Question: How much of a loss is Chuck Fletcher as assistant general manager? What all did he do, and was he the one responsible for any key draft picks or signings or anything like that?
Kevin Jacobsen, Canonsburg, Pa.
MOLINARI: Making Fletcher its general manager should prove to be a major plus for Minnesota, which selected him to replace Doug Risebrough late last week. How much of a negative his departure is for the Penguins depends, in large part, on the performance of his successor, Jason Botterill.
Fletcher is just the latest in a series of guys in personnel-related roles hired by GM Ray Shero during his three years on the job to earn a promotion with another club. That says a lot about Shero's knack for hiring good people, which is reason enough to believe that Botterill, who had been the Penguins' director of hockey administration for two years, will fill Fletcher's old job effectively.
It isn't realistic, though, to expect Botterill to immediately take on all of Fletcher's old duties, and to execute them with the same effectiveness. Fletcher had been an assistant GM in Florida and Anaheim before Shero brought him in; this is the first time Botterill has held such a position. Shero has said that Botterill's job description won't be exactly the same as Fletcher's, although those details haven't been worked out yet.
Fletcher was heavily involved in player-evaluation and development -- he was GM of the Penguins' farm team in Wilkes-Barre -- and, as such, the impact of his work generally isn't evident as quickly as it is for someone who focuses on personnel already in the NHL. Fletcher, though, helped Shero to overhaul and upgrade the Penguins' pro and amateur scouting staffs, and gave Shero a sounding board he could trust when considering trades, waiver claims, etc.
The good news is, there's no way Shero could have been caught off-guard by Fletcher's departure. Even before the Penguins brought him in, Fletcher was viewed in hockey circles as someone destined to be an NHL GM eventually. He was not brought in to be assistant GM for life, and the Penguins probably were fortunate to have his services for as long as they did. (Of course, there are some who suggest Fletcher was so pleased with his role with the Penguins that he gave serious consideration to staying before deciding to go with the Wild.)
Question: In the salary-cap era, it will become increasingly difficult to keep star players. Can GMs sign players to a percentage-based salary? For an example, could the Penguins sign Sidney Crosby to a six-year deal worth 8.7% of the cap ceiling in each season? Wouldn't this help teams if the cap drops or rises?
Thomas Cordis, Greensburg
MOLINARI: That probably would help teams, at least until salaries spiked, at which point it might become difficult for some clubs with limited resources to come up with funds to cover the built-in raises in those contracts.
The point is moot, though, because the league's collective bargaining agreement does not allow for contracts with salaries based on a percentage of the team's cap space. All salary amounts must be specified in the contract.
Question: If there is a penalty called, the faceoff automatically goes to offensive end, regardless of where the violation is. Where would the faceoff be if the defenseman went below the circles to join a scrum in the offensive end after a penalty was called? Another question: Would the goal be waved off if, on a delayed offside call, the opposing team put the puck into its own net?
Troy King, Charlotte, N.C.
MOLINARI: Once again, the Q&A received the generous assistance of Stephen Walkom, the NHL's director of officiating, in clarifying rules interpretations and explaining how they are applied in game situations.
He says that, in the first instance, it depends on which team is being penalized. It it's the defending team, and the penalty occurs after the point men had come into the offensive zone, the faceoff remains in the zone. Otherwise, it goes outside. And in the second scenario you described, the goal would count.