The Pittsburgh Penguins missed out on the Zach Parise sweepstakes and, after waiting four days for him to make a decision, missed out on other wingers such as PA Parenteau and Ray Whitney. After ten days of free agency, the Penguins' best remaining options are Alexander Semin; a player with immense talent and equal baggage, or Shane Doan who is approaching retirement.
That means the Penguins will probably look internally, once again, to find a winger for Sidney Crosby. In the Penguins' first day of development camp, Dan Bylsma talked about finding a top six winger to play on Sidney Crosby's line:
"You see the possibility of seeing younger players in the organization get a chance to play as well, whether it's Eric Tangradi in a top-6 role or Beau Bennett getting a chance to play there in exhibition and training camp or Tyler Kennedy." -Dan Bylsma, Penguins.com
Tyler Kennedy is the early favorite to fill that role as a top-6 winger. Two seasons ago, Kennedy scored 21 goals in 80 regular season games while Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin were on the shelf. Last season, Kennedy scored 11 goals despite missing 22 games with a concussion. In the final year of his contract, Kennedy will look to put together a bounce-back season but is he really anything more than a third line winger?
Beau Bennett, the Penguins 2010 first round selection, signed an entry-level contract this past April, but still doesn't have any professional hockey experience. The Penguins also can't draw any conclusions from Bennett's experience at the University of Denver where he tallied just 13 points in 10 games during an injury-filled sophomore season. Even if Bennett stars during development camp, the Penguins will probably send him to Wilkes-Baare for seasoning.
That leaves Eric Tangradi.
In 40 career games, Tangradi has one goal and four assists. When Ray Shero traded Ryan Whitney to the Anaheim Ducks, he acquired Chris Kunitz as a top six winger to play with Crosby. Tangradi was brought over as a possible future top-line winger, drawing comparisons to a young Kevin Stevens. Now, Tangradi seems like an afterthought. In two abbreviated seasons, he hasn't shown the ability to play higher than the fourth line. To have a shot on Crosby's line, Tangradi will need to do more than just show his toughness, he'll need to score.
The Penguins need a winger to play with Sidney Crosby. As it stands, their best bet is Tyler Kennedy and that is not very encouraging for a team that hopes to raise Lord Stanley next June. It may take until the trade deadline in February to find someone, but the Penguins need to make a move, one way or another.