The word is Wheeling is nice this time of year, but Beau Bennett might not hang around long enough to notice.
The Penguins assigned the promising winger to Wheeling of the ECHL Monday, likely the most prominent move they made in advance of a 5 p.m. NHL deadline when teams had to be in compliance with a 23-man roster limit and the $64.3 million salary cap.
It is believed that Bennett's "demotion" is temporary, simply a paper move to be in compliance, and that he will be recalled in conjunction with at least one other move in time for him to be in the lineup Thursday when the Penguins open the 2013-14 season against New Jersey at Consol Energy Center. Bennett is the team's only forward who does not need to be exposed to waivers to be sent to the minors.
The team made a similar move in 2010 with Eric Tangradi, who was recalled after less than 24 hours in Wheeling. Being sent to Wheeling, only about an hour's drive from Pittsburgh, makes more geographic sense for essentially a procedural move than assigning a player to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the higher-level American Hockey League.
Bennett, 21, is slated to play left wing on either the second forward line, centered by Evgeni Malkin, or the third line, centered by Brandon Sutter.
Penguins general manager Ray Shero wasn't available to talk about the team's roster moves, but Sunday he hinted at a temporary move or two when he said that the roster for the opener might look different than the one submitted Monday.
In addition to the Bennett assignment, defenseman Kris Letang and goaltender Tomas Vokoun were placed on injured reserve.
Letang got what is believed to be a knee or lower leg injury Friday in practice, and initial indications were that it was not serious or long term. Letang will miss the season opener, but, if the IR designation is retroactive to Friday, he would be eligible to come off IR before the home game Saturday against Buffalo.
Vokoun has been out since Sept. 21, when he had a procedure to dissolve a blood clot in his pelvis. He has been cleared for light workouts, according to his agent, Allan Walsh, but it has not been determined how long he might be out. If the Penguins feel he will miss at least 10 games and 24 days, he could be switched to long-term injured reserve, which would give them some salary-cap relief.
With Letang out, the Penguins recalled Harrison Ruopp from Wilkes-Barre. Ruopp, a stay-at-home defenseman, who missed most of the preseason because of injury.
In something of a surprise, the Penguins reassigned defenseman Simon Despres, a 2009 first-round draft pick, to Wilkes-Barre. Despres does not need to clear waivers for such moves, but it's unclear whether the Penguins plan to clear a roster spot and recall him before the opener.
Despres, 22, has played in 51 games and another six playoff games with the Penguins over the past two seasons.
The Penguins had two defensemen in training camp who were 2012 first-round draft picks. Derrick Pouliot was returned to his junior team, the Portland Winterhawks, but Olli Maatta remained on the NHL roster. Maatta could stay with the Penguins for up to nine games before being returned to his junior team, the London Knights, or he could stick in the NHL the full season. He and Pouliot are not eligible to play in the AHL this season.
Forwards Andrew Ebbett and Chris Conner were placed on waivers Sunday. They were not claimed by noon Monday. Ebbett, like Despres, was assigned to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League, but Conner remained with the Penguins.
Winger Chuck Kobasew, who drew a lot of praise from coach Dan Bylsma while on a professional tryout during training camp, is not among the 23 players on the roster. He can continue to practice with the team if both sides agree to continue his tryout, but the Penguins would have to sign and make room for him before he could play.
Here is the 23-man roster, which includes 13 forwards, eight defensemen and two goaltenders:
Forwards -- Craig Adams, Conner, Sidney Crosby, Matt D'Agostini, Pascal Dupuis, Tanner Glass, Dustin Jeffrey, Jussi Jokinen, Chris Kunitz, Malkin, James Neal, Sutter, Joe Vitale. Defensemen -- Robert Bortuzzo, Deryk Engelland, Maatta, Paul Martin, Matt Niskanen, Brooks Orpik, Ruopp, Rob Scuderi. Goaltenders -- Marc-Andre Fleury, Jeff Zatkoff.
Shelly Anderson: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1721 and Twitter @pgshelly. First Published October 1, 2013 4:15 AM