Q: If the Penguins spend to the cap limit, will they be able to turn a profit? I know that the new arena on the horizon will generate more income, but will it be enough for them to remain profitable?
Tom Cordis, Trafford
MOLINARI: Ownership seems to be committed to spending at, or at least near, the salary-cap maximum next season, if that's what is necessary to keep as much of the team's nucleus intact as possible.
That almost certainly will entail operating at a loss for 2008-09 and 2009-10, but with a deep-pockets owner like Ron Burkle, solid credit rooted in their sound fiscal practices of recent years and the knowledge that they will benefit from new and enhanced revenue streams when the city's new multi-purpose arena opens in a couple of years, the decision-makers seem to be willing to live with that.
Q: Assuming the Pens' playoff seeding is set, regardless of the opponent for the game in question or the playoffs, can you envision using Dany Sabourin in goal for even a single start? I realize he is the third man, but is it possible the powers-that-be would like to get him some game action before the grind of the playoffs begins?
Marc Finder, Buffalo Mills, Pa.
MOLINARI: The coaching staff's top priority has to be to have its go-to goalie ready for the playoffs, which means Marc-Andre Fleury should be given as much work as he believes he needs to be sharp for the start of the opening round.
The best-case scenario for the Penguins, though, would be to have both Ty Conklin and Sabourin get some action as the regular season is winding down, because it's always possible that one -- or both -- could be pressed into service if Fleury is injured, or slumps.
Unfortunately for Conklin and Sabourin, the Penguins have only two games during the final six days of the regular season, so it's entirely possible their place in the Eastern Conference standings -- and thus, their seeding for the playoffs -- will not be determined by the time they reach that part of the schedule. If that's the case, getting either, let alone both, into a game could be difficult.
Q: Do you think that if the Pens are unable to keep Marian Hossa, they are going to aggressively pursue Pascal Dupuis? I love his work ethic. He has been a great asset since joining the team.
Paul Papariella, North Hills
MOLINARI: There's no reason to believe that Hossa and Dupuis are an either-or proposition, since they generally play different positions and fill different roles. Their paychecks don't have a lot in common, either.
Certainly, Dupuis, who makes $880,000 this season, has done nothing to discourage the Penguins from trying to keep him when he becomes an unrestricted free agent this summer. He is, ideally, a third-liner, but is skilled enough to step up and fill a more prominent position if circumstances require it, and has been a nice addition to the penalty-killing unit.
Dupuis will be able to pick his team this summer, so it's always possible he will decide he'd rather work elsewhere, for whatever reason. But with a shortage of NHL-caliber forwards in their organization outside of the NHL, one has to believe the only way the Penguins would decline to pursue Dupuis would be if they had salary-cap issues and decided to try to replace him with someone making less money.