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June 24, 2018
Patrick Hopes Daigle Pans Out
by Jim Iovino, Ace Reporter
This is it?
When asked to improve his team, this is all Hall-of-Fame general manager Craig Patrick can muster?
Last year, Patrick picked up Stephane Richer from the scrap heap and gave him a tryout at training camp. With the lack of depth on the Penguins' roster, Richer easily made the team, signed a contract and went out and scored 13 goals before being traded before the deadline to New Jersey.
Adding Richer to the roster didn't hurt the Penguins in any way, but it didn't really help them, either.
This season, Patrick has done it again. He lured Alexandre Daigle to town with a training camp tryout offer. You remember Daigle, don't you? He was the cross-dressing No. 1 pick of the Ottawa Senators back in 1993.
But then again, Daigle hasn't played since the 1999-2000 season, so he might have been easily forgotten. You see, Daigle…how can we say it…well, Daigle blew space goats during his first attempt at an NHL career. He scored just 241 points in 459 games. He spread those games out with four different teams - the Senators, Rangers, Flyers and Lightning.
It was reported earlier this offseason that Daigle agreed to attend San Jose's training camp on a tryout basis, but apparently when word came that the Penguins were interested, Daigle, 27, jumped at the chance to join another French-Canadian who was a former No. 1 pick: Mario Lemieux.
Daigle has a good chance to make the team, if his skills haven't deteriorated even further since 2000. The once-powerful Penguins are in desperate need of speed and offense, believe it or not, and Daigle has the potential to give them both.
In all honesty, giving Daigle a chance isn't a bad move by Patrick. But the entire offseason has been one giant disappointment for Penguins fans.
After trading Jaromir Jagr the year before for next to nothing, the team lost Robert Lang via free agency this offseason, even though it had a chance to deal him at the trading deadline and get something in return. Or, perhaps they didn't have a chance. Patrick admitted that he lied to the media when he said he had several offers for Lang before the deadline. He really had jack squat on the table, but hoped that someone would make an offer after he said that.
Patrick couldn't go out this summer and sign a replacement for Lang. The main reason was money. The Mario Lemieux ownership group placed a $35 million salary cap on the team for this coming season.
Don't feel so bad for the Pens, however. The Carolina Hurricanes are working on a $36 million budget, yet they were able to re-sign Ron Francis, Sami Kapanen, Jeff O'Neill and others after reaching the Stanley Cup Finals. What has Patrick done this offseason to get his team back to the playoffs? He lost Lang. He re-signed about 10 players eligible for restricted free agency or arbitration. As for acquisitions, he picked up Steve McKenna, who proved he couldn't fight, skate, shoot or stickhandle during his first stint in Pittsburgh; Marc Bergevin, who proved he was too old to play two seasons ago in Pittsburgh; Vladimir Vujtek, who has proved he couldn't play at the NHL level each of the last 25 times he attempted to; Dickie Tarnstrom, who coughed up more pucks in his own end last season than a Sunshine Acres resident during dinner; and Francois Leroux, who played in Germany last season and improved his "skills" without having to worry about fighting. Oh boy.
Forget the Bobby Holiks, Billy Guerins and Curtis Josephs of the world; the Pens got Frankie Leroux. It just doesn't get any better than this.
That signing, of course, was before Marty Straka injured himself again. Once word got round that Straka might be out a long time, Patrick knew he needed more than an old, slow, 6-foot-6 defenseman who would probably spend the entire season in the AHL. He needed someone with speed and skill. Even though Andrew Cassels' name and a $3 million price tag have been floating around Pittsburgh, Daigle fit the bill for a much cheaper price.
Patrick has worked magic before with players he has picked off of the scrap heap. Straka was one of those players. He turned out to be All-Star material. While it's a long shot, the same could happen with Daigle.
But with so many questions (it is rumored that Lemieux still hasn't had on-ice workouts this offseason) and so little talent, the Penguins need a lot more than long shots. They need quality NHL players who can skate and score.
Craig Patrick has yet to deliver any such talent for his team.
Unfortunately, he's a long shot to do it before training camp begins.