Ray Shero's to-do list for the balance of the offseason remains relatively short.
The Penguins' general manager needs a sixth NHL-proven defenseman. He hopes to reach contract agreements with the team's restricted free agents, which is tied in with his decision on a backup goaltender. And he no doubt will keep his ears and options open for any moves that could improve the Stanley Cup champions.
Shero does not foresee adding a veteran forward to step in while Max Talbot recovers from surgery he had yesterday to repair a dislocated left shoulder.
"I'm happy where our forward group is right now, being able to bring back almost everybody," Shero said.
Talbot, who spent most of the playoffs as a top-six forward playing the right wing for center Evgeni Malkin, also has spent parts of his career as a third- and fourth-line center and is a regular penalty-killer.
The preliminary prognosis is that Talbot will be out until sometime between early November and early December, meaning he could miss the first one to two months of the 2009-10 season.
The Penguins seem likely to pursue the option of placing him on long-term injured reserve, meaning he would miss at least 24 days and 10 games. That would enable them to go over the NHL salary cap by as much as Talbot's cap hit -- $1.05 million -- until he returns.
Shero appears more interested in having coach Dan Bylsma reconfigure his lines with the forwards he has -- everyone from the Cup team except wingers Petr Sykora and Miroslav Satan are under contract, and physical winger Michael Rupp has been added -- plus perhaps a young player on a two-way contract who has a strong training camp.
The club has several returning forwards who, like Talbot, are versatile in position and roles they can play.
"We've known for a while this was coming. It doesn't catch anybody by surprise," Shero said of Talbot's surgery. "We may give one of the younger guys an opportunity or maybe [Tyler] Kennedy moves up a little bit."
UPMC physician Mark Rodosky, who operated on Penguins defenseman Sergei Gonchar's left shoulder last fall, repaired a torn labrum in Talbot's left shoulder.
Talbot, a left-handed shooter, prospered in the playoffs despite shoulder trouble that plagued him for some months. Among his eight goals in 24 postseason games were two winners and both goals in a 2-1, Cup-clinching victory at Detroit in Game 7 of the final June 12. He also shifted the momentum to his team with a spirited but losing effort in a fight against Philadelphia's Daniel Carcillo as the Penguins came from behind to eliminate the Flyers, 5-3, in Game 6 of the first round.
Shero said the team explored the idea of having Talbot rehabilitate the shoulder instead of having surgery, "but there's always that fear that it could pop out or he could tear it more."
He added that the delay in scheduling the procedure, while pushing Talbot's return into the season, allowed for inflammation caused by playing to subside and for the player, team and doctors to be sure about the surgery.
"I think he's making the right decision," Shero said.
Because he does not feel the need to bring in a forward, Shero can concentrate on using some of the nearly $3 million the Penguins have remaining under the salary cap to land a defenseman. One free agent the team has shown interest in is Jay McKee, formerly of St. Louis, which will have to pick up a portion of his salary after buying him out.
"We've looked at a number of veteran defensemen," Shero said. "Or maybe it's a trade."
Shero also is working on agreements with the team's restricted free agents, most notably goaltender John Curry, defenseman Ben Lovejoy and winger Tim Wallace. Curry could wind up being the backup to No. 1 goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, Lovejoy the team's seventh defenseman and Wallace a depth player and perhaps the roster replacement for Talbot.
Qualifying offers extended by the team before the July 1 deadline expire next Wednesday, but the Penguins retain their rights and the right to match other teams' offers.
"We're confident we'll get all three," Shero said.
Shelly Anderson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1721. First Published July 8, 2009 4:00 AM