Neal trade. His advanced stats look poor but many people in Nashville seem very high on him. Could he be the Matt Niskanen/Pascal Dupuis type of throw-in that exceeds expectations? – YouMeandDupuis9

He may “exceed” expectations but he is not going to be able to jump up on a top line like Dupuis and be productive in that way. The nice thing about Spaling is the flexibility that he has to play any of the three forward positions. It is always nice for the coach to have options with players. I remain skeptical of what his contributions will be. As you mentioned his advanced numbers don’t jump off the page in a good way and that is where my skepticism comes from. Is Spaling an upgrade over what was here last year? Yes, I believe he is. Would I have targeted him in a trade? No, I would not have. I believe the Penguins should have pushed hard for a second round pick instead of Spaling, I think Nashville would have given in to acquire Neal.

Question Are you the Ryan Wilson that played for the Avalanche? – kindlyrick

I am not. I am the Ryan Wilson who was an underachieving Division III hockey player. Although our offensive outputs are very similar.

Should the pens look to pick Lee Stempniak back up on a cheap contract? He seemed to be a good fit last season. – pensfan2192

I liked what Stempniak brought to the Penguins in a third line role. He is a good fit and whichever team lands him will be getting an effective NHL player most likely on a decent valued contract. That said I don’t believe the Penguins will be looking to re-sign him. I don’t think his next contract will be super cheap. I think he will still be making between 2.5-3.0M per season on a 3 year deal. Stempniak has options at this point, somebody will give him a decent deal. He is just sitting back while waiting to find the best one.

Ryan, What are your thoughts on JR’s approach so far? At times he seems like a well calculated genius and other times he appears to be totally off his wagon. – IGLOO

The only thing that was puzzling to me was the James Neal trade. If 15 teams were really interested in him then I’m not sure why the deal had to be done on draft night when no draft picks were involved. I understand you don’t want things to linger on but the Neal situation isn’t like what is going on in Winnipeg with the very public Evander Kane saga. Rutherford’s done a nice job in other areas. Christian Ehrhoff signing was terrific and his additions to the bottom 6 have shored up what was the Penguins biggest weakness last year. He also deserves credit for improving the backup goaltender position. Rutherford has done a decent job so far. It would also be fair to add that Jason Botterill has probably had a significant part in these moves as well.

Crosby and Malkin’s contracts seem like a good value now with the numbers Toews and Kane just signed for. Do you think it’s safe to assume that contracts are going to look better and better over the next few years as the cap rises and players are getting higher amounts, or is this just a one-off situation because of the caliber of players that Toews and Kane are? – SolidGoldBricks

I think their contracts have always looked good. They are way below what their market value is. I do not believe that their contracts have impeded the Penguins from putting together a solid team. I believe that Shero signing players like Tanner Glass and Craig Adams to fill roster spots was the problem as well as sticking with high priced average (at best) goaltending. The Crosby and Malkin contracts are going to continue to look better and better and I am going to throw Letang into that as well. You can’t hide a player’s cap hit anymore with low priced years at the end of the deal. Star players are going to carry huge cap hits now. We saw it with Getzlaf, Perry, and Kessel and we are now seeing it with Toews and Kane. Look for PK Subban’s next contract to start with a 9 and then the new Stamkos contract could become the highest cap hit in the league. Penguins cap situation is not bad at all. Last year was the toughest year they will have as it pertains to the cap.

Looking at our shutdown defensive capability, who do you see in that slot? How comfortable are you with that pair? Lastly, looking at your crystal ball what player are you looking for a big surprise out of and which will lay the biggest egg? – powerhouse

If the status quo remains I would use Letang and Martin as a pairing. They played really well together and I am a true believer that Letang deserves to play with somebody that has puck skill like him. Making him carry around Orpik and Scuderi neuters his ability to shine. Maatta played really well with Matt Niskanen, it should be no different with Christian Ehrhoff who is a better player. The bottom pairing will be fine as well with options like Simon Despres, Robert Bortuzzo, Scott Harrington, Brian Dumoulin, and perhaps Derrick Pouliot to choose from.

A player that may be a big surprise will be Marcel Goc. He is a good player who suffered a really terrible injury early on in his Penguin tenure last year. Most fans have not seen the real Marcel Goc yet. He is not fancy but he is an effective player and that was a real nice signing for the Penguins.

The player that will lay the biggest egg is not an easy answer. It pains me to say it but I am going with a player who I think is very good, yet is unable to stay on the ice, Beau Bennett. Injuries will be the reason for laying an egg. Personally I think he would do a great job on a line with Malkin or Crosby. This is a prediction I hope to look back on and laugh at how silly it was. Talent is not the issue, fluky injuries are. We’ll see how things play out.

If Shero and Bylsma got fired for going to conference finals last year and second round this year, what do you think will happen if another fail happens again in the playoff with this current staff? – Fd10

Nothing will happen. It is a new regime and they will be afforded a grace period to try and fix the mistakes of the last people in charge. The Penguins have been around since 1967 and they have won it all three times. If winning the Stanley Cup is the definition of failure or not then the Penguins, much like the rest of the league, fail quite a bit.

Quick easy question. At the draft how do the teams get Jerseys with the players name on them so quickly? Do they have a stock supply one jersey with each player they want on it? Do they print them off before each pick somehow? – Jeff Noel

I am not 100% sure but I do believe they are Velcro on the back. Teams most likely will have multiple nameplates made with the players that are on the top of their draft board and when it is time to make the selection they grab the appropriate nameplate. It wouldn’t shock me if they had a heat press in the arena to make the nameplates on the spot. I worked in a pro shop for 7 years and it is not hard at all to make a nameplate, you can make one in 2 minutes or less. You just line up the letters on the plate, put the Teflon sheet over them and slam the press down.

At present the Penguins only have 8 players signed past this season. If you assume Despres, Sutter and Spaling will sign for at least 2yr that takes the total next off season to 11 players.

First, who do you expect, if anyone, to get extended during this season?

Given the expected rise in the Cap adding to the $27M space the Penguins currently will have available next offseason, what position do you expect the Penguins to target most actively? – S0rcerer1984

I expect Christian Ehrhoff to sign an extension with the Penguins to be honest. I think he will come to find out that the Penguins have a nice situation as far as the on ice product goes as well as the state of the art facilities the Penguins provide. With Martin most likely moving on I feel as though a baseline estimate for Ehrhoff would be a similar 5 year 25M contract that they gave Martin. I think that makes sense for both parties. Ehrhoff has already cashed in money wise with the Sabres and the 5M per year is certainly a fair offer. Depending on what happens on the Sutter front I believe that Goc could be another guy who signs on for more years.

I think the Penguins will be targeting a top 6 winger. You can always find bottom 6 help as this offseason has proven. The defense corp. has no shortage of younger capable players on ELC contracts so they are set in that department. I would hope that they would be looking aggressively to improve at the goaltender position as well.

I do not understand why claude giroux does not get the credit he deserves. The guy goes on a tear this year unlike any other player and somehow gets snubbed from team Canada. This guy has been playing phenomenal the past 3 years and for some reason people will not recognize his greatness. Look at the total points of the last 3 years combined for any player and you will see claude Giroux up at the top of the list. – king of philly

Claude Giroux is a great hockey player and making the Canadian Olympic team is a very political process. There are still many people who don’t understand that great players go through goalless droughts. The problem for Giroux last year was his drought happened at the very beginning of the season and it drew tons of attention. If it happened in mid December it would have passed with much less fanfare like Malkin’s cold stretch did.

Instead of worrying about what other people think about the players you like watching, just enjoy watching them play. That is the only thing that matters. The Flyers have some issues with the current roster construction but Claude Giroux is literally the last thing to worry about in Philadelphia.

Question Do you think the nhl will ever get rid of the overtime loss, the “loser point”? – Dave

No and I don’t think they have to. What needs to be done is the league has to make every game count the same in the standings. You can’t continue to have some games worth two points (regulation wins) and some games worth three points (any game that goes to OT). The simple solution to this is to adopt the 3-2-1 system. Three points for a regulation win. Two points for an overtime/shootout win. Losing team in OT/shootout, still receives one point. Every game is worth the same like it should be. Also it would certainly add to the dynamic of a playoff race with teams really pushing the issue before regulation ends.

Should the pens take a run at Devin Setoguchi on a one year, low cost deal? I think he’d slot in well with Sid.- matt1396

I don’t think the Penguins need to look at a guy like Devin Setoguchi to fill that top 6 role. If the Penguins want to use a fringe top 6 player on the top line they will just continue to use Dupuis in that role.

Which tem will be the most improved and which team will regress the most next season? – LeafsinSeven

I’ll break this up into the Eastern and Western Conferences.

In the East I believe there are two teams that have done a really nice job in this offseason. The first is the New York Islanders.

The Islanders did a great thing by totally revamping the goaltender position. That was a true weakness for the club and by adding Jaroslav Halak and Chad Johnson one could argue that it is a position of strength now. While Grabovski and Kulemin may have been an “overpay” it doesn’t matter when the team is flirting with the cap floor. Those two immediately improve their forward depth and ability to roll out more offensive threats throughout the lineup. Their defense corp. is nothing to write home about but the Islanders have definitely shored up the other areas of their team.

Tampa is another team that has improved and they might be the team that represents the Eastern Conference in the Stanley Cup Final next year. I don’t like the Ryan Callahan contract because of how long it is but that doesn’t change the fact he will help that team in the present. Jonathan Drouin should make the team out of camp and provide more offense. Adding Jason Garrison and Anton Stralman will turn what was a pedestrian defense corp. into something that is competent. Hedman is no longer alone on an island. Ben Bishop should continue to provide solid goaltending.

A team in the east that I believe will regress is the New York Rangers. I have my concerns about them because they lost some pieces that were what made them great. They no longer have the depth that they utilized to make their impressive run to the Stanley Cup Final. Brad Richards did not have a good playoff but he was still a 50 point guy on a team that only had three. Losing Anton Stralman will take a bite out of the defense corp. Advanced statistics show that Stralman was a positive influence on Marc Staal and that Staal did not do well away from him. Benoit Pouliot was a terrific depth player for the Rangers and while the Rangers couldn’t afford to pay him 4M per season, his loss will still impact the team. Dan Boyle will have to have a really solid season on the back end to make up for the Stralman loss, he could potentially achieve that success. Adding a player like Tanner Glass is not a step in the right direction. The Rangers still have the best goalie in the game so anything is possible, but I have my reservations.

In the Western Conference I believe the Dallas Stars are a legit threat that needs to be taken seriously. Last year they stole Tyler Seguin from the Bruins and this year they stole Jason Spezza from the Senators. Through trading they now have a legit one two combo down the middle. Add in Jamie Benn, Ales Hemsky, and Valeri Nichushkin and you have some real firepower in the top 6. They were a top 10 possession team last year and I expect them to have a realistic chance at getting even better in that department. Jim Nill has done a really nice job so far in Dallas.

The team I believe that will regress the most are the Colorado Avalanche. They lost their top two possession forwards in Paul Stastny and PA Paranteau and replaced them with aging forwards Jarome Iginla and Danny Briere. The Avalanche have a defense crop. that badly needed another puck moving defenseman and they did not address that need. Last year the Avs were the 28th ranked possession team and had a sky high PDO. That is not a recipe for continued success, ask the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Will Malkin ever get 40 goals again(assuming he plays a full schedule) now that teams know to put a body on him so he’ll pass? (of course it may not matter if he gets that many more assists , just curious) – Bradlee3

Yes he can. The key will be for him to shoot the puck more. In his 50 goal campaign he fired the puck 4.52 times per game. Since then he has only shot the puck 3.18 times per game. The key for Geno is to fire the biscuit. Look for that to happen more in 2014-15.

Why did Crosby play when he was hurt would missing a game or two really have hurt the penguins in the playoffs I understand he is the best but I do not feel there is any shame in missing a game or two when injured in the playoffs – pensfan68

Crosby may not have put up the goal totals that everybody expects out of him this past postseason but he still controlled the play when he was on the ice. On a team with horrendous depth issues Crosby in the lineup was a must. He was the shutdown center and led the playoffs in puck possession. Perhaps they could have rested him more down the stretch in the regular season but I get the feeling that missing one or two games wasn’t going to make a difference come playoff time. The injury was what it was, he played through it the best he could. He was still a much better option than the alternative.

Who is your twitter profile picture? Is that you? – Jeff P

That is the 1999 version of me. Junior year high school hockey photo.

Is this “one year deals thing” going to be the new norm in the nhl? – pensfan024

With star players taking up more cap space than in the past there isn’t as much money to fly around for everybody else. Sometimes if a player has a mediocre season and believes in himself it is better to play for that one season while boosting their value up. I think that you will see this trend continue on.

In your opinion, what is the modern game equivalent of scoring 200 points in a season?

If Crosby was given a heavily sheltered offensive role and played the entire season. How many points could you see him scoring?

Roughly where do you place Jagr in the greatest NHL players of all-time list?

Keep up the great work mate

Cheers – Penz66

I think 150 points in the modern NHL is the ceiling. Goaltenders are better, depth players are better, everything about the game is better these days. I think Crosby in the role you describe would be the only player who would have a puncher’s chance at the 150 point barrier, but even then all the chips would have to fall into place for that to happen.

Jaromir Jagr is a top 5 player of all time in my book.

Should Pens put Craig Adams on waivers?? to make room for Zach Sill !! Adams is in his late 30’s not the strongest skater not good at puck poessesion pretty much he is only good at blocking shots!! Zach Sill is young and has much more of an upside!! – Bam

Zach Sill is just more of the same. He is not an NHL player. The Penguins can and should do better than that.

Why hasn’t David Booth been signed almost two weeks into FA? He’s a fast skater and has really strong possession numbers. How hasn’t a team snapped him up? – Stillson14

My understanding is that he was just recently married and is on his honeymoon. He may not have wanted to make a decision on his future until after those important life events took place. If you remember Mikhail Grabovski took a good bit of time before he signed in Washington. His delay in signing with a club certainly did not have to do with a lack of interest. Booth will have a few options to choose from when he is ready to make his decision.

Ryan, I know you are a fan of Phish. What’s your favorite new song off Fuego?? – pghbirdman

To be honest I find the album underwhelming. It reminds me of the James Neal trade. I expected more but I’ll probably eventually warm up to it. Sing Monica and Halfway to the Moon are the two tracks I don’t dislike at this point in time. I’ll be in the pit tomorrow in Canandaigua, perhaps hearing some of them live and in person will change my perception, it most likely will.

Doesn’t change the fact that they are the best live act going, haters gonna hate.

What would it take for the Penguins to get E. Kane from the Jets? – jmack

It won’t come cheap. You are looking at something like Derrick Pouliot, a first round pick, and Brandon Sutter as the baseline for any deal and they might not take that. Kane is the hottest item on the trade market with no shortage of interested teams. His price will be super high. You have to give to get when talking about an asset that carries the value Kane does.

Kane would be a great fit with the Penguins but I don’t believe the Jets should be trading him in the first place. I don’t blame him for wanting out. It is a very fascinating situation to watch moving forward.

Love your work and podcast! Do you think this is a transition year with all of the turnover? The team is missing at least one top 6 forward and will have a pretty young D. Not to mention a big question mark in goal…So, transition year or contender? Anything the team could do to get better quickly? – 27catz

I think last year was a transitional year with the artificially lowered salary cap and the inability to field a complete roster due to money and poor choices. Obviously with a new regime in charge you could consider the 2014-15 season as a transitional year but I think even with Shero in charge you would see the kind of turnover we are seeing in the bottom 6 forward grouping.

The Penguins are still a contender in a weaker Eastern Conference and they have the ability to still make moves if they desire. The Ehrhoff and Goc signings give them flexibility with players like Martin and Sutter. They could elect to keep both players or they could do the exact opposite and trade both players.

If you trade Martin you need to make sure you are getting an impact player (top 6 winger) back in the deal. If that requires adding more pieces to a potential Martin deal that is what will have to happen. Paul Martin has been the Penguins best defenseman if he is moved it has to be worth their while. I would rather keep Martin and rotate Bennett and Dupuis in the top 6 than trade Martin for a non top 6 winger player(s).

Brandon Sutter is a player that will have to be packaged with other assets in order to make any trade make sense. If the Penguins attempt to make a move for a top 6 winger Sutter would be the third piece in a larger deal. He would be the competent NHL player that would finish out the package.

Thank you for the kind words about the podcast. You can find this week’s podcast that covers the Crosby injuiry, Toews/Kane extension, and Ryan O’Reilly situation here.

Thank you to everybody who submitted to the mailbag, there were waaaaay too many responses to get to them all. I hope I was able to answer everybody’s questions whether it was indirectly or not.

Thanks for reading!

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