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Should the Penguins bring back Petr Sykora?

Jun 14, 2010, 5:15 PM EDT

sykora.jpgThe most exciting moments of hockey off-seasons come when a team lands a big, expensive free agent. Yet, nine times out of ten in sports, splashy deals fail miserably (see: the Dan Snyder era with the Washington Redskins). Just look at last summer; while Jay Bouwmeester made headlines when he signed with the Calgary Flames, it turned out his former Florida Panthers teammate and backup goalie Craig Anderson ended up being the coup.

Now, sure, we’ll still be more fixated on the Ilya Kovalchuks and Evgeni Nabokovs of the world, but that doesn’t mean PHT will forget the smaller names entirely.

One of those guys you won’t hear a whole lot about in most circles is Czech winger Petr Sykora.

There’s a good reason why Sykora’s name will only come up in the most obscure free agent conversations. His one year with the Minnesota Wild was a borderline disaster, scoring three points in only 14 games played before he was waived in late January. He suffered from concussion problems and never made much of an impact. The fact that no one claimed him is obviously a bad sign, too.

While it’s quite possible that the wayward winger might retreat to the KHL, I wonder if the Pittsburgh Penguins should consider giving him a chance at retribution on the cheap. My guess is that Sykora would garner even less than the $1.6 million he received from the Minnesota Wild (although, again, the KHL could potentially overpay him). The forward and goalie ranks are filled, but the team needs to bolster its defense with Brooks Orpik, Kris Letang and Alex Goligoski being the only experienced blueliners under contract.

Aside from that whole “career free-fall” thing, there might also be some residual bitterness festering from the Penguins scratching Sykora during the 2009 Stanley Cup run.

It might not be the most realistic option, then, but the salary cap (and Sykora’s lack of other choices) could make compromise at least feasible. There’s two simple reasons to make it work: Sykora is a natural goal scorer and he developed genuine chemistry with Evgeni Malkin. It’s too simplistic to say that Sykora was the difference between Malkin being an Art Ross winner and just a point-per-game guy, but he certainly benefited from having a 25-goal guy on his line.

He’s not a crash-and-bang hitter. He rarely leads his team in hustle points or defensive acumen. If Sykora isn’t scoring goals, he’s nearly useless.

Yet, despite all of those flaws, Sykora being back in black and gold could be a solid if unspectacular move. As long as he’s cheap and can accept the fact that he might be a healthy scratch every now and then.

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  2. Annie - Jun 15, 2010 at 7:47 AM

    Interesting idea- except for the fact that Sykora ripped into Coach Dan Bylsma the minute he left Pitt last year. Calling Bylsma a hack and saying that Byslma was jealous of him being the big fish in the five minutes they played together. He blamed Bylsma’s jealousy of him as the only reason he was scratched in the playoffs. so yeah- i am guessing that Danny B is not gonna back a move like that.

  3. domino - Jun 15, 2010 at 10:48 AM

    Sykora never made those alleged comments according to his agent – they were taken from a trashy Czech tabloid and totally fictitious. Sykora is nothing short of first class in his behavior with teammates, opponents, and his employers. No doubt he was upset about being scratched, but you probably would be too. We are talking about a guy who had scored 25 goals already that season – if he hadn’t gotten injured with a shoulder separation before getting benched he would have been over 30 goals. And let’s not forget what a huge part of the playoff run he was the previous year, scroing one of the most memorable goals in Pens history in the finals. He was huge in getting Geno out of his shell. I’m not saying the Pens should bring him back, but lets not say it was because of his attitude – that’s just not fair. If anything its because he’s had a rash of serious injuries that have limited his playing time over the past two seasons. But if you saw him play in Game 6 of the finals against Detroit in ’09 when he broke his foot blocking a shot then cleared the zone from his knees, its hard to say he’s totally worthless if he’s not scoring goals. He’s a proud player with a lot of heart and a pure gift of a shot and if he never plays another game in the NHL, he should be remembered that way and not for some ridiculous tabloid story. But I do hope we’ll see Sykora back in the NHL so he has a chance to redeem himself.

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