Penguins notebook: Trades not in salary-cap scenarios

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WEST POINT, N.Y. -- The Penguins made their first personnel moves Sunday leading to a deadline today by placing forwards Chris Conner and Andrew Ebbett on waivers.

If the two players are not claimed by noon today, they are expected to be assigned to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League.

That still leaves the Penguins with decisions. They must get their roster down to 23 players and get under the $64.3 million salary cap by 5 p.m. today.

Without Conner and Ebbett but counting injured players and winger Chuck Kobasew, who attended training camp on a pro tryout, the roster stood at 26 and they were at least $1 million over the cap.

After the Penguins' final practice at the U.S. Military Academy, where they spent the weekend, general manager Ray Shero said he does not have to make a trade to be compliant and that, as of Sunday afternoon, he had no trade in the works.

One of the factors could be injuries.

Goaltender Tomas Vokoun is out indefinitely because of a blood clot issue. Defenseman Kris Letang has what is believed to be a knee injury that will be further evaluated after the team returns home today. Initial indications are that it is not serious. Winger Matt D'Agostini, who was vying for a spot on the third line, has an undisclosed injury but is skating on his own.

"We have a plan in place," Shero said. "Our plan a few days ago might change because of injury."

Shero planned to get input from the coaching staff before making final decisions.

Coach Dan Bylsma said some players pushing for just a couple of open spots at forward or on defense had a strong training camp and made the decisions more difficult.

Holding back?

Defensemen Olli Maatta and Derrick Pouliot, Penguins first-round draft picks in 2012 who are both 19, could be held back this season because of a rule that favors Canadian junior hockey clubs.

Shero said the Penguins will make a decision on the two today.

Because they won't be 20 before Dec. 31, Maatta and Pouliot are not eligible to play in the AHL this season. That means unless they can make the Penguins roster and stick in the NHL, they won't be able to turn pro full time and will have no option but to return to their junior clubs for a fourth full season.

That would be a boon for those junior teams, each of which advanced to the Memorial Cup tournament last season, but not necessarily a fast-track option for the two players. They would miss out on a chance to play with and against older, pro players at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, the Penguins AHL affiliate, which employs the same systems as the Penguins.

Each already has been a star in junior, Maatta with the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League and Pouliot with the Portland Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League.

Both players were careful not to criticize the rule that would keep them from joining Wilkes-Barre should they not survive the Penguins' final cuts.

"I'm trying my best to make the team here," Maatta said. "If it doesn't happen, I'm in a good spot in London."

"It's the rule," Pouliot said. "You work your hardest. If you get sent back, you'll have to develop in junior a little more."

Maatta could have avoided this situation had he stayed to play in his native Finland. He would have been exempt from the rule that excludes him from the AHL this season. He's not second-guessing that.

"I wouldn't change anything right now," he said. "I'm really happy I went to London when I was 16."

Appreciating sacrifice

Jussi Jokinen is Finnish, but the Penguins winger still appreciates the time the Penguins spent this weekend at the U.S. Military Academy.

"I have a huge appreciation for what these guys do in Iraq and the other places," Jokinen said. "Every player appreciates that. To be able to come here and have conversations and see what these guys go through, it's pretty impressive."

The Penguins arrived Friday. In addition to three practices at Tate Rink, they had meals and did other activities, including simulated battles and a hike.

"Being an American, you are very thankful for what these guys do and the service they provide for us," winger Beau Bennett said. "It's nice to come here and see their lifestyle and grow closer as a team.

"You don't really realize what these guys go through on a daily basis, and then you get here and it is a sacrifice that they're making for us to be able live the lives we do. Being able to be here and thank them is great."

The team is scheduled to have breakfast with a group of cadets today before returning to Pittsburgh.

Tip ins

Bylsma declined to say whether Bennett or Jokinen would open the season at left wing with center Evgeni Malkin and right winger James Neal, but said both probably will continue to get time at that second-line spot. ... Bylsma said he plans to attend the Pirates' wild-card playoff game Tuesday at PNC Park. He said the Penguins have plans to show support for the Pirates but declined to reveal them.

penguins

Shelly Anderson: shanderson@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1721 and Twitter @pgshelly.


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