Latest UFA Update: McKee update & more
NHL free agency is 19 days away and the Penguins continued their scouting evaluations and meetings this week as the team prepares for the NHL draft and free agency.
On the free agent front, the Penguins remain engaged in talks with winger Matt Cooke. Parameters have been discussed I’m told and there appears to be a mutual interest in trying to get something done before July 1.
In the summer of 2008, Cooke expressed a strong desire to play in the Eastern Conference due to the less travel, after playing nine years in Vancouver. The desire to play in the East and stay with the Penguins remains there.
As for the Penguins other 7 pending free agents, everything is still very quiet as Cooke is the only pending free agent that the Penguins have held what can be described as substantive talks.
To this point, the Penguins have had zero discussions (contract specifics) with Ben Hankinson the agent for Jordan Leopold and negotiations have yet to take place with Stephen Bartlett the agent for Mark Eaton.
Talks with Eaton are not expected to heat up until the week of the NHL draft but I’ve been given the sense that Eaton intends to test free agency.
Despite no official talks taking place with all four pending free agent defensemen (Gonchar, Eaton, Leopold, McKee), the Penguins have not closed the door on any of the four.
Although it is believed that the coaching staff didn’t view Jay McKee as a good fit in their up-tempo system, Pens GM Ray Shero reached out to McKee’s agent in late May, according to a league source, informing McKee’s camp that Pittsburgh is interested in retaining the veteran defenseman.
McKee, 32, lost his spot in the top-6 after the Penguins acquisition of Jordan Leopold. McKee was a +6 in the regular season and a +2 in five playoff games.
Those close to McKee tell me that McKee is eyeing a top-6 role on the blueline but also has his sights set on playing for a contender. If the fit is there, McKee’s camp has told me Pittsburgh will remain a viable option.
Pittsburgh would love to bring McKee back at an affordable rate and battle for a No. 6 or No. 7 role on the Penguins blueline.
However, McKee is likely to explore his options in free agency first. Chicago which offered McKee a contract last summer and made an attempt to acquire him prior to the trade deadline are a strong contender for his services.
McKee made $800,000 in 2009-2010 after being bought out by the St. Louis Blues.