Penguins Q&A with Dave Molinari
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Q: Do you think the Penguins have any second thoughts about not holding onto Michal Rozsival, who has become a key member of the New York Rangers?
Gerry Mangold, Richmond, Va.
MOLINARI: You submitted your question before Rozsival scored New York's first two goals in its 4-3 overtime victory at Mellon Arena Saturday. In light of that, though, the Penguins probably regret that they didn't try to find some legal technicality to keep Rozsival out of the country when he returned from the Czech Republic for training camp.
In reality, though, the Penguins' front office likely doesn't view Rozsival the same way people who have been watching the team for a while do, because there was a different management group in place when Rozsival was allowed to leave and sign with New York. Credit (or blame, depending on one's perspective) for that move goes to former general manager Craig Patrick, not Ray Shero and his staff.
The best argument for keeping Rozsival at the time was that he is a right-handed shot -- the Penguins have been reminded over the past few years how tough it can be to get righties -- and it was suggested in this space then that retaining him wouldn't be a bad move, if only because there would always be a trade market for almost any right-handed defenseman.
The Penguins, though, seemed to focus on how often Rozsival was hurt -- he played just 53 games in 2002-03, then missed the entire following season because of a knee injury, prompting some team officials to joke about renaming the training room after him -- and clearly came to the conclusion that they couldn't count on him. You can assume that no one associated with the Penguins then would have predicted that Rozsival would be in uniform for 182 of his first 184 games as a Ranger.
Q: Even though their slow starts are clearly hurting the Penguins, do you think the play of Jordan Staal and Marc-Andre Fleury may be a blessing in disguise? If they continue to play like they are, I would not think that it would cost as much money to sign them as previously thought. Obviously, this is not good for the Penguins' current situation, but will their off-years help down the road?
Frank Nickel, Butler
MOLINARI: Wow. Even the late Norman Vincent Peale of "The Power of Positive Thinking" fame might have been in awe of that take on the struggles Staal and Fleury have had during the first quarter of this season.
Staal, who put up 29 goals as a rookie, has just one this season, and is pointless in his past 13 games while Fleury, coming off a 40-victory effort in 2006-07, is 5-7-1, with a 3.47 goals-against average and .893 save percentage.
Neither player has been bombed completely -- Staal's penalty-killing and defensive work have been solid, while Fleury has had some spectacular performances to go along with his sub-par ones -- and, with 62 games remaining, both have ample time to get their games back in order before their next contracts become a front-burner issue. (Fleury's deal is up after this season, while Staal's has a year left, but could be extended as early as the summer of 2008.)
Neither Staal nor Fleury has done anything to improve his agent's negotiating leverage during the first 20 games of this season and, if that doesn't change, Shero might well sign them for less than they otherwise would have commanded.
And while that might sound good to the corporate accountants, there's no question people in the hockey operations department would rather have to find a way to pay those two -- and everyone else on the roster, for that matter -- salaries commensurate with having big seasons rather than saving some money because they didn't do anything to significantly raise their market value.
Nonetheless, the Penguins might want to make note of the sentiment you expressed, and tuck it away for future use. So that if, say, they never really find themselves and end up finishing ninth or lower in the Eastern Conference, they can tell fans what a great thing it is that they saved so much money by not having to purchase playoff tickets.
First Published November 19, 2007 12:00 am