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NHL Free Agency Frenzy *LIVE UPDATES* Pens sign Martin, Michalek

July 2, 2010
5:25 p.m. Pens’ sign minor league forward

The Pittsburgh Penguins today signed minor league forward Ryan Craig to a one year deal, the team announced. The deal is a two-way contract that will play Craig $500,000 at the NHL level. Craig, 28, has played the last five seasons with the Tampa Bay. In 184 career games, Craig has totaled 32 goals, 31 assists and 63 points. The 6-foot-2, 220-pound forward spent the majority of the 2009-10 season with Tampa Bay’s top minor-league affiliate Norfolk in the American Hockey League. In 73 games for the Admirals, Craig recorded 45 points on 23 goals and 22 assists.

3:00 p.m. Pens’ monitoring Ponikarovsky’s status

Pens GM Ray Shero spoke with Rick Curran today, the agent for Alexei Ponikarovsky. “We spoke earlier, ” Curran told Inside Pittsburgh Sports this afternoon when asked if the two sides have been in contact today. The Latest on Ponikarovsky.

2:50 p.m. Latest developments

Very quiet coming out of Pens circles. Anything can change, but indications as of right now is that there won’t be a decision on the Guerin front today. Chris Higgins signed a one year deal with the Florida Panthers today. Pens spoke a few times with his agent Matt Keator but were never engaged in negotiations.

2:20 p.m. Eaton signs two year deal with Islanders

Defenseman Mark Eaton has signed a two year deal with the New York Islanders. Eaton will make $2.5 million per season, a $500,000 raise over his salary from 09-10. The deal was first reported by Kari Strang of Newsday

11:35 a.m. Guerin in holding pattern

Dialogue has continued today between Pens GM Ray Shero and Bob Murray, the agent for Billy Guerin. However, It may be another day or so until a decision is made on Guerin. The Penguins are exploring their options beyond Guerin. If Guerin doesn’t return, Penguins won’t make a splash but they are engaged in some discussions. The team has had contact with Matt Keator, the agent for Chris Higgins, source close to the situation tells Inside Pittsburgh Sports. Pens are not considered a favorite to sign Higgins. Here’s some more insight on the Pens winger pursuit

11:05 a.m. Afinogenov not on Pens radar

Maxim Afinogenov is one of the more affordable intriguing wingers left on the market but the talented winger is not on the Penguins radar. The Penguins have had zero contact with Don Meehan, the agent for Maxim Afinogenov, a source close to the situation tells Inside Pittsburgh Sports. Afinogenov, 30, made $800,000 last season and had 24 goals – 61 points for the Atlanta Thrashers in 09-10.

10:30 a.m. Eaton’s return highly unlikely

Defenseman Mark Eaton has received some calls but not a lot of firm offers through the first day of free agency. Into day 2, Eaton is likely to be apart of the second wave of signings. The Penguins have remained in contact with Eaton’s agent Stephen Bartlett but Eaton would have to take a significant reduction in pay to return, lesser role and likely a term of only one year. When asked if Pittsburgh was still an option for Eaton, Bartlett did not rule out a return but said, it’s “not likely to happen.”

July 1, 2010
6:30 p.m. Guerin to stay in the East

Billy Guerin ponders a return to Pittsburgh and word out of Guerin’s camp is that a decision won’t be long. Guerin prefers to stay in the East and has also been involved in talks with the New York Rangers, a source close to the situation tells Inside Pittsburgh Sports. Guerin’s first choice is to return to Pittsburgh. The team expects a decision by the end of the week.

5:40 p.m. Shero talks | Leopold signs

Pens GM Ray Shero held a press conference today at 5:00 p.m. Here are some key developments. Also, defenseman Jordan Leopold is off the market before Mark Eaton. The Buffalo Sabres announced the team has signed Jordan Leopold to a three year deal.

4:22 p.m. Hamhuis to Van | Volchenkov to NJD

RDS reports that the Vancouver Canucks have signed defenseman Dan Hamhuis to a 6 year deal worth $27 million. Meanwhile, agent Jay Grossman announces on his twitter account that client Anton Volchenkov is close to signing a 6 year deal with the New Jersey Devils. The Devils earlier signed Sabres defenseman Henrik Tallinder to a 4 year deal worth $13.5 million.

3:20 p.m. Guerin still considering Pittsburgh.

The Penguins focus is now turning towards trying to re-sign Billy Guerin and despite having just about $2 million in cap space, Guerin is still considering Pittsburgh as an option, Bob Murray the agent for Guerin tells Inside Pittsburgh Sports, shortly after 3:00 p.m.

3:18 p.m. Shero to hold press conference.

Pens GM Ray Shero will hold a press conference at 5:00 p.m. this afternoon to discuss today’s developments.

3:04 p.m. Sabres in on Jordan Leopold.

Word is the Buffalo Sabres are in on Jordan Leopold — DePaoli on twitter.

2:51 p.m. Slow market for Ponikarovsky.

It appears the market for Alexei Ponikarovsky is developing slowly. “Nothing significant at the moment, ” Rick Curran the agent for Ponikarovsky told Inside Pittsburgh Sports.

2:45 p.m. Martin gets 5 years – $25 million.

Paul Martin gets 5 years – $25 million. The Penguins invested $9 million into Martin and Michalek.

2:32 p.m. Pens sign Paul Martin.

The Pittsburgh Penguins landed their No. 1 target, agreeing to terms with defenseman Paul Martin.

2:23 p.m. Hamhuis camp remains in contact with Pens.

Wade Arnott the agent for Dan Hamhuis has remained in contact with Pittsburgh. The Penguins in fact did make an offer after 12:00 p.m. today. They never made an offer prior to free agency begining. However, the Pens efforts are with Martin and Hamhuis efforts are elsewhere.

2:11 p.m. Latest developments.

The Penguins came into free agency with the mindset that they were willing to spend $8.5 – $9 million on two impact defensemen. The team has locked up $4 million a year in Michalek and are believed to have offered Paul Martin a 6 year deal in the range of $27 million. Still waiting on Martin.

2:00 p.m. Eaton getting calls.

Defenseman Mark Eaton has received calls from the Minnesota Wild, New York Rangers and Washington Capitals, source close to Eaton tells me.

1:52 p.m. Pens waiting word from Paul Martin.

The Penguins have an offer on the table to Paul Martin that is worth well over $20 millon in the 5-to-6 year range. Minnesota, Los Angeles believed to be the other two contenders.

1:12 p.m. Pens sign Michalek.

The Pittsburgh Penguins signed one of their primary targets, agreeing to terms with defenseman Zbynek Michalek. The deal is 5 years – $20 million and includes a no movement clause.

12:50 p.m. Pens chasing Martin.

As expected the Penguins are very much in on defenseman Paul Martin. The team is also involved in talks with Coyotes defenseman Zbynek Michalek.

12:19 p.m. Gonchar off the market.

Gonchar lands in Ottawa signing a three year deal worth $16.5 million.

12:05 p.m. Hamhuis expected to sign quick

Talk around the league is that Defenseman Dan Hamhuis will sign quickly. Some believe he will be off the market within 2-3 hours

11:41 a.m. Hamhuis agent says Pit still an option

Wade Arnott the agent for Dan Hamhuis just informed me via text that Pittsburgh will be considered an option as Hamhuis hits the open market at noon.

11:06 a.m. Leopold to hit the open market

Just talked to a contact in Jordan Leopold’s camp who says agent Ben Hankinson hasn’t heard from the Penguins this morning and Leopold appears headed to the market.

10:55 a.m. Pens to target Martin, Michalek early

While the Penguins will monitor the Sergei Gonchar, Dan Hamhuis situations, team sources tell me the team will target Paul Martin and Zbynek Michalek early into free agency. If the opportunity presents itself to move on either one, the Penguins won’t hesitate, sources tell me.” Darren Dreger of TSN.ca, reports that Michalek is still considering a final offer from the Coyotes.

10:39 a.m. Gonchar’s camp: “Pens remain an option

Word out of Sergei Gonchar’s camp is the Penguins will remain an option as Gonchar explores his options at noon today. “Penguins an option unless they decide to go in another direction before we decide, J.P. Barry the agent for Sergei Gonchar told Inside Pittsburgh Sports. As agents often say, “that’s the uncertainty of free agency.”

9:49 a.m. Eaton “likely” to hit the market

The Pittsburgh Penguins remain in discussions with Mark Eaton and while there’s an outside chance something gets done before noon, Stephen Bartlett the agent for Mark Eaton tells me just after 9:30 a.m., that it appears “likely” Eaton will hit the open market.

9:47 a.m. Foster to hit the open market

Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Kurtis Foster will hit the free agent market. “He will for sure, ” Lawrence Kelly the agent for Foster told Inside Pittsburgh Sports this morning. Foster is second in points among free agent defenseman with 42. He is believed to be somewhat on the Penguins radar.

9:17 a.m. McKee not returning to PIT

There has been no talks between the Pens and Jay McKee’s camp and it appears things will stay status quo once the clock strikes noon today. “I think Pitt has moved on, ” Mckee’s agent Patt Morris told Inside Pittsburgh Sports this morning.

9:10 a.m. Kings wavering Kovalchuk – Gonchar?

Talk among league executives is that the Sergei Gonchar is the No. 1 target of Kings GM Dean Lombardi. However, executives tell me Kings ownership appears set on trying to land Ilya Kovalchuk while Lombardi wants to go in another direction. If Lombardi pursues Gonchar, this would be the third straight year he targets a Pens defensemen (Orpik, Scuderi, Gonchar?)

8:50 a.m. Hamhuis sweepstakes

Pens GM Ray Shero and Wade Arnott, the agent for Dan Hamhuis have remained in contact this morning but there has been no indication that Hamhuis is prepared to push forward in talks. Pittsburgh remains a consideration but will have heavy competition with Los Angeles, Toronto, Vancouver, and Anaheim all expected to make a big play for the two-way defenseman.

8:30 a.m. Pens enter free agency with about $11MM to spend

The Pittsburgh Penguins enter free agency with about $11 million to spend and have major holes in their lineup. Forwards Alexei Ponikarovsky, Bill Guerin and Ruslan Fedotenko will all hit the market. Meanwhile, defensemen Sergei Gonchar, Jay McKee and Dan Hamhuis will test the market. Mark Eaton is expected to follow suit but the Pens remain in contact this morning with Eaton and Jordan Leopold.

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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