The Pittsburgh Penguins dropped their active NHL roster to 32 players today by sending six players to their AHL affiliate in Wilkes-Barre and one player back to his junior team.
The group of players sent back to Wilkes-Barre is headlined by 22-year-old forward Eric Tangradi, who was expected to compete for a top-six spot prior to training camp. The 6’4 forward was underwhelming to say the least, and never proved he deserved a spot in the team’s top six forwards.
Also sent back to the AHL were forwards Nick Johnson, Colin McDonald, and Ryan Craig, in addition to goaltenders Scott Munroe and 2010-11 AHL Goaltender of the Year Brad Thiessen.
All of those players besides Tangradi and Thiessen must clear waivers before they are officially returned to Wilkes-Barre, and all are expected to do so.
2011 second-round pick defenseman Scott Harrington was sent back to his junior team.
Defensemen Robert Bortuzzo and Boris Valabik are injured and can’t be sent down at the moment, but will be once they are cleared.
The team’s roster essentially sits at 30. If defensemen Brooks Orpik begins the season on injured reserve (which looks like a real possibility at this point), the team will likely cut two more defensemen from the group of Joe Morrow, Alex Picard and Brian Strait.
In the battle for the team’s (fifth and) sixth defensemen, the team has been most impressed with Matt Niskanen‘s play thus far. Ben Lovejoy and Deryk Engelland have been less impressive, but have by no means had a bad camp.