Inside the Penguins roster: Player capsules

When Ray Shero was hired as general manager of the Penguins in May 2006, one of his first decisions was to not offer a contract to a ninth-round draft choice from three years earlier.

He realized the young man had put together a pretty productive college career, but Shero was reluctant to commit money -- and, more important, a spot on his 50-man reserve list -- to a prospect about whom he knew almost nothing.

And so Matt Moulson was allowed to become a free agent and, eventually, sign with Los Angeles.

Yes, that Matt Moulson.

The one who has scored 141 goals in 397 NHL games and who, unless he re-signs with Minnesota, will be one of the most coveted players available in free agency this summer.

Shero's decision was completely logical, but underscores one of the perils of bringing in a general manager from another organization at this time of year.

A lot of personnel-related decisions, on everything from draft priorities to which free agents should be retained or pursued, have to be made, and the new GM has little time to familiarize himself with who is -- or should be -- on the organizational depth chart.

While the next GM will determine the makeup of the major-league roster for 2014-15, here's a look at players who spent at least a significant portion of the just-concluded season in the NHL:

Crosby, Sidney — Forward

A poor playoff performance overshadowed his Hart Trophy-worthy regular season. The trophy that matters most is the Stanley Cup, however, and Crosby hasn't led his team to one since 2009.

Adams, Craig — Forward

His game is limited, but what he does, he does well. A prototype fourth-liner, Adams checks diligently, kills penalties and has scored more than seven goals only once in 13 NHL seasons.

Bennett, Beau — Forward

The 2013-14 season was a write-off, thanks to a wrist injury that forced him to sit out 50 games and so hampered him after he returned that it will require additional surgery. He should fill a top-six role in 2014-15.

Conner, Chris — Forward

He's an unrestricted free agent who figures to continue bouncing between the minors and NHL, no matter where he signs.

Dupuis, Pascal — Forward

If people didn't appreciate his value when they watched him play every night, they certainly should have after a knee injury ended his season in December. The Penguins never found a right winger who fits as well with Crosby as Dupuis did, and that includes Evgeni Malkin.

Gibbons, Brian — Forward

He's undersized to be part of a team that wants to be tougher to play against, but has speed and skill that seems to appeal to ownership and the coaches. He's an unrestricted free agent.

Glass, Tanner — Forward

Being a healthy scratch for much of Round 2 in the playoffs doesn't bode well for his future. Glass, whose contract is up, is a bit hitter who kills penalties and is reliable defensively, but contributes little offensively.

Goc, Marcel — Forward

A handy role player, when healthy, after being added at the trade deadline, but he's a good bet to move on as an unrestricted free agent.

Jokinen, Jussi — Forward

He made the most of his first full season with the Penguins, locking up a spot on the second line and scoring a team-high seven goals in the playoffs. The payoff for his efforts will be literal and large this summer, when he goes on the market as an unrestricted free agent.

Kunitz, Chris — Forward

After an exceptional regular season during which he scored 35 goals, Kunitz had a lackluster showing in the playoffs. He has the grit and character that ownership has made a priority.

Malkin, Evgeni — Forward

One of hockey's great talents, he has even more game-breaking potential than Crosby. It just isn't always evident.

Neal, James — Forward

He has the release and shot to score 40 to 50 goals every season. And enough lapses in judgment to take at least that many pointless and costly penalties.

Pyatt, Taylor — Forward

He came in via waivers when the Penguins needed a body, which is pretty much what they got. He will be leaving via free agency.

Stempniak, Lee — Forward

The Penguins miscast him as a first-liner winger much of the time after acquiring him at the trade deadline. Stempniak is a capable bottom-six guy, although not at the $2.5 million cap hit he carried this season.

Sutter, Brandon — Forward

Why the Penguins were so willing to part with him during their unsuccessful pursuit of Vancouver's Ryan Kesler near the trade deadline was a mystery, and his solid work during the playoffs likely reminded management of his value. He's a good third-line center who can fill in on the second, if needed, while killing penalties and winning his share of faceoffs.

Vitale, Joe — Forward

He skates well, hits hard and sacrifices constantly, but unless Vitale's hands catch up with the rest of his game, he'll never be more than a grinder.

Bortuzzo, Robert — Defenseman

Despite some rough times in the playoffs, he should be able to grow into a shutdown role as he gains experience. His wingspan and toughness can be great assets.

Despres, Simon — Defenseman

A skilled, if erratic, first-round draft choice in 2009 who clearly is out of favor with the current coach, Dan Bylsma. Whether or not a new staff is brought in, the onus will be on Despres to prove that he can live up to his enormous potential.

Engelland, Deryk — Defenseman

Filling in at forward showed more versatility than many believed he had, but toughness will be his most marketable asset when he goes on the free-agent market in July.

Letang, Kris — Defenseman

While he finished fairly strong after recovering from a stroke, living up to the eight-year, $58 million contract that kicks in this fall won't be easy.

Maatta, Olli — Defenseman

Although he wore down late in the season, Maatta's rookie year was a great success, even though it came at least 12 months earlier than expected. He'll be a terrific two-way player for a long time.

Martin, Paul — Defenseman

He's threatening to become a modern-day Ron Francis: A guy whose game is widely appreciated for, uh, being under-appreciated. When healthy, Martin was outstanding at both ends of the ice.

Niskanen, Matt — Defenseman

After his strong season, some team -- possibly the Penguins -- is going to make Niskanen a very wealthy young man this summer. He bears no resemblance to the timid, tentative guy acquired from Dallas in 2011.

Orpik, Brooks — Defenseman

His physical play on the ice and candor off it will be missed, but an apparently serious knee injury sustained during the playoffs probably removed whatever sliver of a chance there had been that the Penguins would re-sign Orpik.

Scuderi, Rob — Defenseman

If the broken ankle he sustained in October didn't impede his skating after Scuderi got back in the lineup, his four-year, $13 million contract will go down as one of Shero's greatest errors in judgment.

Fleury, Marc-Andre — Goalie

Deciding what to do with him could be one of the next GM's most intriguing and difficult decisions. Fleury, coming off a series of poor playoff performances, wasn't bad for much of this postseason, but did give up some goals he should have stopped. With one year left on Fleury's contract, Shero's successor must decide whether to give him a new deal or allow him to explore free agency in 2015.

Vokoun, Tomas — Goalie

Blood clots sidelined him for much of the regular season, and he never got into a game after training camp. Vokoun's contract is up and so, almost certainly, is his time with the Penguins.

Zatkoff, Jeff — Goalie

Vokoun's ailment opened a spot in the NHL for Zatkoff and he made the most of it, establishing himself as -- at the very least -- a capable backup at this level.

Stay current with the Penguins' search for a new general manager on the PG's Penguins Blog with Dave Molinari and Shelly Anderson. You can also follow them on Twitter @MolinariPG and @pgshelly.

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