Just a day after signing defenseman Steve Wagner to a one year deal, Pittsburgh Penguins GM Ray Shero is not close to locking up any of his four (Gonchar, McKee, Leopold, Eaton) pending unrestricted free agent defensemen.
Shero has begun to engage in preliminary discussions with the agents of all four players, including Bob Murray, the agent for defenseman Ben Lovejoy.
Lovejoy, 26, is scheduled to become a restricted free agent and the Penguins have established some parameters with Lovejoy’s camp. The two sides have held discussions over the course of the past couple weeks.
Talks are believed to center around a one year deal and a longer deal believed to be two years, according to a league source.
Lovejoy is mulling his options on whether to take a one year deal for the second year in a row or work out a longer term deal.
Lovejoy is scheduled to become a free agent on July 1, 2011. A complication in talks is believed to be the fact that Lovejoy is seeking a one-way contract to gain some security on earning a spot in the top-7.
Word out of Steve Wagner’s camp is that Wager was given the indication that he will battle for the 6-through-9 spots in the Penguins defensive rotation. Wagner would have been an unrestricted free agent on July 1.
Wagner, 26, spent the majority of his career with St. Louis after signing as a free agent in 2007. He appeared in 46 career NHL games for St. Louis, posting four goals and 12 points.
The Penguins currently have major holes in their top-6 but a top priority almost every off-season for Shero is take have 9-to-10 capable NHL defensemen in training camp.
Engelland and Wagner were both signed to two-way deals, something the Penguins are hopeful to finalize with Ben Lovejoy.
After signing Nick Johnson, Lovejoy and Chris Conner who the Penguins also have interest in retaining are the teams only pending RFA’s.
Under the current CBA, a team must extend a “qualifying offer” to its restricted free agent to retain negotiating rights to that player. Players making less than $660,000 must be offered 110 percent of last season’s salary.
Conner and Lovejoy each made $500,000 in 2009-2010. Pittsburgh has held talks with Kurt Overhardt, the agent for Chris Conner in an attempt to finalize a one year deal.