PENS FALLBACK OPTIONS
At the top of the Penguins wislist this summer is to add a No. 1 defenseman to be paired with Kris Letang and a long-term scoring winger for Sidney Crosby. The task of accomplishing both of those feats will be extremely difficult let alone just one of them.
At the winger position, there is only one player in free agency in Zach Parise who fits the mold that the Penguins are prepared to make a splash for. In the trade market it’s slim pickings, although Devin Setoguchi is an availableÂ player the Penguins really like and some executives believe the Penguins have the assets to get into the game for Bobby Ryan if they were to decide to go that route.
After Zach Parise in free agency, Pittsburgh is unlikely to find a long-term winger for Crosby but there are some intriguing short-term options that management is believed to be discussing this week in their organizational meetings.
1. Steve Sullivan
– Age 37
Free Agency Buzz: – GM Ray Shero still has interest in resigning Sullivan but has yet to move forward on a deal with Sullivan as Pittsburgh wants to keep their options open on the trade and free agency route. If Sullivan, as expected, gets to July 1, it doesn’t mean his tenure in Pittsburgh is over. Pittsburgh intends toÂ keep dialogue open as both sides explore options. Sullivan last season made $1.5 million on a one year contract. He had 17 goals and 31 assists in 79 regular season games and added 2 goals and 6 points in the post-season. Sullivan was a factor on the power play with 21 power play points as the Penguins ranked 5th in the NHL, and showed good chemistry with Sidney Crosby due to his vision and playmaking ability. Sullivan though turns 38 in July and was inconsistent at even strength, ranking 8th on the Penguins with 27 even strength points.
2. DET Jiri Hudler
– Age 28
Free Agency Buzz: Here’s a sleeper to watch for the Penguins on July 1. Sources tell me the Penguins pro scouting staff is said to be intrigued about Hudler and have brought him up in organizational meetings. The 28 year old forward had 25 goals and 50 points last season, including a +10 rating. At 5-10, 190 lbs, he’s a competitive little guy who has played in a lot of big situations. Offensively Hudler has the speed to fit well in Dan Bylsma’s system to go with great hands and a dangerous shot. Hudler is also one of those players who the puck follows and has meshed well with superstars, playing on aÂ line last season with Henrik Zetterberg and Valtteri Filppula. âHe will go to tough areas, ” an NHL source said of Hudler. Hudler made $3 million last season and while him playing in the KHL in 2009-2010 could concern teams, if the price is right, Pittsburgh could enter the mix for him I’m told. At the end of the day though, Hudler’s demands are likely to be too rich for the Penguins taste and he is also repped by agent Petr Svoboda who the Penguins didn’t have great dealings with last summer during negotiations with Jaromir Jagr.
3. PHX Shane Doan
– Age 35
Free Agency Buzz: With the Coyotes ownership situation still up in the air, Doan intends to test the waters in free agency and contenders will be lining up for his services. Since missing out on Mike Knuble in free agencyÂ in July 2009, the Penguins have sought this type of player to add to their mix.
Doan, 35, had 22 goals and 50 points last season in 79 games and is still a 45-55 point player. Despite turning 36 in October, Doan will be so attractive because even if his offensive skills start to erode some, he can still impact a game and easily be a factor in a third line role and other areas. Doan had 205 hits last season, ranking 15th among all fowards in hockey. He’s known as a leader in the room and would be a presence in the slot, front of the net on the power play for teams also looking for a boost in that area. Doan last season made $4.55 million and will be in line for a two, three year deal.
4. PHX Ray Whitney
– Age 40
Free Agency Buzz: The Penguins have had interest in Whitney for years and they are among a shortlist of teams he’s interested in, a league source says.Â Whitney had a tremendous year in 2011-2012, scoring 24 goals and 77 points, leading the Coyotes in scoring and addingÂ a +26 rating. He tailed off a bit down the stretch, scoring just 2 goals in 16 playoff games, which at his age will concern teams. One reason he’s so attractive to the Penguins is his ability at even strength, where he ranked 6th in the NHL with 57 even strength points. Whitney though is 40 years old and seeking a deal in excess of $3 million per season. At the end of the day, the Penguins might feel going with the cheaper option in Steve Sullivan is the best available option.
5. NYI PA Parenteau
– Age 29
Free Agency Buzz: The New York Islanders letting a 67 point player who plays well with John Tavares bolt via free agency would appear to be a headscratcher on the surfaceÂ but it doesn’t appear to be a surprise to some around the league. The view on Parenteau is that Matt Molson, John Tavares carried him than the other way around. “Anybody will get points with those two,Â ” an NHL source said.Â Parenteau though is an excellent playmaker and his ability to play with a star player will entice teams, despite his shortfalls in the skating department and other areas. His agent Allan Walsh is seeking a four year, $16 million deal and due to Walsh being his agent, many will likely make the connection of him being a fit in Pittsburgh as Walsh, Shero have a very good working relationship. Right now I don’t have a good read on Parenteau but if the demands come down, it’s possible Pittsburgh looks into him as they had interest in him at the deadline in 2011. Parenteau made $1.25 million last season.