Less than 48 hours after being eliminated by the Montreal Canadiens, the Pittsburgh Penguins held their season end meetings this morning as the players met with management and some members of the coaching staff.
Defenseman Sergei Gonchar is set to become a free agent on July 1st, and the veteran defenseman said today that he spoke with Penguins GM Ray Shero to discuss his contract status and that the two sides will negotiate more between now and July 1st.
Gonchar who made a salary of $6 million in 2009-2010, is Pittsburgh’s wildcard heading into the off-season and will dictate the fate of others on the Penguins roster.
The two sides have had the opportunity to begin contract talks since July 1, 2009 but talks never progressed during the regular season and were finally halted during the Olympic break. Gonchar is believed to be seeking a 3-to-4 year deal.
Meanwhile, Gonchar also touched base on Travis Moen’s short-handed goal that gave Montreal a commanding 4-0 lead. Gonchar indicated that he thought the puck got chipped deeper behind him, which is the reason he let him go.
Gonchar and Malkin are joining Team Russia to play in the World Championships this weekend.
Another intriguing free agent for Pittsburgh is third line winger Matt Cooke.
Cooke has been very mum on his contract status and that continued today. According to Tim Benz, “Cooke had little to nothing to say about free agency except that he likes it here.”
Cooke, 31, had a strong 2009-2010 campaign, scoring 15 goals and adding 15 assists in the regular season.
In the 2010 playoffs, Cooke improved his stock, closing out the playoffs with four goals and six points in 13 games.
Team sources expect a tough set of negotiations to take place with Cooke who is believed to be seeking a three year deal and is due for an increase in salary.
Cooke made $1.2 million in 2009-2010 and his market value is expected to be over $2 million per season, according to multiple league sources.
Cooke is likely to be a top target of Cup contenders with him being linked to the likes of Washington and Detroit. Two teams who are looking to bolster their third line with grit players.
Pens GM Ray Shero has a philosophy where he doesn’t offer more than two years to non-core players who are in their 30’s. The Penguins made an exception with Pascal Dupuis and many believe that Shero should back off that philosophy to retain Cooke.