Q: Rob Scuderi is an absolute godsend. Has there been any talk of the Penguins wanting to re-sign him? If he hits the free-agent market, you'd think some GM would throw a silly figure at him that Ray Shero can't match, so I hope Shero has it as his top priority to re-sign him.
Dominic Hung, Vancouver, British Columbia
MOLINARI: Just a few months ago, some Q&A readers couldn't figure out why the Penguins made space on their major-league roster for Scuderi, and weren't shy about saying so. Haven't heard from many of those folks lately, though.
Scuderi has blocked a league-high 52 shots during these playoffs (teammate Brooks Orpik is second with 46, followed by Mark Eaton with 44) and, with defense partner Hal Gill, has consistently played against the opposition's top line. He got an awful lot of attention for the stops he made in the crease as Game 6 of the Stanley Cup final Tuesday was winding down, but that was just the most obvious example of how he's performed in his own end. Without Scuderi, the Penguins probably wouldn't be in position to play for a championship tonight.
Scuderi's $725,000 salary is the lowest of the eight defenseman on their current roster -- even rookie Alex Goligoski's is higher -- and he should at least triple that this summer, regardless of whether the Penguins work out a contract with him before he hits unrestricted free agency July 1.
The Penguins always have wanted to keep Scuderi -- it's not people inside the organization who had any questions or doubts about him -- but it seems unlikely that, when he was doing payroll projections a few months ago, Shero anticipated paying Scuderi anything close to the kind of money he'll be able to command sometime in the very near future.
Making the numbers work won't be easy, and there's no guarantee Shero will be able to do it, but you can expect the Penguins to make every effort to do it. And also that Scuderi, as well-grounded as any player in the game, won't forget which team drafted and developed him, giving him the opportunity to become the player he is today.
Q: I keep hearing about how deep Detroit is. But I am wondering, how are they able to keep their depth in the salary-cap era? Teams like the Penguins keep their core players, while rotating the supporting cast every year. I understand some players will take less to play for a contender, but I would think that only works for so long. Eventually, most players want to get paid their maximum and will go to another team to do so, even if it means leaving the Red Wings.
Bart Cuddy, Charlotte, N.C.
MOLINARI: The Red Wings draft and develop talent better than any team in the league, which means they have a constant source of capable players to replace those who move on, for whatever reason. Guys like Jonathan Ericsson and Justin Abdelkader who are depth players in Detroit -- and who served significant apprenticeships with the Red Wings' farm team in Grand Rapids -- would be regulars on a lot of NHL teams.
It also helps that, because of the Red Wings' success in recent years, some players accept less than market value to remain with the franchise, much as some of the Penguins' core players have done over the past few years.
Q: The Conn Smythe winner is awarded immediately after the final game of the championship series. How is it that the votes are tallied so quickly? What is the voting protocol?
Kate Bayhan, Fullerton, Calif.
MOLINARI: The winner of the Smythe, which goes to the most valuable player in the playoffs, is determined by a vote among 10 members of the Professional Hockey Writers Association.
The voters turn in their ballots with about 10 minutes left in any game that could be the final one of a series, and the results are tabulated immediately, which makes it possible for the recipient to be announced shortly after the conclusion of the game.
If the team that is poised to wrap up in the Cup in a particular game does not do so, the ballots are discarded and the process is repeated the next game. (There was, for example, a vote taken during Game 6 Tuesday, but the Penguins' 2-1 victory made those results moot.)
Q: Do you think the Pens are especially pleased with the non-performance of Marian Hossa, or is that water under the bridge?
John Kellner, Apex, N.C.
MOLINARI: If the Penguins are wasting time and energy on anything other than doing what it will take to win Game 7 tonight, they don't deserve to do it.
If they're thinking about Hossa at all, it's because most of them have seen, first-hand, what a difference-maker he is capable of being. He has not been the force that he (and the Red Wings) hoped he would in this series, but if he has a big Game 7 -- and Hossa has done his best work in the final at Joe Louis Arena -- odds are no one will care much about his lackluster work during some of the previous six.