Q: With all the one-year contracts on the Penguin, is it safe to say the team will constantly be looking at one-year free agents, with an occasional multiple-year signing? That's a tough way to maintain chemistry.
Dan Novak, Rock Hill, S.C.
MOLINARI: Yes, it certainly is, but that's one of the realities of life in the salary-cap era.
Clubs in general are reluctant to make long-term commitments to most players, except those who make up the core of their lineup, and the Penguins in particular almost never give more than a two-year deal to free-agent role players. (Miroslav Satan and Ruslan Fedotenko only got one year each.) With conventional wisdom holding that the cap ceiling will drop precipitously for the 2010-11 season, it's reasonable to believe that teams will be even more cautious than usual when pursuing free agents this July. There just aren't many clubs out there -- not competitive ones, anyway -- that can afford to make multi-year mistakes on personnel.
Q: Two series in a row, a Washington player takes out an integral member of the opponent's defense (and offense, in the case of Sergei Gonchar). Donald Brashear does in Blair Betts (New York Rangers), and Alex Ovechkin does in Gonchar. Coincidence? Yeah, right. Do you really think that, as talented as Ovechkin is, he doesn't know what he's doing?
Bill Rote, Springfield, Va.
MOLINARI: Ovechkin has done enough head-hunting in games against the Penguins during the past few seasons that it's easy to think of him as guilty-until-proven-innocent when he delivers an injury-causing blow, like that knee-on-knee hit on Gonchar during the first period of Game 4 last Friday.
Even if one gives him the benefit of the doubt that he's not looking to injure opposing players with some of the runs he makes at them, he surely has to be aware that the possibility exists on those occasions when he skates all-out for 60 feet or so and then launches himself into an opponent. (How Ovechkin has acquired a near-exemption from Rule 43, which covers charging, is one of the game's great mysteries.) No matter how one feels about the hit on Gonchar, however, the thinking here is that it doesn't compare to Brashear's inexcusable, blind-side assault on Betts during the opening round. That, coupled with a pregame incident he initiated, earned Brashear a six-game suspension that made him unavailable for the first five games against the Penguins. The quality of play during Round 2 really suffered in his absence, don't you think?
Q: What are the NHL rules about a team changing colors and/or logos?
Teams like Buffalo, Los Angeles and Vancouver have had several changes over the past 10 years.
Ryan Winkleblech, Milford, Del.
MOLINARI: Teams interested in changing their color scheme or logo must submit the new design to the league at least a year before it plans to implement the switch, not only so that NHL officials can review and approve it, but so that vendors don't get stuck with a lot of outdated merchandise. There obviously is a spike in sales when a team introduces a new jersey, but there is a corresponding drop in public's interest level in the merchandise that's about to become obsolete.
Also, while Penguins official say they are unaware of any league regulations that spell out precisely how many changes a team can make over a particular period of time, the NHL at least discourages teams from doing it too often.