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Crash the Net - Pens Q&A

by Bob Grove / Pittsburgh Penguins
Crash the Net is a weekly web Q&A on Click here to submit a question.

QUESTION: Do you see Ray Shero acquiring another veteran defenseman before the season starts?  It's been rumored that Danny Markov may be a possibility, but that seems to have died down quite a bit. 

-Mike in Pittsburgh

Kris Letang
The Penguins won't be dealing for any defensemen before the start of the season. They've got Darryl Sydor and Kris Letang now expected to be regulars, and they're obviously happy with six returning defensemen: Sergei Gonchar, Brooks Orpik, Ryan Whitney, Mark Eaton, Rob Scuderi and Alain Nasreddine, who is likely to begin the season in the AHL.

We got a few questions this week about unrestricted free agent Danny Markov, 31, who earned $2.5 million last season for Detroit but was unsigned through Sept. 11. I like Markov's physical approach a lot, but various reports this summer suggested his contract demands were scaring off interested teams, including Columbus. If that's true, perhaps he'll lower his salary sights a bit and sign with someone. But I can't see it being Pittsburgh.

Remember, too, that teams don't have to have every piece of their puzzle in place in September. They've got all season, up until the trading deadline, to make changes. If Shero decides he needs another stay-at-home defenseman -- a description that would fit Orpik, Eaton, Scuderi and Nasreddine -- he'll have time to find one.

QUESTION: If Kris Letang works out to be the player who we all think he is, do you think that makes a higher salaried player such as Sergei Gonchar expendable? 
-Asbee is Dorseyville, PA

BOB GROVE: Rarely are you able to make any definitive judgments about a player in his first full NHL season after just five months of play. No matter how well Letang's season is going at the deadline, it's pretty safe to assume he won't be the second-leading scorer among NHL defensemen -- which is where Gonchar ended up last season.

Even if you wanted to, trading Gonchar with two-plus seasons remaining on his contract won't be easy. He is scheduled to earn $11.5 million over those two seasons, and that won't be an easy number for most teams to accommodate.

If neither Staal nor Malkin signs a contract extension next summer and both head into the summer of 2009 as restricted free agents -- and if you are convinced Letang and perhaps Alex Goligoski promise to provide plenty of future offense from the blueline -- then you could have the ability to move Gonchar and create a little cap room. Of course, Letang will need a new contract in the summer of 2009 and could potentially be in line for a nice raise himself.

Cap management is a crucial skill for teams, which is why the Penguins hired Jason Botterill this summer. But there's no substitute for drafting well and having enough revenue to increase your payroll when the need arises, and right now the Penguins seem to be doing fine on both fronts.
-Jason in Gibsonia, PA

QUESTION: Does anyone know the status of Evgeni Malkin's English lessons?  Will Malkin and his teammates be able to better communicate with each other this year?
Dave in New York, NY

BOB GROVE: Questions about Malkin's English development were popular this week. Players were available as a group to reporters for the first time this summer at the team's annual golf outing today, and I'm sure this angle will be explored. I certainly expect Malkin not only to be better but more willing to try and communicate with the media.

His ability to communicate on the ice, as you suggest, is critical to helping him become a better player. I'm willing to cut him some slack for last season, given all the adjustments he had to make and the circumstances under which he came to the NHL. But there's no excuse for not showing improvement this time around.

QUESTION: Are the Pens going to be holding their training camp tournament like they have in the past.  I can remember a year or 2 ago they held a scrimmage tournament where they split up the guys at camp and played scrimmage games.
-Tim in West Mifflin, PA

BOB GROVE: The Penguins are scheduled to scrimmage at 10 a.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday at Southpointe. Currently, the training camp schedule calls for players to be split into only two groups, and these are the only scrimmages scheduled.

Tom Barrasso
QUESTION: My question is if at any time we will see this new Pens team wearing the old Pens jerseys from '91 and '92 when they won the back to back Stanley Cups. I see lots of Canadian teams and some American like Buffalo going back to there old jerseys on vintage nights.

-Kyle in Kitimat B.C., Canada

BOB GROVE: There are no plans at the moment to introduce a retro jersey, but I wouldn't be surprised if the Penguins think about doing just that for their final season at Mellon Arena in 2009-10.

Crash the Net is a weekly web Q&A on Click here to submit a question.
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