Sunday, September 5, 2010

Penguins Sign Mike Comrie

On Friday it was announced that the Pittsburgh Penguins had signed former 30 goal scorer Mike Comrie to a one year, $500,000 deal. The 5'10", 185 lbs. forward who plays wing and center has 167 goals and 192 assists total in his career, including two 30 goal/60 point campaigns with the Edmonton Oilers, Philadelphia Flyers, New York Islanders, Ottawa Senators, and Phoenix Coyotes.

Comrie is perhaps better known for his personal life for various reasons. He started out as a hype machine in Edmonton as his family owns the popular Canadian chain store The Brick, which specializes in electronics and furniture. His share of the company makes him worth $500 million hence his pay cut which he took to play with the Penguins. Comrie is quoted as saying he took the pay cut to play with a team that gave him a chance to win now.

Comrie also is a newly wed to former Disney star Hilary Duff, continuing an almost surprising trend of entertainers marrying hockey players. The two were wed earlier this year after a few years of dating. At this time it is not known whether Hilary will accompany Mike to Pittsburgh but since she's often seen in the box during his games it's a safe bet to say she'll be seen quite a bit.

Last year in a season plagued by injuries (between mono and asthma), he still managed to score 13 goals and pot 8 assists for 21 points in 43 games played. His health is an issue as he hasn't played close to a full season since playing 80 games in 2005-2006 with the Coyotes in a season that saw him reach the 30 goal mark when he went 30 and 30.

If Mike Comrie of old shows, and he's able to maintain his health throughout the year, the Penguins are looking at an easy 50 points along the wing of Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin (depending on where Comrie is placed). His speed, hands, and abilities are going to be an upgrade over 40 year old Bill Guerin, who last year proved incapable of keeping up with Crosby despite his solid offensive numbers.

It allows for more flexibility in the top six for the Penguins, which became their biggest need once the defensive problems were addressed in Zybanek Michalek and Paul Martin. It gives prospect Eric Tangradi more time in the AHL at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton where he'll be a mid season call up.

Further, the anticipated move of Jordan Staal to the top six means that for the first time in a while the Penguins top six is close to filled with actual skilled top six wingers. A top six of Staal, Malkin, Crosby, Chris Kunitz, and Comrie has the skill that no top six has had since the Hossa/Crosby and Malone-Malkin-Sykora lines of the first Cup run.

While Comrie and Kunitz are no where near the Hossa standard of play but the skill level of the Penguins top six has been severely lacking since that run. In a perfect world, Comrie clicks exceptionally and Tangradi as a mid season call up proves to be all that he's advertised. This would allow the Penguins to trade for a top six winger at the trade deadline and move Jordan Staal back to third line center.

This team would be incredibly deep and a sure fire Stanley Cup contender should they be healthy. The Penguins are already stacked with third and fourth line players. A line up where a Tangradi proves to be worth the hype and a Comrie who is worth 50 points plus a trade deadline skilled forward gives you an exceptionally skilled top six from top to bottom in Kunitz, Crosby, Malkin, Tangradi, Comrie, and whomever is traded plus a bottom six with the likes of Staal, Matt Cooke, recently acquired Aaron Asham, Tyler Kennedy, Pascal Dupuis, Maxime Talbot, Mike Rupp, and Craig Adams. It's hard to find many other teams with that depth.

The Comrie deal could also mean he's a replacement for Jordan Staal on the third line at the worst. While not quite the defensive prowess of Jordan, his offensive skill is arguably better than what Jordan brings on a night in and night out basis in terms of consistency. He also brings an element of grit that Staal has yet to show in the NHL.

The Penguins are likely done filling in their roster for the moment with maybe a sixth or seventh defenseman to come before training camp starts in under two weeks to shore up the likely bottom combination of Alex Goligoski and Ben Lovejoy and compliment Martin, Michalek, Brooks Orpik, and Kris Letang.

A lot of people hate the Pittsburgh Penguins. That's fine. It comes with success. With Mike Comrie signing for league minimum and the potential he brings to the Penguins, it's likely that more people will be hating them as they are once again one of the favorites for the Stanley Cup in July.

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