Well, in a flurry of off-season moves, the Penguins have paved the way for a youth movement. The financial woes of a franchise that has lost close to 20 million dollars in two years has forced it to let their captain and future Hall of Famer, Ron Francis, go to Carolina via free agency. They also stand to lose Frederick Olausson, one of the teams’ most consistent defenseman in the same manner. Unfortunately, it will take the youth in the organization some time to make up for the loss of 120 points of scoring and 29 years of NHL experience.
In June the Penguins started off by signing 1996 draftees, Craig Hillier, Michal Rozsival, and Boris Protsenko while letting Boyd Kane and Peter Bergman go back into the draft. They then dealt injury prone Ken Wregget and Dave Roche to the Calgary Flames for two Left wings, German Titov and Todd Hlushko, adding depth to a weak left side. They then dealt holdout Josef Beranek to the Oilers for Defenseman Bobby Dollas and Center Tony Hrkac, who would eventually be taken in the expansion draft by Nashville. The draft saw the Penguins add to an already long list of centers by selecting six more as well as adding two goaltenders, a left wing and a defenseman. The Penguins went to Europe again selecting Czech Milan Kraft in the first round and Russian Alexander Zevakhin in the second.
July 1st came and saw the Penguins do a little houskeeping by letting perrenial minor-leaguers Domenic Pittis, Alexei Krivchenkov, and Serge Aubin go the free agency route. They also surprised some people by not tendering qualifying offers to tough winger Joe Dziedzic and center Alex Hicks, but surprised none by letting underachievers Andreas Johansson, Alek Stojanov, and Garry Valk go. They signed defensemen Pavel Skrbek and Tom O’Connor and centers Alexei Kolkunov and Valentin Morozov. The next move was to sign two minor league veterans, defenseman Victor Ignatjev and left wing Sean O’Brien.
With only two restricted free agents, Brian Bonin and Robert Lang left to sign, the Penguins will be fielding a rather young team next year. Youngsters like Bonin, Butenschon, Dome, Skrbek, Hrdina, and Gronman will get their chance to finally stick with the team. The Penguins won’t be able to match last years’ performance, but every team, especially in a small market, must go through re-building years and this is just the beginning.
Free agent/prospect signing recap:
Craig Hillier, undisclosed.
Boris Protsenko, undisclosed.
Michal Rozsival, undisclosed.
Pavel Skrbek, three years, $1.5 million.
Tom O’Connor, undisclosed.
Valentin Morozov, undisclosed.
Alekei Kolkunov, undisclosed.
Peter Skudra, two year deal, undisclosed
Stu Barnes, one year, undisclosed.
Brad Werenka, two years, $1.25 million.
Rob Brown, two years, undisclosed.
Tyler Wright, one year, $350,000.
Sean Pronger, one year, $500,000.
Free agents signed:
Victor Ignatjev, undisclosed.
Sean O’Brien, undisclosed.
Bobby Dollas from Edmonton
Tony Hrkac from Edmonton
German Titov from Calgary
Todd Hlushko from Calgary
Ken Wregget to Calgary
Dave Roche to Calgary
Josef Beranek to Edmonton
Lost in Expansion Draft:
Tony Hrkac to Nashville
Lost to Free Agency:
Ron Francis to Carolina
Domenic Pittis to Buffalo
Chris Ferraro to Edmonton