Published on September 18th, 2012 | by James Conley0
Pittsburgh Assigns 23 to Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins; Summer Moves Pointed to Lockout
Saturday, the Penguins assigned 23 players to Wilkes-Barre Scranton of the AHL as part of a bevy of pre-lockout moves that occurred throughout the NHL.
Those players who were assigned to WBS include forwards Beau Bennett, Brian Gibbons, Tom Kuhnhackl, Jayson Megna, Adam Payerl, Zach Sill, Paul Thompson, Dominik Uher, Keven Veilleux, Philippe Dupuis, Benn Ferriero, Riley Holzapfel, Warren Peters and Trevor Smith; defensemen Simon Despres, Brian Dumoulin, Reid McNeill, Joe Morrow, Philip Samuelsson, Carl Sneep, Alex Grant and Dylan Reese; and goaltender Patrick Killeen.
The team also assigned defensemen Derrick Pouliot, Olli Maatta and Scott Harrington to their respective junior clubs.
While many teams re-signed their players to multi-year, multi-million dollar contracts in advance of the Saturday lockout (affirming one last time that money is no object in a work stoppage based on money), Pittsburgh shored up its AHL affiliate with the roster moves. It was the last of a series of summer transactions that pointed in precisely one direction—a firm anticipation of a lockout.
Most of the press this summer was generated by teams which handed monster contracts to free agents while the $70.2 million cap gravy train was still on the rails. Minnesota’s deals with Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, the Nashville-by-way-of-Philadelphia Shea Weber contract and multi-million dollar deals for players like Alex Semin, Shane Doan and Matt Carle ate up attention while almost a third of the league exceeded the $60 million payroll mark.
After the splash deals of the Sidney Crosby extension Jordan Staal’s trade, the Penguins fell nearly silent after the first day of free agency despite making formal offers to Parise, Doan and Suter.
One wonders how competitive Pittsburgh’s offers to any of these players were, given the roughly $1.7 billion that was handed out in free agency this summer. Looking back, the deals they completed indicated they felt a lockout was coming and that salary rollbacks would follow shortly thereafter.
Consider the deals the Penguins struck this summer. Prospects McNeill, Zatkoff, Smith, Sneep, Veilleux, Holzapfel, Peters, Megna, Grant, Bortuzzo, Strait and Tangradi all signed one- or two-year deals. Olli Maatta and Derrick Pouliot, the team’s first-round picks in the 2012 draft, signed three-year EL deals. Fringe-NHL talents Ferriero, Phillippe Dupuis, MacIntyre and Reese were signed to one- or two-year deals to shore up the AHL club.
Crosby (12 years) and Matt Niskanen (2 years) were the two NHL mainstays to sign contract extensions, while Tanner Glass (2 years) and Tomas Vokoun (2 years) were the team’s only bona fide NHL acquisitions.
All told, the Penguins handed out deals totaling 43 years—31 years if you remove Crosby’s extension and just six combined years for players not named Crosby who are expected to play full time in the NHL. Parise and Suter alone got a combined 26 years, by comparison.
When the Penguins opened up more than $10 million in cap space by trading Staal and Zbynek Michalek, many assumed they were clearing room to go after the big fish of free agency. However, the moves now seem to have coincided not only with the lockout the team expected, but with significant salary rollbacks they figure owners will receive before the work stoppage is over.