With the Penguins having gone their separate ways for the summer, the absence of hockey in the Steel City already has us asking ourselves "Is it October yet?" But don't worry, there's plenty going on during the next few months to keep everyone's appetite for hockey satiated until the 2011-12 season begins. Here's a breakdown of what Penguins fans can look forward to during the offseason
NHL SCOUTING COMBINE – MAY 30-JUNE 4
Four Pittsburgh-area prospects – goaltender John Gibson (Whitehall) and forwards J.T. Miller (E. Palestine, Ohio/Moon), Brandon Saad (Gibsonia) and Vincent Trocheck (Pittsburgh) – are among the 102 best draft-eligible players invited to this year’s NHL scouting combine in Toronto, which is one last opportunity for the prospects to improve their draft stock.
There are three main components to the combine – interviews with personnel from each of the NHL’s 30 teams, rigorous off-ice physical testing (there is no on-ice activity) and medical examinations by independent doctors. The players are watched and graded by scouts, general managers and strength and conditioning coaches throughout the process.
The fitness tests measure their strength, stamina and explosiveness, and include the famously grueling Wingate Cycle Ergometer, which measures a player’s power output during a 30-second burst, and the VO2 Max test, which measures a player’s endurance.
NHL AWARDS – JUNE 22
Head coach Dan Bylsma will head to the NHL Awards in Las Vegas on June 22 in hopes of becoming the first coach in Penguins franchise history to capture the Jack Adams Award as the league’s Coach of the Year.
Bylsma is a first-time Adams finalist, with the other two nominees being Barry Trotz of Nashville and Alain Vigneault of Vancouver.
The other awards that will be given out in Las Vegas once the season concludes are: the Ted Lindsay Award (outstanding player voted by peers), Hart Trophy (league MVP), Vezina Trophy (best goalie), Norris Trophy (best defenseman), Calder Trophy (top rookie), Lady Byng Trophy (sportsmanship, gentlemanly conduct and high standard of play), Selke Trophy (best defensive forward), and the Masterson Trophy (perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey).
NHL ENTRY DRAFT – JUNE 24-25
The 2011 NHL Entry Draft is set for June 24 and 25 at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn. There will be a total of seven rounds and 211 overall selections.
Last season, the Penguins used their first pick to select forward Beau Bennett
20th overall. They then chose Bryan Rust
in the third round (80th overall), forward Tom Kuehnhackl in the fourth round (110th overall), forward Kenneth Agostino in the fifth round (140th overall) and defensemen Joe Rogalski
and Reid McNeill
in the sixth round (Rogalski chosen 152nd overall and McNeill selected 170th overall).
Pittsburgh built 41 percent – 12 of 29 players – of its 2010-11 finalized roster through the draft.
In the first round of the draft, the order of selection is as follows:
a) The first 14 selections, as determined by a Draft Drawing – where the 14 teams that did not qualify for the Stanley Cup playoffs (or clubs that acquired those teams’ first-round draft picks) participate to determine their order.
b) Clubs eliminated in the first two rounds of the 2011 Stanley Cup playoffs, regular-season division winners excluded (in inverse order of points).
c) Regular-season division-winning clubs eliminated in the first two rounds of the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs (in inverse order of points).
d) Clubs eliminated in the 2011 Conference Finals (in inverse order of points).
e) Stanley Cup finalist.
f) Stanley Cup champion.
FREE AGENCY PERIOD BEGINS – JULY 1
Once 12:00 p.m. ET hits on July 1, an unrestricted free agent is free to negotiate and sign a contract with any team.
Forwards Craig Adams
, Arron Asham
, Mike Comrie, Chris Conner, Pascal Dupuis
, Eric Godard, Alex Kovalev, Mike Rupp and Maxime Talbot are the members of the 2010-11 Penguins squad that are set to become unrestricted free agents if they do not re-sign with the team by that date.
As of 2008, any player whose contract has expired can declare himself an unrestricted free agent if he is at least 27 years old and has accrued four seasons as an NHL player, or has accrued least seven years of service as an NHL player.
Forward Tyler Kennedy
is the team’s lone restricted free agent since he is no longer considered entry-level, but does not qualify as an unrestricted free agent.
The Penguins must extend a qualifying offer to Kennedy in order to retain his negotiating rights. If a qualifying offer is made and Kennedy rejects it, he or the team can file for salary arbitration to settle any contract disputes.
A team can take a player to arbitration once in his career and cannot ask for a salary reduction greater than 15 percent.
DEADLINE FOR PLAYER-ELECTED SALARY ARBITRATION NOTIFICATION – JULY 5
DEADLINE FOR CLUB-ELECTED SALARY ARBITRATION NOTIFICATION – JULY 6
SALARY ARBITRATION HEARINGS HELD – JULY 20-AUGUST 4
DEADLINE FOR SALARY ARBITRATION HEARINGS TO BE RENDERED – AUGUST 6
PENGUINS CONDITIONING CAMP – JULY; TBA
Penguins prospects will have the opportunity to spend a week in Pittsburgh learning what it means to represent the organization during the 2011 conditioning camp, set for early July.
The camp will consists of on-ice practice and scrimmage sessions at Southpointe (all of which will be open to the public), medical and fitness testing at the UPMC Sports Medicine Complex on the South Side and workouts, meetings and seminars at CONSOL Energy Center.
The camp is a chance for the franchise's top prospects and recent draft picks to learn all of the on- and off-ice aspects that come with being a professional hockey player in the Pittsburgh Penguins organization in a more relaxed atmosphere than, for example, training camp.
It is also a chance for the Penguins staff to see the organization’s prospects all together and to teach them the habits and mindset they want their players to have.
Last year’s instructors were Penguins assistant coach Todd Reirden – then the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton head coach, WBS head coach John Hynes – then an assistant with the team, Penguins assistant to the general manager Tom Fitzgerald, Penguins goaltending coach Gilles Meloche and Penguins strength and conditioning coach Mike Kadar.
PROSPECT CAMP AND TOURNAMENT – SEPTEMBER; TBA
The Penguins will conduct a five-day prospect camp and tournament with the location, dates and other participating teams to be determined.
In addition to practices and meetings, some of the Penguins’ brightest prospects will partake in three exhibition games against the best prospects from other National Hockey League teams.
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton head coach John Hynes, named the American Hockey League’s Most Outstanding Coach for the 2010-11 campaign, will direct the camp with the help of assistant coach Alain Nasreddine. Hynes and Nasreddine will continue to implement the same culture the players learned at conditioning camp in July to help them prepare for training camp around the corner.
The Penguins’ participants last season included forwards Eric Tangradi
and Dustin Jeffrey
and defenseman Simon Despres
TRAINING CAMP – SEPTEMBER; TBA
After a long and restful summer, the Penguins will get back to business when they converge on Pittsburgh in early September to report to training camp. The attendees will be locked in a fierce competition for a spot on Pittsburgh’s roster, as the Penguins will have their 2011-12 lineup set soon after the two-and-a-half week process concludes.
In addition to practices – some of which will be open to the public – the Penguins will play a number of preseason games and the schedule for those will be announced at a later date.