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Heart-to-heart talk with Pens

| Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Penguins general manager Ray Shero and coach Michel Therrien already have conducted their exit interviews with players.

I wasn't invited.

If I had conducted the interviews, the conversations would have been short and, in some cases, not-so-sweet -- at least until I got beat up by Georges Laraque (and I would have been the only guy he's beaten up lately).

The following is a look at how my exit interviews would have begun. As a public service, I've included a single asterisk next to pending restricted free agents and a double-asterisk for pending unrestricted free agents:


*Colby Armstrong: "Thank you for your heart. You'll always have a place on this team."

*Erik Christensen: "Your shootout skills make you a must-keep, but you really need to add some joy to your game. Believe in yourself -- and try taking Marilyn Manson out of your iPod."

Sidney Crosby. "Could we interest you in a 40-year contract• Yes, you'll be 59 by the time it expires, and hopefully not still living with the Lemieuxs, but you'll give us more at that age than Nils Ekman did at 30. And we promise to get you a winger before your 25th birthday."

**Nils Ekman. "Have we met?"

Georges Laraque: "Drop your gloves already and a couple of pounds while you're at it."

Evgeni Malkin: "Take a vacation please, and remember: Hanging out with the Gonchars isn't the best way to learn English. Don't worry about the playoffs. We know you're going to be a star -- maybe a Hall of Famer."

Ryan Malone. "Didn't know if you'd show up. We appreciate your willingness, but you don't bring it every game. We're going to try to trade you."

*Michel Ouellet: "Don't listen to the fans. You had 19 goals, including 11 on the power play, in your first full NHL season. You're fine on the second line."

**Ronald Petrovicky: "You're leaving, I'm sure, because you know we're infatuated with Laraque. If it were my choice, you'd be staying and playing."

**Mark Recchi: "We want you back, but at a reduced rate and with a reduced role."

**Gary Roberts: "Please, Mr. Roberts, don't hurt me. And please stay. If it takes a two-year deal, so be it."

Jarkko Ruutu: "I'm afraid of you."

Jordan Staal: "You probably want to play your natural position (center), but we like you next to Malkin for now. And just think, you'll be able to have your first legal beer in training camp ... in 2009."

*Maxime Talbot: "We're still not sure if you're a third- or fourth-line guy, but we love your competitive fire."


Mark Eaton: "You'll be on our third pair with Kris Letang."

**Joel Kwiatkowski: "Kiwi, we hardly knew ye -- and we still don't know how to pronounce your name."

Sergei Gonchar: "Well, your only even-strength point of the playoffs came on that pass to Chris Kelly, and he doesn't play for us. We wish you had an extra gear for the postseason, but you were terrific in the regular season -- and with that contract, you're not going anywhere."

**Josef Melichar: "You were the lightning rod for our defensive issues. We're going to spare you -- and us -- from further pain."

**Alain Nasreddine: "Where have you been, and where are you going• We're not sure."

Brooks Orpik: "No reason yourself and Whitney can't grow old together."

**Rob Scuderi: "We'd like to re-sign you because you're a battler, but could you help us clean some of the puck marks from the glass on the right side of the rink• Maybe next year we'll let you play on your forehand."

*Ryan Whitney: "You're the first of our young stars with an expiring contract. Let's talk."


Marc-Andre Fleury: "We understand you've been seeing Daniel Alfredsson slap shots in your sleep. A hypnotist might help. Honestly, we liked almost everything you did this season, especially the 40 wins. You need to work on rebound control and puck-handling."

**Jocelyn Thibault: "If somebody wants you as a starter, you should leave. ... So, you'll be staying• This isn't such a bad gig, you know."

Who to get

"Well, gentlemen, it's a strong class of unrestricted free agents. After listening to Mr. Shero on Monday, it doesn't sound as if we're going to land a five-star winger, but we should still take a look at Paul Kariya (imagine him with Crosby) because he's just quirky and secure enough to follow his heart instead of the money. Taking a step down, Scott Hartnell wouldn't look so bad, and Alexei Morozov is worth a call. On defense, Letang will take the point on the second power play, and Andy Sutton would make for a nifty shutdown guy, wouldn't he?

"I'll be on my cell phone if you need me."

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