Pittsburgh Penguins GM Ray Shero continues to take a patient approach with the Penguins group of pending unrestricted free agents.
The Penguins remain actively engaged in talks with winger Matt Cooke but have yet to hold substantive talks with Sergei Gonchar, while minimal talks have taken place with defensemen Jordan Leopold and Mark Eaton.
Discussions with Alexei Ponikarovsky won’t take place until next week in Los Angeles at the earliest and Inside Pittsburgh Sports learned this afternoon that defenseman Jay McKee has informed Penguins management that he will test free agency.
The Penguins patient approach thus far has little to do with the Sergei Gonchar situation but more to do with a willingness to keep their options open at the NHL draft.
The Penguins are expected leave open the possibility of upgrading their roster through a trade next week as trade discussions are rampant during draft week.
At this point, the Penguins are not involved in any serious discussions but have had preliminary discussions with a few teams.
A number of wingers are expected to be shopped at the draft. Edmonton is actively shopping Ales Hemsky, while the St. Louis Blues have made it known that Brad Boyes is available and new Panthers GM Dale Tallon is listening to offers for Panthers winger Nathan Horton.
All three wingers have a cap hit of $4 million per season.
It has also been speculated that Buffalo is looking to move forwards Tim Connolly and Drew Stafford.
Tampa Bay’s direction under Steve Yzerman is not clear. Martin St. Louis has expressed a desire to play for a contender if the Lightning are going into rebuilding move and those close to Ryan Malone indicate that Malone has made the same kind of sentiments.
All teams in search of top-6 wingers will also be keeping a close eye on the Chicago Blackhawks. However, those hoping to pry Patrick Sharp out of Chicago shouldn’t count on it.
On the blueline, Tomas Kaberle is being aggressively dangled in trade talks but Pittsburgh is not involved.
Ottawa I’m told will try to trade the rights of defenseman Anton Volchenkov next week. Volchenkov is a player the Penguins will look into.
The Hurricanes may also look to trade the rights of Ray Whitney.
The Penguins though face a difficult task in trying to upgrade their roster through trades. The Penguins have few assets that they are willing to move.
Team sources indicate the Penguins are unlikely to move their 1st round pick but for the right player it will be considered.
The Penguins do not have a 2nd round pick after trading away their 2nd round pick to the Florida Panthers in-exchange for Jordan Leopold who played a 3rd pairing role for the Penguins during the stretch run.