After leading the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins to their franchise best regular season campaign in just his first year as head coach, it was only a matter of time before the organization came calling to re-sign John Hynes. That day came on Tuesday afternoon when not only was Hynes retained, but also his assistant coach Alain Nasreddine also signed to muti-year contracts.
In Pittsburgh, all the assistant coaches were brought back on multi-year contracts as well. This includes former WBS Penguins coach Todd Reriden along with Tony Granato and Gilles Meloche.
So the organization's entire coaching staff in the NHL and AHL will be back next season. After the jump we'll take a look at the AHL unrestricted free agents and who needs to be a priority to return for 2011-12.The three unsigned draft picks won't be back with the Penguins next season. Andy Bathgate and Viktor Ekbom were sent back to this year's draft pool. Goaltender Alexander Pechurskiy is on his way back to the KHL for the team who owns his rights.
Now to a majority of the free agents, the AHL unrestricted free agents. Here's the list of who has yet to be re-signed:
If I had to rank these guys in order of who could & should be brought back next season, the list would be short. I'd say reigning ECHL rookie of the year Ben Street should be a no-brainer top priority. He made a great duo with Nick Petersen in the ECHL last season and I would like to see the two paired on a line in 2011-12.Jesse Boulerice, Chris Collins, Brandon DeFazio, Jason DeSantis, Bryan Lerg, David Marshall, Joey Mormina, Tyler Murovich, Andrew Orpik, Ryan Schnell, Ben Street and Geoff Walker.
Bryan Lerg would be high on my list as well. He came in on a PTO and was later given an AHL contract. He has familiarity with the coaching staff, particularly John Hynes, and can play on the power play, penalty kill and can move from center to wing if needed.
A case could also be made for Chris Collins or Geoff Walker, but I wouldn't hold my breath on either of these two coming back next season. Walker got off to a slow start but finished the season strong on a line with Ryan Craig and Keven Veilleux. Collins is an undersized forward, but plays with a ton of heart and dedication to the game. I wouldn't mind having either back but there just isn't a ton of room up front for these types of players.
Andrew Orpik and Ryan Schnell wouldn't be bad options as "tweener" players in the ECHL to have in case someone in the AHL or NHL goes down. Orpik played pretty well in his short stint with the Penguins this season. His brother, Brooks Orpik, is in the organization and it wouldn't be a bad thing to have both Orpik brothers in the organization come October.
Schnell is your typical enforcer and 4th line grinder, but he's a lot better on his skates and with the puck than most of the enforcers the Penguins have seen in recent years. He wouldn't be a bad guy to have in the minors to protect the prospects.
The rest of the guys on the UFA list should be let go. Nothing against any of them personally but there isn't much room on the depth chart, especially on defense, for these guys to get the playing time they need to develop.
Tomorrow I'll analyze the rest of the free agents the AHL Penguins need to think about before July 1st and get back to the 2010-11 player profiles this weekend.