Q: Does the signing of Kris Beech speak of a lack of talent in the Pens' system? It quite frankly worries me that someone not good enough to be retained by Washington is a better option than anyone we have in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
Chris Parfitt, Plainfield, Ind.
MOLINARI: While the Penguins have endured an exceptional run of injuries and illnesses lately, particularly among their forwards, the decision to claim Beech off waivers from Washington -- which had claimed him from Vancouver just a few days earlier -- certainly was a surprise, and obviously can't be construed as an endorsement of some of the people already on the organizational depth chart.
Although Beech brings more experience at this level than most guys with the Penguins' farm team in Wilkes-Barre -- he's played 193 NHL games, including 64 with the Capitals last season -- it's hard to believe that someone like Tim Brent couldn't have done an adequate job at filling the role Beech will once he finally makes it into the lineup.
Conversely, picking up Beech allowed them to avoid plucking yet another player off of the Baby Penguins' roster, so Wilkes-Barre coach Todd Richards probably appreciates it.
And if, when the Penguins start to get some bodies back up front, it seems logical that unless Beech has produced some spectacular work -- which precedent tells us isn't terribly likely -- he will be assigned to Wilkes-Barre, at which point he will either add a little depth or be change teams via waivers for the fourth time this season.
Q: Every year at this time, you read of players coming down with the flu, as is the case with Colby Armstrong. Why don't the Penguins make mandatory flu shots a part of all player contracts?
Dick McKibben, North Myrtle Beach, S.C.
MOLINARI: For starters, because they don't have any legal right to. They can encourage players to get those shots -- and the Penguins do make them available to front-office personnel and players every year -- but can't force them to do so. As one team official pointed out, they can't even compel an injured player to undergo surgery.
Flu shots could, in theory, be collectively bargained on a league-wide basis, but it's hard to imagine the NHLPA coming down in favor of forcing any of its members to receive an inoculation to which they are opposed, for whatever reason.