I wanted to keep this as something of a surprise, thus a strange sounding title. It will amuse many a Wild fan.
This afternoon, the Penguins announced they signed, to a one-year contract, some defenseman by the name of Martin Skoula.
This came as something of a stunner. Rosters need to be finalized in about 24 hours - or at least down to a max of 23 players - and Skoula, well, hasn't skated in front of any of the Penguins coaches or front office staff. Last I knew, Skoula was on a tryout agreement with Columbus. Maybe that's where Ray Shero saw him play, because the Pens played the Blue Jackets twice. I don't recall Skoula being on the ice for the game in Pittsburgh but I don't know who the lineup consisted of in Columbus.
But anyway. As I said, it's fairly surprising. Nate Guenin and Deryk Engelland each had strong training camps in bids to become the No. 7 defenseman, and Shero stated recently that he intends to carry fewer than the maximum 23 players because of the salary cap. He just gave Ryan Bayda a contract on Monday, albeit a two-way deal, and both he and Chris Conner were two forwards who also impressed during camp and could've earned roster spots.
Then Shero goes out and signs Skoula, who hasn't practiced a lick and who's barely even shared the ice with his new teammates. Guenin, Engelland, Bayda and Conner are all on waivers, so presumably they will end up in the AHL and Skoula will become the seventh defenseman.
Barring injuries or dreadful performances, that's all Skoula will be, so I don't know how often he'll see the ice. Pittsburgh's top six on the blue line is set, with pairings of Sergei Gonchar-Brooks Orpik, Kris Letang-Mark Eaton and Alex Goligoski-Jay McKee. Now, McKee is prone to injuries, as he's suffered a lot over the years from all the shots he blocks. So Skoula will likely see some action. He'd be more of a veteran presence as well compared to Guenin and Engelland and that might've been a factor.
I know Skoula was a popular target for the ire of Wild fans. I didn't get to see him play often so I've got no opinion on him. Shero must see something in him, and he's done a few things right since taking over as general manager. Though sure, not all his moves have been good. But maybe having a smaller role on a team will cut down the mistakes Wild fans insist Skoula makes each time he steps on the ice.
It's still a head-scratching move given the timing and performances of Guenin and Engelland. Hopefully Martin's got a small contract, 'cause there ain't much room under the cap for him.
(Minor update: Skoula's contract is reportedly worth $575,000.)