At least from a Wilkes-Barre/Scranton perspective, much of Saturday’s free agency kickoff was very quiet. Then dinnertime hit.
Now, we have a pretty good idea about the makeup of the Penguins for this season.
The most pleasant surprise was that Casey DeSmith would be returning to Pittsburgh on a two-way deal. In fact, returning to the organization was his “first choice.”
Why? In his own words:
(The Penguins) are an organization that gives guys opportunities to break through, both at the AHL and NHL level. If you can play, then they’re going to play you. If you’re succeeding, they’re going to give you the benefit of the doubt. That’s a big factor for someone like me, who’s still trying to work their way up. It’s definitely an attractive quality that the Penguins organization has.
This is just further evidence of two things:
- Players want to compete in a successful environment that gives them a chance to continually develop and compete for championships. Right now, after two Stanley Cup titles, they see Pittsburgh as one of those premier opportunities.
- As DeSmith mentions in Sunday’s print story, the team has done a phenomenal job of treating its players well and keeping morale at a constant high (which, of course, feeds into No. 1 and keeps the cycle flowing).
On the ice, this move keeps the Penguins’ two-headed monster in net intact (at least until any potential call-up for Tristan Jarry), and that alone makes the team dangerous and a favorite to defend the division title.
The team also maintained a lot of grit by keeping Tom Sestito and Garrett Wilson. Sestito can obviously thrive in the enforcer role, but also showed a scoring touch last season.
Wilson is due for a breakout season; he was having one last year before his shoulder injury sidelined him.
The blue line, however, lost a lot of offensive firepower with David Warsofsky off to Colorado and Derrick Pouliot likely to begin the year in Pittsburgh. But if Lukas Bengtsson can finally come back healthy, Ethan Prow can keep making steps forward and Frank Corrado can make the most of a true clean slate to begin the season, the Pens should be fine. And maybe things immediately click for someone like Jeff Taylor as an added bonus.
As a side note, I will miss Cameron Gaunce. He was always a pleasure to speak with.
In summary, none of these moves were “sexy” necessarily, but the core of last year’s team is intact as a result and there’s that desired mix of young talent and savvy veterans.
What was your favorite move the Penguins made today? Feel free to share your thoughts below.
We’ll see what other moves pop up in the days ahead. In the meantime, enjoy your Fourth of July holiday! I’m not a big fireworks person, but stay safe if you are.
Stay tuned in the near future for some potential changes to our team Facebook page as well.