This may be the busiest week of the year for General Manager Ray Shero. He still has a lot to do before Christmas in July begins this Friday. One thing that we just found out a few hours ago is that Shero did not offer winger Tyler Kennedy a Qualifying Offer, which will make him an unrestricted free agent this Friday. I am happy with this move, or lack thereof, because I do not think TK has played well enough to warrant a big extension. TK did step up big time when Sid and Geno went down last season but where was he before that? He was given ample opportunities on Sid's line and Geno's line where he did not produce well at all. Some people are saying that it was his breakout season and he has nowhere to go but up but I am not buying it. I wouldn't mind keeping him but on a tryout contract so to speak. Give him a one year deal under 2 million and if he does produce with either Sid or Geno, then give him that big extension. I just don't see where he fits next year and there are a ton of Tyler Kennedys out there for cheap.
With TK out of the way, does that all but open the door for Jaromir Jagr? It is still tough to say. The Pens are still going to talk to TK up until Friday but who knows what TK wants. The Pens' brass and Jagr's agent are scheduled to speak tonight or tomorrow and touch base hopefully about numbers. I'm a big Jagr supporter. I think he will bring some scoring to the table that the Pens need. He will desperately help the Pens' powerplay as well. I think this team is strong enough and close enough that they will not let Jagr's off ice problems (if he even has any) affect them. Sid has developed tremendously as a leader and he has the support of strong veterans such as Brooks Orpik who will back him up. Jagr fits into Disco Dan's game. Jagr is strong down low below the goal line. He can definitely get some pucks to the net and help push Sid or Geno to the scoring title. I want Jagr to come back. Imagine the home opener next year. They bring out all the players and announce them in order of their numbers. Think about the 3 highest numbers, 68, 71, 87. Imagine the roar from the crowd when they welcome back all three of these players. Make it happen Ray. He deserves the risk. He is a legend.
Dan Bylsma is a great coach but I have to question him about one aspect. He is not good with European players. Think about some of the Europeans since Disco took over. Sykora, Ponikarovsky, and Kovalev are three big ones that come to mind. They were all flops under Disco's system. There are more than these three but these are the three biggest. Not everyone has failed, there is Sergei Gonchar. He filled a leadership role that was needed and was perfect for the Penguins powerplay. There is another question mark, his name is Evgeni Malkin. He was the playoff MVP in the 2009 Stanley Cup run but keep in mind that Michel Therrien was a there for more than half the year. Malkin has underachieved greatly in the past two years. He just doesn't seem comfortable in some of the roles that Bylsma puts him in. Right now, it seems like the Penguins are not really listening to him either. He wants to be a center. It is his natural position and where he feels the most comfortable. The Penguins are insisting on starting the year with Staal centering Malkin next season. It may work or it may not but time will tell. Geno is not comfortable on the wing though. One thing to remember is the Pens' core guys (Sid, Geno, Staal, Fleury) are not a lock to stay here after their contracts are over. Some of which happen in the coming years. The Penguins should keep their stars happy, mainly Sid and Geno. Give Sid a winger (hopefully he meshes with James Neal) and let Malkin center the second line. Keep Staal on his shutdown third line center role. That is where he is best, as seen last year.
The next few days should be interesting and I will be here to help break some of it down for you.