Zach Parise. Ryan Suter. Either one would give the Penguins a legit shot a winning another Stanley Cup. And neither one decided to do anything but chill on the couch on the first day of free agency. But that didn’t stop Ray Shero from making a surprising number of moves…for the Baby Pens.
Maybe Shero thought if the Pens missed out on the two biggest names available and failed to get out of the first round again, Wilkes-Barre could still win the Calder Cup to totally redeem himself. After Day 1 of free agency, the Pens may have the deepest goalie camp in the NHL, they signed one of the AHL’s top scorers and they may have more defensemen in their system than the rest of the Eastern Conference combined.
Shero hasn’t made a significant move for his NHL team yet but even with all the AHL moves he made, he’s still got more than $11 mil to work with to sign some big boys for the Pens. Here is a look at the newest Baby Pens:
1:25 PM – G JEFF ZATKOFF (2 years/$1.05M) - This was kind of a shocker first move by Shero; two days after re-upping Brad Thiessen to man between the WBS pipes, Shero signed Zatkoff to give a great 1-2 punch in goal at the NHL and AHL level. Zatkoff could end up stealing B-Rad’s starting job in WBS too; he won 21 games with a 2.49 GAA and a .920 SV% in 44 appearances and was named an All-Star for the Kings’ affiliate in Manchester. At 25, he’s a year younger than B-Rad so this signing could end up being the start of a position battle for who takes over as the Pens’ No. 2 when Thomas Vokoun leaves in two years.
SHERO’S GRADE: A
1:59 PM – RW STEZVE MacINTYRE (2 year/$1.25M) - Yeah, Big Mac is back…seriously. At this point, we’re not sure what Shero was thinking with this move. He played all of 12 NHL games last year and averaged a whopping 3 minutes of ice time after he was brought in to be the new Eric Godard…he played exactly the same way. It’s nice to have a 6’5, 250-pound heavyweight but only if you’re going to use him. He didn’t do anything in the AHL either except when he went completely nuts against Springfield. Seems like a waste of a signing.
SHERO’S GRADE: D
2:09 PM – C RILEY HOLZAPFEL (1 year/$525K) - Not a bad depth signing by Shero here. Holzapfel showed some progression in the AHL last year and put up 37 points (16 G, 21 A) in 57 games, but he scored 22 of those points in 28 games after he moved to the Syracuse Crunch. He looks like a career minor-leaguer and he’s already on his fourth team at age 23, but he was a second-round pick by the Thrashers back in ’06.
SHERO’S GRADE: C+
5:25 PM – D DYLAN REESE (1 year/$600K) - Who cares if this kid never sees the NHL as a Penguin (they’re pretty deep on the blue line), he’s a Pittsburgh Kid out of Upper St. Clair so it’s just great to see Shero give him a shot. He’s played parts of three seasons in the NHL totalling 74 games so there’s a chance we could see him at CONSOL at some point. Plus, he fits nicely into Dan Bylsma’s system with the way he’s able to move the puck and jump up into the play.
SHERO’S GRADE: A
7:15 PM – C WARREN PETERS (1 year/$600K) - We never even heard of this guy until the signing came across Twitter. Warren Peters sounds more like a CPA name than an NHL name but apparently he’s not a bad grinder to have in WBS. He played in back-to-back Calder Cup Finals (for two different teams) and he’s 29 so this signing has veteran leader written all over it. If Ryan Craig decides to sign elsewhere, Peters could be the guy stepping up in the locker room – that’s really all he has to offer.
SHERO’S GRADE: B-
9:33 PM – LW TREVOR SMITH (1 year/$575K) - This may have been Shero’s best singing of the day. Smith has a bit of NHL experience (23 games) but he’s a force in the AHL. In 64 games in Norfolk last year, he put up 69 points (26 G, 43 A) and was a +34 – that was good enough for sixth in the league in scoring. Plus, he led the AHL in postseason scoring (16 points in 18 games) while he led the Admirals to a Calder Cup title. The Baby Pens are shaping up to be pretty solid this year.
SHERO’S GRADE: A+