WBS Penguins Sign DeFazio & Hotham

Wednesday, July 27, 2011
The Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins are beginning to add to their depth for their ECHL affiliate much like Pittsburgh has been doing over the last month. The WBS Penguins announced today the signing of forward Brandon DeFazio (pictured above) and defenseman Andrew Hotham to American Hockey League (AHL) contracts.

DeFazio, you might recall, played two regular season games with the WBS Penguins back in early April, posting no points and an even rating. Wheeling Nailers beat writer Shawn Rine had this to say (on Twitter) after hearing the news of DeFazio's signing:
Congrats to @BDDeFazio (Brandon DeFazio) on AHL deal with WBS. All you need to know about his compete level: played entire playoffs with a ripped up knee. Great guy in room, too. #winner
Photo from theahl.com
Andrew Hotham (pictured above) played in six regular season games last season with the Rochester Americans, posting two assists, a +2 rating and 7 PIM. Before turning pro, Hotham played four years of college hockey at St. Mary's University, finishing his career with 148 points (34G, 114A) in 109 games. Hotham’s efforts last year earned him the Atlantic University Sport’s MVP award.

All in all, both guys will likely begin the season in the ECHL with the Wheeling Nailers.

Penguins Sign Forward Jason Williams

Tuesday, July 26, 2011
Photo from theahl.com
The Pittsburgh Penguins have added more forward depth today, signing forward Jason Williams to a two-way deal that pays him 600k at the NHL level and 105k at the AHL level.

Williams, a 31 year old forward who won the Stanley Cup back in 2002 with the Red Wings, has racked up 447 career NHL games (93G, 132A) in his career and if he doesn't make the NHL Penguins he would be a great addition to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

Williams has had injury problems of late, only appearing in 27 games with the Dallas Stars last season (2G, 3A) and 17 games in the AHL with the Connecticut Whale (4G, 5A) but could be a stud in the AHL if he can stay healthy.

I can see Williams slotting in at the top line center position in Wilkes-Barre to start the 2011-12 campaign. It looks like Ray Shero has done it again, just as WBS fans were begging for that top line center.

Tim Wallace Signs with the Islanders

Thursday, July 21, 2011
After five seasons in the Penguins organization, most of which were with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, Tim Wallace has moved on, signing a one-year, two-way deal with the New York Islanders. This according to Islanders beat writer for Newsday, Katie Strang. It has also been confirmed by the Bridgeport Sound Tigers here. The Islanders press release here.

The move to Long Island makes sense for Wallace who, at 26, is looking for a more permanent NHL role. He could make the Islanders as a 12th/13th forward out of training camp. If not, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers get a very good two-way player. For those Islanders/Sound Tigers fans here's a brief bio of Wallace I wrote up at the end of the season recapping his year. The full story here.
Tim Wallace has played five years with the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins and is coming off back-to-back 20 goal seasons.  He was one of only three to rack up 20 goals this season for the WBS Penguins and appeared in seven games with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
 I also thought correctly on where Wallace would land.
I think if Wallace gets interest from another NHL team and feels he has a better chance to make their NHL club, then he'll take it
Wallace appeared in 304 regular season games with the WBS Penguins in his AHL career. I wish him the best of luck with his new organization and hope to see him playing against the Pittsburgh Penguins this season, rather than against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

Penguins Sign Denver Manderson

Wednesday, July 20, 2011
Photo: Timo Savela
According to this article from Penticon Western News, the Pittsburgh Penguins have signed forward Denver Manderson to a one-year, two-way deal. The two-way deal is between the ECHL and AHL. This is not an NHL deal. Manderson was a former teammate of the Penguins' 2010 first round pick Beau Bennett in the BCHL with the Penitcon Vees.

After 113 points (40G-73A) in 50 games with the Vees in 2009-10, Manderson spent last season in Finland with HeKi, posting an impressive 33 points (17G-16A) in 46 games. The Fergus, Ontario native is only 22 years old, and at 5-10 and just 174 lbs. according to Eliteprospects he certainly needs to bulk up a little bit to be able to take the daily punishment he might receive in the AHL.

The Penticon article seems to suggest that Manderson will be reporting to the WBS Penguins training camp and most likely be playing for the Wheeling Nailers, the Penguins ECHL affiliate. But as we know, injuries and call ups are not uncommon so we will have to keep track of where Manderson plays in 2011-12. But it definitely looks like he will be playing in the Penguins organization for at least one year.

Penguins Release Guaranteed Dates

Tuesday, July 19, 2011
The Pens aren't playing hockey yet, but at least we know who we play on a few dates.
The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (AHL) have released their guaranteed dates for the 2011-12 season today.

So without further ado, here's the five guaranteed dates the team released:

Saturday, October 8, 2011
Friday, December 2, 2011
Saturday, December 17, 2011
Saturday, December 31, 2011
Friday, January 20, 2012

The opponents for these guaranteed dates will be announced when the AHL announces the schedule sometime later this summer. Looks like opening night could be on Saturday, October 8th, but as Scott Stuccio pointed out to Highland Park Hockey, the 2011-12 AHL season actually begins the day before.

We will have to wait and see. Interesting that the Penguins play on New Year's Eve again this year. Again, we are not sure of the opponents yet, which the AHL will release sometime in August.

In addition to following the blog on Facebook & Twitter, you can now add the blog on Google+.

WBS Penguins Release Schedule Matrix

Thursday, July 14, 2011
Get used to seeing the Penguins and Bears on the ice together, they play 12 times in 2011-12.
The team announced today, not who the Penguins will be playing on which dates (that is supposed to drop in early August), but how many times the Penguins play their opponents on the 76 game schedule in 2011-12.

Of course the schedule is stacked against teams in the East Division. The Penguins most frequent opponent in 2011-12 will be none other than the Hershey Bears, who will match up against the Penguins 12 times (6 home/ 6 road). As for the rest of the division, the Pens will play the Binghamton Senators and Norfolk Admirals a total of 10 times each (5 home/ 5 road) and the Syracuse Crunch eight times (4 home/4 road). That makes 40 of the 76 regular season games (roughly 53%) against teams in the WBS Penguins division.

WBS Penguins Sign Scott Munroe

Wednesday, July 13, 2011
Photo from theahl.com
The wait for a backup goaltender in Wilkes-Barre is over. The Penguins have signed Scott Munroe to a one-year deal. According to the team, Munroe’s contract is a two-way deal worth $525,000 at the NHL level. Munroe played last season in the KHL and spent the 2009-10 season with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers (AHL).

The Pittsburgh Penguins announced the signing earlier this evening while I was enjoying a nice steak dinner at the Mohegan Sun Casino. Here's where the news broke on Twitter with Darren Dreger answering Munroe's brother Clark Munroe when he announced Scott's one-year deal with the Pens.

More insights on the Penguins new backup goaltender after the jump.

WBS Penguins Re-sign Ryan Schnell

The Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins have re-signed forward Ryan Schnell to a one-year AHL contract. It was announced by the team today. Schnell adds more grit and toughness to an already physical lineup that includes Boris Valabik, Keven Veilleux and Zach Sill.

I see Schnell being that 12th/13th forward for the WBS Penguins when they need the extra muscle. He isn't afraid to drop the gloves and this probably signals the end of Jesse Boulerice, who is still an unrestricted free agent.

Also announced was the signing of Steve MacIntyre by the Pittsburgh Penguins last night to a one-year, two-way deal that will pay him $600,000 at the NHL level. He looks to replace former Penguin Eric Godard, who was signed to a two-year deal with the Dallas Stars yesterday. If MacIntyre doesn't stick with Pittsburgh, then Wilkes-Barre's lineup just got a whole lot tougher the last two days.

MacIntyre, 6-5, 250 lbs, played for the Edmonton Oilers last season and spent time with the Rochester Americans in 2009-10.  Penguins beat writer Jonathan Bombulie said in his blog post yesterday that MacIntyre would become the AHL's toughest man, hands down, if he was sent to Wilkes-Barre.

Looks like the Penguins should be done adding toughness and muscle to the lineup at both levels. The AHL Penguins still need a backup goalie, unless they are content with Patrick Killeen, We should probably find out more about this after Killeen's week at the Penguins development camp in Pittsburgh is over.

Penguins Re-Sign Dustin Jeffrey

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Pittsburgh Penguins announce that they have re-signed forward Dustin Jeffrey to a two-year deal worth $575,000 a season at the NHL level. The first year of his contract is a two-way deal, meaning he will make less than $575,000 at the AHL level, but the second year of his deal is a one-way deal that will pay him $575,000 no matter where he plays.

Jeffrey had a breakout year in 2010-11, registering 45 points (17G-28A) in 40 games with Wilkes-Barre Scranton and appearing in 25 NHL games with Pittsburgh, tallying 12 points (7G-5A) before tearing his ACL against the Philadelphia Flyers.

This is a great deal for the Penguins organization, locking Jeffrey up for two years. He should start the season in the AHL to make sure his knee is 100% ready to go, but I see him being a full-time NHL player very soon.

WBS Penguins Re-sign Joey Mormina

The Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins announced today the re-signing of defenseman Joey Mormina to a one-year AHL deal.

Mormina, like recently signed Boris Valabik, adds size and some more experience to the AHL blue line. Mormina has always been a full-time AHL defensman, compiling nearly 400 games in his AHL career that spans over six years.

Development Camp Begins on Tuesday

Sunday, July 10, 2011
UPDATE: The Penguins changed the starting date of their camp today. It will now begin on Tuesday 7/12 and run through the 16th with a scrimmage on Saturday. The team's release for the new schedule here.

The Pittsburgh Penguins will begin their annual development camp this week starting tomorrow, 7/11 and running through to a Saturday scrimmage on 7/16. This will be the first year that the camp will be at the Consol Energy Center as opposed to the facilities at Southpointe.

Some of the big name guys that are scheduled to attend are Eric Tangradi and the three of the team's former first round draft choices defenseman Simon Despres (2009), forward Beau Bennett (2010) and defenseman Joe Morrow (2011).

You will probably recognize some, if not most of the remaining names of guys scheduled to attend the camp.
Goaltender Patrick Killeen, Maxime Legace and Rob Madore. Defenseman Alex Grant, Philip Samuelsson, Reid McNeill (pictured below), Joe Rogalski, Scott Harrington, Andrew Blazek and Nicholas D'Agostino. Forwards Keven Veilleux, Zach Sill, Nick Petersen, Paul Thompson, Brian Gibbons, Tom Kuhnhackl, Dominik Uher, Josh Archibald, Bryan Rust, Jessey Astles, Stefan Fournier, Scott Zurevinski, Jared Gomes and Scott Wilson.
Unless otherwise credited to an outside source, all photos are original content of this blog!
A lot of AHL Penguins players to keep an eye on, especially some guys that haven't played in many AHL games like Paul Thompson, Brian Gibbons, Alex Grant and Philip Samuelsson. I'll keep everyone up to date with the major happenings of the camp. At least there is some hockey going on this week, even if it's just the rookies and prospects.

Finding a Backup Goalie for Thiessen

Saturday, July 9, 2011
Who will the goaltending tandem be in 2011-12?
One of the glaring needs that still exists for the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins is finding a suitable backup goaltender for Brad Thiessen, who was re-signed to a one-year deal on Tuesday.

There are two in-house options available in Mattias Modig and Patrick Killeen, but both are relatively green and untested. While one of those two could very well be the backup in 2011-12, I think the Penguins are actively pursuing a veteran to back up Thiessen in case of injury or recall.

After the jump, a look at some of the remaining free agent goaltenders and who might be a good fit for Wilkes-Barre.

Chris Conner Signs With Red Wings

Friday, July 8, 2011
I forgot to mention this when it happened, mainly because Chris Conner only played 11 games with the WBS Penguins before becoming a full-time Pittsburgh Penguin last season.

The speedy smaller forward signed a one-year, two-way contract with the Detroit Red Wings and from Ken Holland's quote in the Detroit Free Press, it looks like Conner will be playing in the AHL next year with the Grand Rapids Griffins.
He’s got speed. He’s got skill,” Holland said. “We want some depth. We’ve missed the playoffs in Grand Rapids the last three years. We want to get that team back into a playoff spot. 
In 60 games with the NHL Penguins this season, Conner registered seven goals and nine assists.

Penguins Sign Picard to Two-Way Deal

Tuesday, July 5, 2011
Not the Alexandre Picard from the Phoenix organization. Photo from theahl.com
The Pittsburgh Penguins have announced the signing of defenseman Alexandre Picard to a one-year, two-way deal worth $600,000 at the NHL level. Picard spent last season with the Montreal Canadiens, tallying three goals and five assists in 43 games, but missed the last seven games of the regular season and the Canadiens' seven playoff games with a foot injury.

Picard has spent the better part of the past four seasons as a 6th/7th defenseman in the NHL, being a part of the Canadiens, Hurricanes, Senators, Lightning and Flyers organizations in his career. Picard's last stint in the AHL came back in the 2007-08 season, where he posted eight goals and 30 assists in 53 games with the Phantoms.

This has the look and feel of another depth signing on the blue line to replace the losses of Steve Wagner, Corey Potter and Andrew Hutchinson. Could Picard be in the AHL to start the 2011-12 season or is there a trade on the horizon to unseat one of the seven NHL defenseman currently on one-way contracts in Pittsburgh? Time will tell, but I have a feeling the latter might ring true.

Penguins Re-Sign Brad Thiessen

Add caption
The Pittsburgh Penguins have announced that they have re-signed goaltender Brad Thiessen to a one-year deal that would pay him $525,000 at the NHL level. It is a two-way contract. I'm not surprised by the one year deal; Thiessen knows that NHL backup Brent Johnson's contract expires after the season and was likely seeking a one-way deal for any contract that was more than just one season.

Either way, the Penguins retain the AHL goalie of the year for 2011-12 and are now focusing on finding a backup for Thiessen in Wilkes-Barre Scranton (AHL).

I spoke with Thiessen's agent Ian Pulver and he confirmed that Thiessen has indeed been re-signed a one-year, two-way deal with Pittsburgh this afternoon. When asked why the deal was only for one year and if either side was pushing for a multi-year extension, Pulver told me that the one-year deal  was a mutual agreement between both sides.

Thiessen and Pulver will probably be looking for a one-way deal next summer.

In other less official news, it appears that the Penguins have signed defenseman Alexandre Picard to a one-year deal worth $600,000 at the NHL level. All this according to TSN. Not sure if the Penguins plan on keeping Picard in the NHL or not, but what I do know is that Picard hasn't played in the AHL for quite some time (2007-08 season with Norfolk). I'll wait until the team announces the signing before posting the actual story.

AHL Aligment Changes for 2011-12

Photo from theahl.com

The AHL will be switching from two divisions per conference to three and with that will adopt the NHL's playoff seeding, where the top team in each division will be seeded 1-3 and the remaining highest point total teams will be seeded 4-8. Your Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins remain in the East Division.

After the jump, a look at the new divisions.

Brett Sterling Signs With St. Louis Blues

Monday, July 4, 2011

The St. Louis Blues have signed former WBS Penguins forward Brett Sterling to a one-year deal, this according to the folks over at SB Nation St. Louis.

Now Tim Wallace remains as the only NHL free agent left that matters for WBS in terms of in-house options.  The three defensemen, Andrew Hutchinson (KHL), Steve Wagner (DEL), Corey Potter (Edmonton) and backup goalie John Curry (DEL) have moved on elsewhere.

Restricted free agent Brad Thiessen was extended a qualifying offer, along with Dustin Jeffrey. Look for those two to re-up with the Penguins organization soon.

Penguins Sign Valabik to Two-Way Deal

Sunday, July 3, 2011
Photo courtesy of theahl.com
The Pittsburgh Penguins have announced that they have signed Boris Valabik to a one-year two way contract that would pay him $550,000 at the NHL level. Valabik, 25, is a 6-7, 245 pound defenseman not known for his offensive talent,  posting a career high 11 points (0G, 11A) last season split between the Chicago Wolves and Providence Bruins of the AHL.

An interesting signing to say the least. Valabik adds size and grit, as well as experience. He's spent most of his career in the AHL (184 games), but has played in 80 NHL games as a member of the Atlanta Thrashers. He is also a former first round pick (10th overall) in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft.

Valabik was a member of the Chicago Wolves  when they beat the WBS Penguins in the Calder Cup Finals in 2008 where he scored three goals in 24 playoff games, the highest goal total of his career.

What this means for the WBS Penguins blue line after the jump.

Penguins Sign Colin McDonald

Friday, July 1, 2011
Photo courtesy of theahl.com

The Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins have signed last season's leading goal scorer in the AHL, Colin McDonald, to a one year two-way deal. McDonald scored a league high 42 goals last season with the Edmonton Oilers' AHL team, the Oklahoma City Barons.

Just as I got done saying the Penguins needed an AHL scoring threat, Ray Shero comes through big time, countering Hershey's addition of Ryan Potulny with a 40 goal scorer in McDonald. Great depth signing that WBS Penguins fans are very excited about.

McDonald, 26, is a bigger forward (6-3, 205 lbs.) that hasn't been known as a goal scorer until this past season. Drafted by Edmonton in the second round (51st overall) of the 2003 NHL Entry Draft, McDonald was a 10G, 10A player the past three seasons with the Springfield Falcons, never scoring more than 12 goals in a season before exploding for 42 in 2010-11 with Oklahoma City. He played on the Barons' top line with Alexandre Giroux and Brad Moran.

A Look Back at Today's Moves

The 1st day of free agency saw many players signing with new teams, a few guys staying with the same team and few former WBS and Pittsburgh Penguins jumping ship and looking for a fresh start in their careers.

The biggest news of the day came from Pittsburgh, where Jaromir Jagr's offer was withdrawn and he later signed with the Philadelphia Flyers for $3.3 million. Max Talbot also joined the Flyers, signing a 5 year deal worth $9 million.

But the Penguins did make two moves, re-signing Tyler Kennedy for two years at $2 million a season and signing former Nashville Predators forward Steve Sullivan to a one-year deal worth $1.5 million.

The Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins didn't add anyone added Colin McDonald to their roster today, and the addition of Sullivan and the re-signing of Kenendy could prevent guys like Nick Johnson, Joe Vitale and even Eric Tangradi from at least beginning the season in the NHL.

Corey Potter won't be returning to the Penguins next season, as he just signed a one year two-way deal with the Edmonton Oilers organization.

Free Agency Thread: Day 1

Within the hour the free agency market will open and the frenzy will begin. This is an open thread that can be used to discuss anything NHL or AHL related. As signings occur that affect the Pittsburgh or Wilkes-Barre Penguins I will update the thread below with the news and a source to confirm it.

Feel free to ask anything Penguins related as it pertains to free agents. Who they have left to sign, who they might be after, and much more.