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Insider Only Latest Pens Buzz: Niskanen Contract talks update & Martin getting high marks internally

LATEST ON MATT NISKANEN
Here’s where things stand on the Matt Niskanen front: As I reported yesterday morning, Pittsburgh made an official qualifying offer to Niskanen on Thursday and after initial talks were established on Thursday and Pittsburgh expressed interest to Niskanen’s camp in negotiating a multi-year deal, I was told this morning the two sides briefly spoke on Friday but no talks are planned this weekend.
This talk of Niskanen rejecting the Penguins qualifying offer is off-base as making the qualifying offer is just a technicality of Pittsburgh retaining Niskanen’s rights. It was never rejected as both sides plan to work off the $1.75 million qualifying offer with the hopes of reaching a two-three year deal, most likely a two year deal to cover Niskanen’s final RFA seasons as Niskanen is not scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent until July 2014.
While there had been optimism of the sides reaching a deal before the draft in Friday, talks though are still in the very early stages and Pittsburgh is said to have a set number in place that they won’t move much on.
One individual close to the situation,

told me the belief is Pittsburgh will go into talks seeking to keep Niskanen’s cap hit under $2.25 million. Last year Niskanen made $1.75 million, carrying a $1.5 million cap hit.
Pittsburgh has $61.6 million committed to salaries for next season.
MARTIN GETTING HIGH MARKS INTERNALLY
If the Penguins have any interest in trading Paul Martin this summer, it should be known by early next week as trade talks are already heating up league wide and multiple league sources contend there is and will be a market for Martin IF PITTSBURGH WANTS TO TRY TO MOVE HIM.
Whether they have any intention to is anyone’s guess at this point. Right now I’d say they don’t want to move him but there’s a hard read on the situation right now.
One thing’s that’s become evident though is that the Penguins are not down on Martin like others are and the sense is the team would only move him in a hockey trade that would net an immediate asset at the NHL level or in their system. Coming out of the organizations pro scouting meetings last week, I’ve heard a lot of positive talk surrounding Martin for moving forward with him next season. The Penguins feel Martin’s second half of the season resembled the way he played in 2010-2011 and head coach Dan Bylsma continues to be a strong believer in Martin.
Some whispers I also hear from league contacts is that GM Ray Shero feels it sends a bad message for the organization to signing free agents in future years to move a high salary player just two years into his tenure with the team after that particular player turned down significantly more money elsewhere.
With the Penguins not expecting to be players in free agency for an impact defenseman and Zbynek Michalek having off-season hip surgery, there could be a sense of urgency internally to stay with the same group and add from within with the likes of top prospect Simon Despres, in addition to possibly Brian Strait or Robert Bortuzzo.

About The Author

William DePaoli

TIOPS Insider

William DePaoli is the President/Founder of Inside Pittsburgh Sports LLC and can be reached at wdepaoli@insidepittsburghsports.com

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