Here's a transcript of General Manager George McPhee's comments to reporters this afternoon:
On why he opted to keep the same core of players together for this year:
We had a fabulous season last year and for about six and a half months we were a terrific team and in five days we lost it. We came to camp expecting to do good and we had a real good season with really no adversity.
We start the playoffs three games to one and in five days it fell apart. We didn't play well enough in Game 5 (against Montreal); we couldn't have played better than we did in Game 6. That was probably the best game we played all season. We were pretty good in Game 7 but the goalie was great, our power-play didn't work and we scored one goal a game the last three games and our strength last year was scoring.
It didn't work out but I can't allow five days to get in the way of what we think is a terrific team. So we'd like to keep them together and see how they do this year.
On the competition at center:
Well we're pretty confident in him but there will be some pretty healthy competition for the other spots. We have some other veterans in (David) Steckel and (Boyd) Gordon -- (Tomas) Fleichmann wants to play that second line spot -- but we've got some young players that are pretty good players and we're going to take a look and see what we have.
On what he's looking for out of Alexander Semin, who is in the final year of his current contract:
We all know that he's a wonderful talent. We want him to come back and have a real good year and continue to make us a good team and we'll reevaluate his position at the end of the year. There are some contracts we'll do as we move along during the season, others we might wait on and we'll see how this goes based on how people play.
Whether Semin needs to prove himself in the playoffs:
He was terrific in the playoffs last year. Just because the puck didn't go in for him doesn't mean he didn't play well. He had 44 shots on goal. I don't think there's a player in the league that had that many shots on goal in any series. So no, he doesn't have to prove that he's a good player.
On what's expected of Karl Alzner and John Carlson:
We expect them to play a lot this year. Last year we had eight defensemen here and it was hard to get everyone in; we thought both of them could play here last year. It certainly didn't hurt them that they got more time in Hershey but at some point you can't hold them back any longer and you have to let them go and play. I think we've done a pretty good job of developing some of our other players. We think we've developed both of them well and it's time for them to play because they are good players.
On if the numerous trade-deadline acquisitions changed the chemistry and had a negative impact in the playoffs:
I don't think so. We were up 3-1 in the series and we didn't play well in game five. Is that a result of missing a night's sleep the night before? We got fogged in and no one got home until 6:30 in the morning. Is that the issue, I don't know. We weren't very good in the first 10 minutes of game five and it's a real series. ...We couldn't have played better than we did in games six and seven. I thought our team played well, just their goalie was phenomenal the whole series.
On whether he's concerned about the smaller number of NHL-ready defensemen:
I like having some more depth there but there were complaints from the defensemen and our coaches that carrying eight is too hard to work with. Sitting two guys out every night isn't much fun, so we're going to go with seven this year and hope they stay healthy.
On the goaltender competition:
The expectation is we'll start with (Michal) Neuvirth and (Semyon) Varlamov. We've been waiting for this opportunity with them. We were really high on both of them after we drafted them. We thought they both should have gone in the first round and felt fortunate that we got both of them. Again it was a case of believing that we've developed them properly.
They've both had a couple years pro now and our strategy in signing Jose (Theodore) a couple years ago was he would build that bridge to this opportunity, to this time and everything's gone well for these two guys. We think they're really good and could be a strength of our team this year.
On if the uncertainty of keeping a team together during the salary cap era adds any extra pressure this year:
You read that in different places, that you can only keep a team together for so long in the salary cap era, I'm not sure that's necessarily the case. We'll find out. It might be a better question to ask and be answered in a couple of years, but I think we've managed the cap real well and we think this team can be a good team for a long time.
Certainly every time you come to camp with a team of this caliber you hope that this is the year you do it all and win a Cup. But it doesn't mean if it doesn't happen we're not going to be a good team this year and the following year and the year after that. We've drafted well enough and our team is young enough that we're thinking we can keep it together for awhile if we keep doing the right things under the cap. We'll keep the players we want to keep, and we've done that so far.
On what will happen to Michal Nylander:
At some point we'll assign him to an American league team and he'll get playing but we've got a lot of bodies in Hershey but we're trying to find an opportunity for him with another American league club, but we haven't found it yet.
On his approach to adding pieces at the trade deadline:
You're hopeful that the team you have now can do the job so you don't have to do that at the deadline, but there are some years you get to the deadline and there are good opportunities and it makes your team better so you like to act on it. Other years it doesn't make any sense. We'll see what this year brings. It's quite a-ways away.