The Penguins announced today that they won’t be re-signing Bill Guerin, just several days after (and perhaps unrelated to) signing winger Arron Asham to a one-year, $700,000 deal.
Guerin was tied for third on the team in goals last year with 21 in 78 games, and led all Penguin wingers in goals, but even with the Pens’ winger situation on their top two lines seemingly unresolved, I don’t foresee his departure as having a large effect. Yes, 21 goals was a nice total for a Penguin winger, but Guerin played essentially a full season on Sidney Crosby’s wing and on the Pens’ top power play unit (11 of his 21 goals came with the man advantage); I’d predict that any half-competent scoring winger would produce similar numbers if they played that many games in that particular role, provided their name doesn’t rhyme with Muslan Medotenko.
That doesn’t mean that replacing Guerin’s production is automatic, and this certainly leaves the Pens without a threatening righty-shooting forward to man the off-wing on the power play, but Guerin’s oft-discussed “net-front presence” was overblown (and probably exacerbated by the entire rest of the team’s extremely not net-front presence), and with Guerin set to turn 40 in November, he’s just not worth $2 million to the cap-strapped Pens.
Asham is more than 6 years younger than Guerin, comes in far cheaper than Guerin’s reported $2 mil asking price (even if that inevitably drops a bit), and scored 10 goals for Philly last season while earning zero power play time, giving him exactly the same number of even strength goals as Guerin. This isn’t to say that he’ll replace Guerin’s production or even that he’ll be asked to, just to point out that on straight scoring talent — even excluding price, age, and physical presence — Asham isn’t completely out of Guerin’s stratosphere, and he’s well-suited for a third-line role should he (very likely) not end up on the top two lines, whereas if Guerin isn’t in a scoring role, he’s not particularly useful.
Personally, I’d like to see the Pens take a flier on ex-Avalanche winger Marek Svatos. He’d probably take a 1-year deal or a cheap 2-year deal coming off back-to-back subpar seasons, but he’s two years removed from a 26-goal season in Colorado and once notched 32 goals as a 24-year-old. He’s still only 28, he’s a right-handed shot, and the Pens can offer him a prime spot on Crosby’s wing in the mutual interest of jump-starting his career. If he succeeds, he could very well outscore Guerin at a comparable cost, and if he struggles or gets hurt again, the Pens aren’t out much, and they have more than enough wingers in total to replace him, even if they have to cover his spot with a less skilled option or a slightly-underseasoned Eric Tangradi.
As for Guerin, well, he has to sign with the Bruins, right? I can’t wait to see what havoc a Recchi-Satan-Guerin Legion of Doom line would unleash on the Eastern Conference…