Shelly Anderson: There is no sugarcoating the fact that this is an area of concern. Brent Johnson has been a great backup goalie in the past -- everyone surely remembers his start to last season while Marc-Andre Fleury struggled-- so it's unclear why his game has fallen off. You're right that Fleury needs to get the right balance of games and rest down the stretch, and the Penguins can't afford to lose standings points in the games when Fleury sits. The Penguins are highly unlikely to carry three goalies, so even bringing one in leaves some problems. It's not clear what kind of market there would be for trading Johnson. Ty Conklin was put on waivers today, but he's having a season very similar to Johnson's. The two goalies at Wilkes-Barre, Brad Thiessen and Scott Munroe, have been just a little better than ordinary, although Thiessen had a monster season a year ago. The best possible scenario here is for Johnson to find his game again.
Patrick: Mildly concerned about being able to keep the "core" together. How do you price Sid if he doesn't come back this year, or got forbid, comes back and gets hurt again? $5M is fair for Neal I think, but now how do we price Staal? He's more important to this team than Neal, but can we give him $5M+ too? Lastly, will Disco and/or Shero bench Martin...good grief.
Shelly Anderson: There are a few variables here. First, the salary cap has steadily gone up every season, so that helps with stars who are coming up for big contracts. Second, the collective bargaining agreement expires in September. We have no idea what might happen with the salary cap in a new agreement. Third, the Penguins have been able to play the hometown discount card pretty well. If the Penguins and the top players all want to continue their relationship, deals will be struck. I agree that $5 million is fair for James Neal. I would put him and Jordan Staal on fairly equal footing in terms of value, and I think that's doable. As for Paul Martin, I would hope that the Penguins wouldn't let dollar signs keep them from dressing the best possible lineup.
litzy360: Where do you see Neal's raise coming from in Next year's Cap?? AND is there any way the Pens can trade Paul Martin?
Shelly Anderson: You can see the above answer for some kinks in the salary cap. Some of it will simply be an expected rise in the cap maximum. Some of it might be a couple of prospects replacing veterans whose contracts are up this summer, saving maybe a few hundred thousand here and there.
Of course there is a way to trade Paul Martin. The Penguins simply would have make an enticing enough offer to a team that believes Martin can play as he did in Phoenix and even last season here. But the other elements of such a trade might make it prohibitive.
Ed: How about Martin to Ottawa for Gonchar?
Shelly Anderson: Well, let's talk it out. Sergei Gonchar is making $5.5 million a season through the 2012-13 season. That's just $500,000 more than Martin. Gonchar has a full no-movement clause, but you would have to think he would be open to a trade that would bring him back to the Penguins. But here's the kicker -- what's Ottawa's motivation to make that trade?
Rob: I was under the impression that the protocol regarding concussions was no skating until a player is symptom free and after skating resumes if symptoms reoccur the player should stop skating. How come Crosby said he is experiencing symptoms including headaches daily but is still working out on the ice practically every day? I realize he has been doing so for a while. When did the protocol change or is something different this time around? Is he able to skate despite the headaches because they are related to the neck injury and not a concussion?
Shelly Anderson: The NHL protocol is a means of instantly assessing a player during a game if there is any suspicion he might have sustained a concussion. It does not dictate how a player is treated or handles his rehabilitation. A year ago, Sidney Crosby was going through light workouts even with some symptoms. Obviously his doctors and specialists -- and he has a boatload of them -- agree that he is OK to skate and exert but not have any contact until he is symptom-free. He said Friday that his symptoms are improving. Lastly, as you mention, his symptoms could be wholly or partly because of his recently diagnosed neck injury. Remember, he passed an imPACT concussion test in December.
Guest: So, is this team the team that played on Saturday or the team that played on Sunday? I had a feeling they would be sluggish after exerting all their enrgy against the Goons, In Philly!
Shelly Anderson: In the whacky world of sports, the Penguins are both of those teams, depending on the day, the opponent, the way the wind is blowing, etc. Any team can have a poor game or an emotional letdown, as with the one in Buffalo. This isn't the playoffs yet, when good teams often get into a nice rhythm. But Penguins fans can be happy that their team is capable of turning in a game like the one they had in Philadelphia.
Meeko Makkela: How can Dan Bylsma say that Martin had one of his best games vs Buffalo? To quote John McEnroe, "He cannot be serious!".
Shelly Anderson: Paul Martin was minus-4 in that game (as was Kris Letang). I believe that was the way the question was framed, and that gave Dan Bylsma the opportunity to downplay the plus-minus stat. Don't forget that coaches' first priority is to get the most out of his players. Criticizing them publicly isn't always the way to do that (although it works for some players). Answering to the fans is a lower priority.
Mike: Shelly! great Chats! What is your hunch on how the Crosby Contract situation plays out? Do they sign him after this season? Sign him after 13 or not sign him at all. Are they pretty much "obligated" to pay the max salary regardless of his injuries?
Shelly Anderson: I believe they will work out an extension with Crosby this summer. The idea that he would still be out, or be out again for the same reasons, by the start of the 2013-14 season when a new contract would kick in seems fairly remote. Crosby seems to be willing to take something of a hometown discount while not undercutting himself to the point of raising the ire of the players' union. The caveat in all this is the CBA. If they can't work something out before there is a new CBA, or if his advisers somehow convince him to wait, that would change things. But I sense a strong desire on both sides to get it done.
Mike: Is there anybody on the Pens that you don't even approach for an interview because of the lack of substance they give you?
Shelly Anderson: No, I can't say that. No complaints at all in that regard.
DaveVA: Why is Bylsma playing Martin instead of Lovejoy?
Shelly Anderson: Ben Lovejoy is a capable NHL defenseman but hasn't proven himself to be a top-four guy at this point. Martin should be a top-four guy. The Penguins apparently figure Martin isn't going to find his game by sitting.
DaveVA: Does it seem to you that the Pens are having trouble recently with the opposing team's forechecking?
Shelly Anderson: I can't say that has stood out to me. They had problems with that in Buffalo, but they had problems with a lot of things in Buffalo.
Shelly Anderson: One last question, anyone?
Shelly Anderson: OK then. Thanks, and Merry Presidents Day. Please join us again next Monday, which happens to be trade deadline day.
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