Jun 27, 2011, 8:15 PM EDT
The 2010-11 season was a joyous one, by most accounts, for the NHL. That being said, one of its most marketable franchises suffered devastating injuries as the Pittsburgh Penguins lost Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin for about half of the campaign. Their health will be one of the nail-biting storylines of this off-season, but fans of the game should feel heartened … today, at least.
Head coach Dan Bylsma went as far as to say that Malkin “probably is already ready to go” while he said that Crosby has been working out twice per day. It might be easier to map out Malkin’s good days and bad days than Crosby’s since there seems to be a bit more knowledge about knee injuries than concussions. Naturally, we’ll keep you updated as the summer goes on and training camp approaches.
While Crosby and Malkin usually shoulder the kind of scoring burden that was more familiar to the best players of the often top-heavy Dead Puck Era, the team’s scrappy third line can be a difference-maker, too. Most of the time, the common trio of Jordan Staal, Matt Cooke and Tyler Kennedy made their biggest impact by cycling the puck and keeping it away from opponents. That being said, that group occasionally scored some pretty big goals during the last few seasons.
Fair or not, there was the feeling that Kennedy often missed golden opportunities by flubbing shots or missing the net altogether. Yet when Crosby and Malkin went down, Kennedy and others were forced into bigger scoring roles and the diminutive center responded with the best season of his four-year NHL career. He generated career highs in goals (21), assists (24), points (45), shots (234) and time on ice per game (14:32 minutes on average).
Kennedy took advantage of an increase in opportunities (and the natural motivation from a contract year) to earn himself some cash. The free agent market tends to be pretty friendly to 20-goal scorers with a Stanley Cup ring, so perhaps that explains why the Penguins decided not to hand Kennedy a qualifying offer today.
On face value, it seems like an absurd decision; it would only take an offer a “small percentage” higher than Kennedy’s $725K salary from the 2010-11 season to make it happen. Yet when you add context to the decision, it makes a bit more sense: a qualifying offer does not equal a contract; it would just give the Penguins more options if they wanted to retain him.
Simply put, Kennedy probably wants more money than the Penguins are willing to give him, so maybe Pittsburgh GM Ray Shero decided it wasn’t worth the trouble. Honestly, I think that the price tag to get that negotiating advantage is so small that it was worth a shot, but maybe Shero & Co. simply don’t want him back. Either way, the day of Kennedy licking his stick in a Penguins uniform appear to be over. (Then again, they might just sign him to an altogether new deal, so we’ll just need to wait and see.)
Of course, the natural afterthought is to wonder if Pittsburgh’s willingness to part with a solid winger – an area of weakness over the last few seasons – indicates that they might have their eyes on the greatest winger in their franchise history. (That would be Jaromir Jagr, by the way.)
We could find out as soon as Friday if that is indeed the case.
- Discuss: Bruins rally in third, take 3-0 series lead 43
- Video: Callahan gets away with high-sticking Chara 21
- Playoffs Tonight: Kings look for ‘killer instinct’ against Sharks 10
- Brother says Patrick Roy will be Avs’ head coach 21
- Video: Controversy colors Blackhawks goal, disallowed score 56
- Discuss: Detroit takes 2-1 series lead vs. Chicago 88
- Video: Viktor Stalberg returns after head-first sprawl into boards 2
- Brown, Toews, Alfredsson up for Messier Leadership Award 9
- Playoffs Tonight: Blackhawks look to ‘ramp up our intensity’ vs Red Wings 13
- Report: Patrick Roy a candidate for Avalanche head coaching job 9
- Video: Crosby scores hat trick, hits playoff milestone against Senators (91)
- Discuss: Detroit takes 2-1 series lead vs. Chicago (88)
- Bryzgalov thinks Stalin did a good job, wishes Philadelphia wasn’t so old, and believes poor people don’t want to work (80)
- McPhee says lack of power plays ‘didn’t feel right’; Torts says Washington is ‘whining’ (70)
- Penner blasts refs for having ‘gall to guess’ on goalie interference call (64)
- Live Extra: Watch Sharks-Kings, Game 4
- PBT: Cavs win NBA draft lottery, will pick No. 1
- Spurs survive Grizzlies' late run, win in OT
- PHT: Bruins rally in third, put Rangers in 3-0 hole
- Durant pledges $1 million for tornado victims
- GTC: Garcia offers Tiger 'fried chicken' for dinner
- Andy Murray out of French Open due to back injury