Penguins Notes: What’s Old is New Again

By John Toperzer

— I’m not sure if it’s because everybody seems young to Pens’ GM Jim Rutherford, but Pittsburgh’s coaching staff officially qualifies for AARP status after the signing of assistant coach Gary Agnew. Agnew (54 years of age) joins head coach Mike Johnston (57) and Rick Tocchet (50) as one of the NHL’s oldest coaching staffs with the least amount of NHL coaching experience. Jacques Martin (61) also remains within the organization in a yet-to-be-determined capacity. This should be fun.

— Minnesota native Paul Martin did not break his leg in Tuesday’s All-Star Game. #Sochi

— Fans I’ve spoken with have sounded pretty upbeat about the Pens’ offseason. I don’t necessarily share in that optimism, but I learned a long time ago that it’s important to respect the opinions of others (in hockey and in life). I wasn’t impressed with 32-year-old Christian Ehrhoff when he played defense for Vancouver – even before he signed with the Sabres. Steve Downie is the most interesting signing, someone who can add heart to the team. Reuniting him with Rick Tocchet could do wonders for him. Of course, he has such a long injury history that nightly health updates will become standard operating procedure for Downie fans.

USA Today’s Kevin Allen graded the Penguins’ summer with an “A,” one of only two such grades in the East (Tampa Bay also got an “A”).

Allen called the Neal trade “bold” and labeled the Ehrhoff signing as one of the best free agent signings. Click here for the entire story.

In the end, none of Pittsburgh’s offseason matters as much as Sidney Crosby’s health. Fortunately, concussions are not a part of the equation. I’d like to see Crosby go through with whatever surgeries he needs to be healthy for the long term. Rehabs have an all-too-common way of simply pushing out surgery timetables for the good of no one.

— Back to Downie, did you know he was drafted 29th overall in 2005, the same draft Crosby was selected first?

Not only that, but recently-departed Matt Niskanen was taken one pick in front of Downie by Dallas and the Stars then took James Neal four picks after Downie. There’s Pittsburgh hockey symmetry in there somewhere.

Downie has competed in only one long playoff run, when he skated for Tampa Bay in 2010-11. In 17 games, he scored two goals and added 12 assists with 40 PIM. Not bad postseason production at all.

— Twitter was all a-flutter over the weekend with Kris Letang releasing his list of 15 teams to which he would accept a trade, including the Montreal Canadiens.

First off, here’s to wishing he suffers from no lingering stroke effects. That’s 100X more important than everything else combined, IMO.

Second, the Penguins would be fools to trade him before he has a chance to rebuild his trade value with a strong regular season heading into the trading deadline. His eight-year, $58 million deal is still a huge chunk of money, but the recent unrestricted free agency frenzy has shown that Letang’s money isn’t quite as outrageous as it once appeared to be.

Finally, could Montreal be a destination for Letang? Sure. Brendan Gallagher would look nice in a Penguins sweater. Alexander Galchenyuk might be the Russian that Geno’s been looking for.

Of course, Letang’s health will go a long way toward determining his future, short-term and long-term.

For now, Pittsburgh fans can agree that a good, healthy start to 2014-15 by the defenseman is more important than anything else.

It’s been said that Kristopher Letang might benefit from the coaching staff changes more than any other Penguin.

We shall see.

— I think the pick of Kasperi Kapanen is just a cool pick. Is it the best pick the Penguins could have made, I don’t know, nobody does right now, but his father, Sami Kapanen, was a good player in his own right and showed a lot of heart.

Friend of Chipped Ham sports and writer for Hockey’s Future, Ian Altenbaugh, had a glowing report on Kapanen here.

With Sami’s link to GM Rutherford in Carolina, the selection makes a lot of sense. My only question is why didn’t the top European prospect go higher than 22th? The Pens say that they had him ranked seventh overall. Is there scouting system that disconnected from the rest of the league or is there simply that much variance? Time will tell.

Kapanen says he wants to make the team out of camp, but only history suggests that only a few youngsters thrive in the NHL at that age. The fact that he wants to play with the big boys already is nonetheless encouraging.

— I won’t be attending the prospects camp but may pop in for Saturday prospects game at 3:00 ET inside the Consol Energy Center.


Links ‘n At

Penguins’ Sidney Crosby decides against wrist surgery, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports.

But if the injections he has decided to receive in lieu of an operation don’t have the desired effect, Crosby still could undergo surgery before training camp opens in September.

“If this treatment works, you avoid surgery and move on,” Pat Brisson, who is Crosby’s agent, said Tuesday. “If it doesn’t, he will have to go that [surgical] route.”


Penguins top prospect Pouliot eyes quick recovery from surgery, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports.

“Everything is coming along good,” said Pouliot, whose May surgery repaired a labrum torn during the Western Hockey League final. “(The shoulder) is progressing as it should, and hopefully, it’ll be a speedy recovery.

“It’s tough to (give a timetable), especially since it’s only been (eight weeks). I’m just starting to really get the rehab going, so it’s tough to say but hopefully training camp.”


Young Penguins defensemen hope to make impact at NHL level, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports.

“I think we’re pretty fortunate to be the first guys that the new coaches see,” said defenseman Scott Harrington, who will attempt to make the Penguins’ roster during training camp in September.

“We get to showcase ourselves. This is an opportunity for us.”


Penguins’ Crosby won’t have surgery on ailing wrist, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports.

“I knew him before but never sat down extensively with him,” Pens coach Mike Johnston said of Sidney Crosby. “It was good to get to know him a little bit. We grew up a mile apart. Some of my friends coached Sid as he was growing up.

“It’s nice that we have some things in common. You don’t get a chance to spend one-on-one time once training camp starts.

“I want to connect with as many of these guys as I can.”


Penguins notebook: First-round pick Kapanen practices, excited to join team, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports.

General manager Jim Rutherford believes Kapanen can contend for a roster spot in training camp.

“The coaches are really great people here,” Kapanen said. “I think we have a great coaching staff. I’m excited. I’m just trying to be a sponge right now.”


Prospects Camp Audio, courtesy Penguins

Mike Johnston:


Brian Dumoulin:


Derrick Pouliot:


Tristan Jarry:


Scott Harrington:


Kasperi Kapanen (1):


Kasperi Kapanen (2):


Sam Lafferty:


Treasure Life!


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