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Rob Rossi chat transcript: Sept. 12, 2012

| Monday, Sept. 10, 2012, 12:06 p.m.

Rob Rossi: Good late morning, dear readers. The NHL and its union plan to meet within the next 90 minutes, per the NHLPA. So, why not start with a CBA-related question in this first hockey-specific chat?

SouthSidePensFan: Rob, with the league's talk of a lower salary cap ... where do you see the Pens organization standing on that issue? Seems to me that with their collection of talent, they wouldn't want a lower cap.

Rob Rossi: Last I checked, which was yesterday, the Penguins stand firmly in support of NHL commissioner Gary Bettman. Keep in mind, though the organization is making more money now than ever, this ownership group will never be considered a huge-revenue organization such as the Maple Leafs, Rangers, Flyers, etc. The Pens will spend to the cap, as they have for six years, but not if that cap ever reaches a crazy level, such as $100 million.

Steve: Will the Pens be effected cap wise when a new CBA is reached?

Rob Rossi: Good question, Steve.

Right now the Penguins are at about $62 million. The latest NHL proposal for a CBA calls for a $58 million cap in Year 1. So, the Penguins, who are 1 of 14 teams at or above $58 million, would need to do some cap clearing.

But, based off what the NHL proposes for a new cap, you can see why GM Ray Shero did not spend insanely during the summer. His cap number is manageable.

Pete North: How did the NHL players respond to the cap limit of 60 million?

Rob Rossi: Pete, the NHL players have submitted an offer which maintains the salary cap. However, generally, they prefer a looser cap whereas the owners want a stricter cap. A betting man should probably put money on the stricter cap in a new CBA, because the last lockout, which lasted the entire 2004-05 season, was mostly about getting that strict cap structure.

Leonardo: Hello Rob, I was wondering if you think Ray Where is done tinkering with his lineup, in particular a top 6 forward to play with Sid?

Rob Rossi: Ray Shero, right? I, too, have been burned by auto correct.

I lean, as of now, toward the notion that the Pens will look to upgrade their club, perhaps on the blue line with a top-pairing partner for Kris Letang, before the NHL trade deadline.

I've never subscribed to this popular theory that Sidney Crosby NEEDS a top-level winger for his or the team's success.

Nathan: Since the penguins haven't been successful at acquiring a top six fwd via trade or free agency. Would it be safe to assume the penguins will fill that void internally and who do you think will be that guy

Rob Rossi: I presume, Nathan, you mean they weren't successful this summer. The trade for James Neal in February 2011 has turned out all right, eh?

I think they did land a top-six forward, but as has been the case during the Shero era, 3 of the top 6 forwards are centers. Difference now is that Brandon Sutter is more suited for a No. 3 center role than Jordan Staal, whose offensive game was maturing so fast that he was no longer going to be the ideal fit for what the Penguins need of a third-line pivot.

Good question.

Jake Lew: Hi Rob, I read yesterday that Crosby mentioned big dog Eric Tangradi when asked about possible linemates.. I think his large frame and power forward style could mesh well together with Sid. He's improved his foot speed and get get around for a big guy. Thoughts?

Rob Rossi: Ah, a Big Dog.

Look, I agree with my good friend Steve Mears of Pens HD Radio that it is too early to give up on Eric Tangradi. Actually, I saw signs last season that he was starting to figure out the NHL game.

The question is what is his upside, is it the upside of a top-6 winger? I'm not sure anyone can make that assessment, yet.His skating needs to have improved. As of last year he still was not a sharp enough skater to achieve success in the Dan Bylsma system.

Mike: If the season began today who are your top 2 lines and top 2 D pairings?

Rob Rossi: Mike, if the season began a month from yesterday I would be thrilled. Really.

I don't love projecting lines, because who knows what chemistry will be developed between guys during a camp or early in a season. Also, lines changes more now than ever. That said, here is what I would do (so pay attention, Dan Bylsma):



And for the D pairings, top 4...



Scotty Bowman: Is this a make or break year for Dan Bylsma?

Rob Rossi: Uh, are you looking to get back into the coaching arena?

Dan is a young coach, but I suspect he will be fine so long as: A) Pens qualify for the playoffs, B) are not dismissed from Round 1 in an embarrassing fashion.

Something Evgeni Malkin told me in Russia is perhaps very telling about Dan. There, Malkin said he has never known a coach to make preparation for hockey such a big part of his life.

I know Dan has spent much of this summer going over what went wrong the final weeks of the last season. The idea, which has been floated by some casual observers, that he will not adjust because of a firm belief in his system -- well, I don't believe that to be true.

Dan believes in his system. However, he knows something was broken last spring. I certainly expect him to tinker (at least) in an attempt to fix what was broken.

john: How many starts do you think Vokuon will get this season?

Rob Rossi: Nice, John. A goalie question. Is it ever too early to drum up a goalie debate?

Vokoun was a great signing by Ray Shero, on paper. He should start 25 games. If he doesn't, I won't understand why.

john: Will Joe Morrow atart the season in Pittsbutgh or Wilkes Barre

Rob Rossi: OK, John, I'm breaking form to give you a second question, just so this is addressed.

Morrow starts in AHL.


Ed: Do the Pens have enough NHL d to go far in a Cup run?

Rob Rossi: Let's wait and see what the defense looks like after the trade deadline. Right now, well, I need to be convinced they have the right mix of prime, depth and experience.

Alex: Rob, I asked you yesterday on Twitter. (Penshockey66). These negotiations don't seem to have the impending sense of doom 2004 did. What are your feelings? Lockout, yes or no?

Rob Rossi: Alex, thanks for saving this for the chat. Good to read from you.

Technically, there is going to be a lockout. The deadline to avoid is 11:59 p.m. on Saturday, and that deadline will pass.

The deadline we should care about is Oct. 11, when regular season games start. I won't get real worried until Oct. 1, because then there is very little time to hold a camp in time for real games to start.

I strongly believe games will be played this season. This isn't seven years ago.

Keith: Rob, forget sports. Will we ever see the Stones perform live again?

Rob Rossi: How much better would it be if you were "Keef," Keith?

(Hope you get that.)

I was trying to pull a favor from a lovely I know in the Bronx to see if she could score me tix to the rumored Stones 50th anniversary show at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

Know this: NOTHING will prevent me from seeing the world's greatest rock and roll band when they do reunite.


Rob Rossi: Well, maybe Game 7 of a Cup Final. Maybe.

Sloke: Who replaces Staal on the PK?

Rob Rossi: Here is what I would love to see on the PK this season. More Crosby. More Malkin, the latter of whom is a takeaway specialist and would strike terror into opposing point puck handlers late on PKs.


Brad: If you can name one untouchable Pens prospect who would it be?

Rob Rossi: Easy for me, Brad.

Joe Morrow.

And the Penguins feel that way, too. Though I suspect there is no truly hands-off prospect. Never has been before, right?

Ray Shero: I am still shocked Carolina gave up so much for Staal. Are you?

Rob Rossi: Dude, you did well. (wink, nod)

Alex Rutkowski: OK, there is not going to be any hockey for a while. Lets move off topic a bit. Do you think the pirates can hold on and finish above .500 for the first time in 20 years. It was a lock a month ago, bu they are only 3 up with 3 weeks left.

Rob Rossi: We call him Pope, and this is a way inside joke.

81-81, with a rainout.

That's so Pirates, right?

Back to Pens, but thanks for checking in, bud.

Guest: What changes do you expect in the special teams after last seasons's playoff disaster?

Rob Rossi: Only part of the special teams were a disaster last season. The power play actually was great against the Flyers.

Penalty kill was shockingly poor. Here is what needs to happen: Better play from Fleury, better defensive play from Letang, and focus from the forwards, especially the anchor center, which was Staal, on defense, not looking for offensive chances.

Kasper Berg: Very much off topic perhaps. Am I mad for praying for Milan Lucic to end up in Pittsburgh sometime soon. A linemate for Crosby and perhaps a career year for Lucic? What would a deal for him cost the Pens?

Rob Rossi: Interesting proposal.

I don't see the deal ever happening because the Penguins would have to give up too much. That said, that could be a conference-changer -- for sure, as Sid might say.

Mark Shifko: With Simon Despres getting some NHL experience under his belt these past two years, will he be an impact player this year?

Rob Rossi: Cheers, Mark.

I really get the feeling the coaches might try Despres with Letang, banking on their best defenseman to help bring along one of their most talented prospects. Both Despres and Letang can skate, which makes this an intriguing possibility.

If Despres isn't on the roster, and playing in the top 6, he's done something wrong.

JamesinNYC: I like the new clean Rob Rossi look, something spark that? Will the Pens look to make another trade of D for winger?

Rob Rossi: They're always looking, James.

They prioritize D over winger, but if you're looking for wingers, think less big names and more along the lines of what James Neal was before he came to Pittsburgh. The next James Neal should be their objective.

And, thanks. If only ladies chimed in more about look. Single ones.

Chris: What's your favorite DQ blizzard flavor?

Rob Rossi: Chocolate soft serve, M&Ms, coffee syrup, hot fudge.

This is the "Backstreets" of Dairy Queen Blizzard treats.

Ed S: Are Sid and Mario keeping in touch through all the CBA uncertainty? Do yo think it will affect their relationship?

Rob Rossi: This is interesting, right?

An owner who houses his star player, with said star player being unusually close to said owner's family.

I don't see how anybody can prevent them from talking, but perhaps not about hockey.

I think the guaranteed $104-some million Sidney is getting from Mario is probably good enough to keep them on "speaking" terms. Ha.

Elizabeth: Read a lot about Malkin and Crosby's off ice summers, any idea as to how James Neal is preparing for season? Can we expect the same level of production as 11-12?

Rob Rossi: I predict, with confidence, that if more than 20 games are played, James Neal WILL score more than 17 goals.

Ratter: Much has been made of 87 being symptom free. How about 58? 100%? He had a bad run of concussions there for a while...

Rob Rossi: No conversation I've had with Letang leads me to believe he is anything other than 100 percent symptom free regarding concussion.

Now, about his hair...

(As if I should talk, right?)

OK, we have about 15 minutes left. Let's get moving. Time for a (Calgary) FLAMES round. Let's go...

Dave in Ross: Will hockey EVER totally eliminate head shots?

Rob Rossi: No, Dave. It's a contact sport. They are trying. Really.

Guest: Have any of the coaches or strength coaches gone to Russia to see Malkin again?

Rob Rossi: Mike Kadar spent three weeks with Malkin in July. I saw Malkin a month ago. He looks better than last year, a bit more muscular in the upper body. A bit.

Mike Bek: Do you think Sutter will be able to fill in for Staal's role defensively and what do you think of his offensive production potential?

Rob Rossi: I never bet against the Sutter genes.

He'll be a nice surprise to Pens fans offensively. They'll love him in his own zone. Coaches already do.

Marie: If the cap drops like last time and they allow teams to drop players, would you forsee the Pens getting rid of Martin?

Rob Rossi: Hi, Marie.

Let's look at the math. If cap is at $58 million, and Pens are at $63 million, and they are deep on defense, and there are buyout options, or a trade interest, and Paul Martin makes $5 million...

I'd keep him, though. Expecting a return-to-Devil-form year from Martin.

Mayor Luke: Think the Pens blew it by not putting a practice facility at the old Mellon Arena site?

Rob Rossi: Well, it would have been easier for ME, so yes.

I'm interested to see how players who mostly live in South Hills adjust to driving all the way to Cranberry, but we're a few years from that being a concern.

Facility figures to be remarkable out there, though.

Guest: How was your trip to Russia?

Rob Rossi: So good that somebody should write a book about it.

Hold on...

stephen: While pens lost staal, the flyers lost carle and meszaros. who had the tougher offseason?

Rob Rossi: Flyers, because they also didn't snag Shea Weber.

Penguins still have Crosby and Malkin. They'll live.

Bruce: Forget the Stones, you need to be in the pit for Springsteen. If you have ever been, and I have, there is nothing like it!

Rob Rossi: Next Springsteen show is, I think, No. 20.

I've only seen the Stones 9 times.

Could I get both in one Fall?

Leah: Hey Rob, hows the continuation of your concussion pieces going?

Rob Rossi: Faster if there is less time trying to make sense of the 450-page CBA.

I am fascinated, still, by concussion and its impact on sports, especially at the youth level. I will circle back to that before too long.

Ulf: What do you make of the tons of young defenseman in the system, and how many do you think might actually wear a Pens sweater in time?

Rob Rossi: Ullllllllf!!!!

(Childhood flashback.)

Despres this season.

Morrow by next season.

Then it's a race between the others, and there are a good many of them.

Battleship: Why do you predict the Pens will win the cup next years?

Rob Rossi: I haven't made that prediction.


Charlie: Reports show the owners trying to change entry level, FA age/service levels, contract length, etc. Has there be any talk about safeguards against teams circumventing the 35+ contracts, by placing these players on LTIR for remaining years of their contracts to not have the salary cap hit when they can't play anymore, such as the Flyers have done with Ian Laperriere, or are now doing with Chris Pronger?

Rob Rossi: What a lot to answer, Charlie.

Owners proposal calls for disallowance of burying vets in minors to save cap space. I can tell you that. I would think NHLPA favors this, but who knows?

SouthSidePensFan: Rob: At this point, what percent chance would you give the NHL and NHLPA coming to any sort of deal that would prevent a delay to the regular season? Seems more unlikely by the day.

Rob Rossi: I still think there is at least a 30 percent chance season starts on time. Next two weeks are huge, then that percentage is halved, easily.

Ohio Pens Fan: When will the season start?

Rob Rossi: When the first puck drops?

Grant Jennings: Rob - With Staal being moved does the core consist of Sid, Geno, Neal, Letang, and Fleury at this point? if so, can they afford Geno and Letang as core components moving forward under the new cap?

Rob Rossi: Glad you asked.

Core: Crosby, Malkin... then everybody else, but as of today it includes Letang, Neal, Fleury.

Owners have all but declared keeping Malkin is the priority, that happened when Staal was moved. They also want to keep Letang, but need to see that complete season before committing huge dollars.

Gary Bettman: How has Don Fehr influenced the cab negotiations?

Rob Rossi: Shouldn't you be talking to him right now?

Jokes aside, Fehr has cemented the union. That was his toughest challenge.

Dixie Normous: Rob, I wanted to get your opinion on the trapezoid. Do you think it really makes a difference out there? It seems like a nuisance to goalies and I'm not sure it serves any purpose any more.

Rob Rossi: Was a fan at first. Now I say lose it, if only to give goalies a chance to play more pucks and save the heads of defensemen.

Brian: Didn't the NHL and the owners design the current CBA? And now they don't like it anymore?

Rob Rossi: Last question, Brian.

Yes, it was a joint CBA.

Two thoughts:

1. Owners want one more favorable to them. I get why players are all, "What the heck?"

2. Players say they took it on the chin last time, but now want to play under terms of that allegedly terrible CBA for them while working out a new one? I don't get why more people aren't all, "What the heck?"

THIS, dear readers, was a blast. Definitely something we'll do again.

Keep checking here for all Penguins/NHL labor news.

Follow me on Twitter @RobRoss_Trib and also my beat reporting colleague Josh Yohe at @JoshYohe_Trib.


Let's try "Counting on a Miracle" regarding the CBA.

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