Chase The Paper Trail 9/30

Monday, September 30, 2013
Simon Despres has been re-assigned to the AHL Penguins, but will he suit up for WBS to start the season?
It was a busy day for the Pittsburgh Penguins organization today, the last day of September. The day saw players move all over the place from the NHL to the AHL, WHL and even ECHL to get the NHL roster salary cap compliant.

In the NHL, Pittsburgh needed to be salary cap compliant by 5 p.m. EDT. To do so, they re-assigned forward Beau Bennett to the Wheeling Nailers (ECHL) and defenseman Simon Despres to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (AHL). The Pens also sent defenseman Derrick Pouliot back to his junior team, the Portland Winterhawks, and called up defenseman Harrison Ruopp.

Here's the current NHL Penguins 23-man roster that is salary cap compliant:
Forwards (13): Craig Adams, Chris Conner, Sidney Crosby, Matt D'Agostini, Pascal Dupuis, Tanner Glass, Dustin Jeffrey, Jussi Jokinen, Chris Kunitz, Evgeni Malkin, James Neal, Brendan Sutter and Joe Vitale.
Defensemen (8): Robert Bortuzzo, Deryk Engelland, Olli Maatta, Paul Martin, Matt Niskanen, Brooks Orpik, Harrison Ruopp and Rob Scuderi
Goaltenders (2): Marc-Andre Fleury and Jeff Zatkoff
Injured Reserve (2): Kris Letang and Tomas Vokoun 
Bennett and Despres' moves are easy to understand and similar to what the Penguins did when they re-assigned Eric Tangradi prior to the start of the 2010 season. Get their salaries off the books because they don't need to go through the waiver process. Both can go up and down rather easily.

The plan seems to be to put injured goaltender Tomas Vokoun in LTIR to give them salary cap space to bring Bennett back to Pittsburgh and also have room to possibly sign forward Chuck Kobasew. The two big surprises on the roster are Conner and Ruopp. Both will likely be demoted to Wilkes-Barre in the very near future.

With Kris Letang on IR and Simon Despres sent to Wilkes-Barre instead of the much closer Wheeling, I think Olli Maatta might get a 9-game look from the Penguins before he is returned to his junior team. If that's the case, then Simon Despres will start the season in the AHL and then come up after Maatta is returned to the OHL.

In the AHL, the WBS Penguins announced twelve players were released from their tryouts with the AHL club. Forwards Kyle Fletcher, Chaz Johnson, Patrick McGrath, Carter Rowney, C.J. Severyn, Cody Sylvester and Scott Zurevinksi, defensemen Barry Goers, Mike Ratchuk, Clark Seymour, and Alex Velischek and goaltender Andy Chiodo were released.

The WBS Penguins also loaned forwards Denver Manderson and Christiaan Minella to their ECHL affiliate in Wheeling.  Of those released from WBS, Fletcher, Johnson, Zurevinski, Goers, Ratchuk and Velischek are already signed by the Nailers for this season.

Here's who is left on the AHL Penguins after the round of cuts:
Goalies (3): Eric Hartzell, Peter Mannino, Jeff DesLauriers
Defense (8): Simon Despres, Brian Dumoulin, Philip Samuelsson, Brendan Mikkelson, Scott Harrington, Reid McNeill, Nick D'Agostino, Peter Merth
Forwards (14): Andrew Ebbett, Tom Kuhnhackl, Nick Drazenovic, Adam Payerl, Paul Thompson, Brian Gibbons, Jayson Megna, Harry Zolnierczyk, Zach Sill, Tom Kostopoulos, Pierre-Luc Leblond, Mike Carman,  Dominik Uher, Bobby Farnham
Notable cuts include local tryout forward Patrick McGrath and fan-favorite goaltender Andy Chiodo. The next step for the players cut from WBS Penguins training camp is to head to Wheeling for ECHL action, or look for an AHL/ECHL job elsewhere.

All in all, the moves aren't done just yet. These are how the rosters look currently, but changes will be made. My best guess right now?

Vokoun will be put on LTIR to free up his $2 million cap hit. Bennett will be back in Pittsburgh before their first game.  Conner and Ruopp will be re-assigned to the AHL. Maatta will be returned to his junior team after a 9-game stint. Despres will start in the AHL but be back in Pittsburgh after Maatta is returned.


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