The day after the Panthers suffered a devastating loss to Utah, Pittsburgh fans got some good news–Hilary Duff is coming to town, and she is bring Mike Comrie. With two thirty goal seasons and five 20 goal seasons to his resume, Comrie comes to the Penguins as an accomplished forward. He also comes as a relatively cheap one. It could be argued that the one-year $500,000 contract is the best deal General Manager Ray Shero has made this off-season. When you factor in that the signing is coming on the heels of a questionable Aaron Asham contract it looks even better.
So why was the 30-year-old so cheap?
As it is, Comrie has not reached the 30 goal plateau or eclipsed the 50 point mark since 2005-06 season. He also has suffered through injuries and illness over the past few seasons. To boot, the Edmonton native has switched teams more times than Lindsay Lohan. Over the course of his nine year career Comrie has been employed by the Flyers, Islanders, and Coyotes while playing two stints with each the Oilers and Senators.
The reasons why he has bounced around so much are not known, but this is not an issued forced by an attitude problem or a lack of work ethic. When examining the newest former Flyer it is easy to see that he has outstanding hands and even better speed. Even if Comrie is a stab in the dark, it is unlikely that he won’t be able to outproduce forwards such as Pascal Dupuis, Max Talbot, and Tyler Kennedy–especially based on his skill set.
Where Comrie will end up playing is still a topic of debate. So lets examine the possibilities.
1.) Third Line–With Staal most likely centering the second line there is a gap to fill on the third line. Placing Comrie in between Talbot and Kennedy or rookie Eric Tangradi would allow the Penguins to put more fire power in their first two lines while keeping a dangerous third scoring unit.
2.) Second Line–Evgeni Malkin, Jordan Staal, and Comrie all on one line? Not a strong possibility but one still worth checking in to. Ultimately I see this Matt Cooke rounding out this line to give the unit a toughness along the boards and a front of the net presence.
3.) First Line–Skating on a line with Sidney Crosby and marrying Hilary Duff in the same off-season. Not quite as good as mine but still solid. This line combination makes the most sense. Comrie has the speed to keep up with Crosby, the hands to finish easy set-ups, and the vision to keep #87 amongst the top goal scorers in the league. Add a grinder and crease-scrapper like Kunitz to the mix and the Penguins top six start to take form.
As hard as it is to argue with last years first line numbers, Comrie skating on the top unit looks to be the best fit. Crosby most likely would not have to account for 44% of the teams points with this combination. Another positive is that one of Pittsburgh’s top rookies would be free to be the scoring stud on a pressure-free third line featuring solid role guys like Dupuis and Talbot.
With Mike Rupp, Craig Adams, Comrie, Kennedy, and Asham all making under $850,000 per year it wouldn’t be a financial problem to scratch any one of them on a given night. I suspect Comrie will be left out of the mix though considering he has far more skill than the rest of the player mentioned.
Another 30-goal season may be a bit much for Penguins fans to expect out of Comrie. However, there is a good possibility that he could rejuvenate his career with the team. Where some see a career filled with wasted talent, I see a career filled with poor teams. Over his tenure in the league Comrie has only been a part of three playoff teams, of which only one advanced beyond the first round. In the 164 games he played with those playoff contenders he recorded 107 points–keep in mind that two of those seasons were his rookie and sophomore years. Who would have thought a player with talent performs better when he plays with talent?
Penguins fans should be happy with this signing and thrilled with the fact that Shero still has almost $1 million to play around with at the deadline.