The Pittsburgh Penguins remain committed to locking up 32 year old defenseman Christian Ehrhoff to a long-term extension as the two sides intend to engage in substantive contract talks next month. Ehrhoff earned $22 million in the first three years of his front-loaded contract with the Sabres and was bought out by the Sabres in June after three seasons, where he will still receive a total of $11.15 million over the next 13 years from Buffalo, not including the $857,000 he is receiving from Buffalo this season.
After being bought out by the Sabres, Ehrhoff quickly signed with the Penguins on July 1, agreeing to a one year, $4 million contract, which surprised many around the league as Ehrhoff had multi-year offers from Detroit and Anaheim.
Penguins GM Jim Rutherford had a mandate from ownership not to give out any long-term contracts over the summer and the quick agreement the Penguins and Ehrhoff’s agent Rick Curran came to was the Penguins matching what Ehrhoff’s salary was going to be in Buffalo ($4 million) for 2014-2015 with a so-called handshake agreement in place for the two sides to work out a long-term extension in January, if there’s a mutual desire to do so, which there still is.
With Ehrhoff’s desire to end his career with a Cup contender after a miserable couple years in Buffalo, the Penguins feel there is a deal to be made that is fair for both sides.
However, Ehrhoff is no spring chicken, will be 33 in June, and with a deep group of young defensemen ready for full-time NHL action, it remains to be seen if the best course of action is committing a long-term deal to Ehrhoff at $4.5 million + per.
In addition to Ehrhoff, the Penguins also plan to discuss an extension for winger Steve Downie after the new year, an NHL source confirms, though, it remains to be seen if any traction will happen. Downie is also represented by Curran but could be a tougher sign than Ehrhoff at this point.
Downie after making $2.75 million in 2013-2014, was a forced to take a paycut, agreeing to a $1.75 million paycut, signing with the Penguins for $1 million. After a push from Rick Tocchet for Downie to sign with the Penguins, what Curran recommended to Downie this past summer was go to Pittsburgh to increase his value for next summer.
Any deal for Downie is likely to cost the Penguins around $3 million per season as he wants to get back to making what he use to make.
Despite Gary Bettman projecting the salary cap at $73 million next season, Penguin officials are operating with a cautious mindset that the cap will be around $71 million in 2015-2016.
The Penguins have just 11 skaters committed to next season on 1-way contracts but are in relatively okay shape because of several candidates on entry level deals to fill roster spots at forward and defense.
At the forward position, Kasperi Kapanen ($925,000), Bryan Rust ($652,500), Oskar Sundqvist ($700,833), Scott Wilson ($655,000) are among the top candidates on entry level deals to fill full-time roles next season, in addition to Josh Archibald ($660,000) and possibly J.S. Dea ($585,000), while the Penguins know they have to find spots for Derrick Pouliot (863,333) and Scott Harrington ($589,167) on the backend.
1-way contracts for 2014-2015
Evgeni Malkin – $9.5 million
Sidney Crosby – $8.7 million
Patric Hornqvist – $4.25 million
Chris Kunitz – $3.85 million
Pascal Dupuis – $3.75 million
Brandon Sutter – $3.3 million
Nick Spaling – $2.2 million
UFA: Blake Comeau, Steve Downie, Marcel Goc, Rob Klinkhammer, Craig Adams, Zach Sill
RFA: Beau Bennett, Jayson Megna, Bobby Farnham
Kris Letang – $7.25 million
Rob Scuderi – $3.35 million
Simon Despres – $900,000
Olli Maatta – $894,167
UFA: Paul Martin, Christian Ehrhoff
RFA: Robert Bortuzzo, Brian Dumoulin
Marc Andre Fleury – $5.75 million
Jeff Zatkoff – $600,000
UFA: Thomas Greiss