Jim Rutherford and the Pittsburgh Penguins left the draft Saturday without accomplishing their primary goal of acquiring an impact top-6 winger. Rutherford’s No. 1 priority continues to be to finalize a deal for Phil Kessel but it’s a deal that may take a while or it might not happen at all as neither side is ready to give in at this point.
On the flip side, all of the Penguins so called “Plan B” Targets internally were also not traded, Patrick Sharp, Jiri Hudler, Jeff Skinner among them, but Kessel is the big fish Rutherford really wants, multiple sources continue to indicate.
Some parameters were established in the Leafs taking on a few roster players, Chris Kunitz was one player the two sides agreed on, to help ease the Penguins cap situation for the short-term, but Toronto isn’t coming off their ask of Olli Maatta, and Matthew Murray’s name is also surfacing as a player the Leafs are targeting in talks.
Toronto wants two big time young assets in return, Maatta the No. 1 target. A first round pick and Derrick Pouliot as the two main components of the deal, which the Penguins are believed to have offered, is not going to get it done.
ON PENGUINS/FREE AGENCY
With free agency on Wednesday at 12:00 p.m. and still lots of uncertainty on how this roster is going shake out between now and September, what will be fascinating to watch is whether the Penguins can help themselves and avoid the win-at-all cost mentality and not spend on short-term fixes.
Despite publicly saying many times this off-season they won’t be players in free agency, the Penguins are mulling runs on July 1 at many older players in what would be just more of the same on how the Penguins operate nearly every summer.
Suddenly there’s an interest in trying to work something out with Paul Martin who is 34 years old, while the Penguins had significant talks this week with the representatives for
Justin Williams and as previously reported Joel Ward. Both are quality players who would help the Penguins, but Ward turns 35 in December and Williams turns 34 in October.
According to NHL sources, Williams is seeking at least a five year deal worth around $5 million per season.
Ward is reportedly eyeing a four year deal, but wants to stay in the Eastern Conference and play for a contender, has strong interest in Pittsburgh.
With interest in both, the Penguins are expected to kick the tires on signing one of them on July 1.
Meanwhile, Penguins officials have once again identified leadership as a problem, which is up for debate whether there’s an actual leadership void or is it just something that’s easy to talk yourself into believing when a hockey team has underachieved for several seasons.
Word is the Penguins want to add someone who can be a calming presence in the room. It has the Sergei Gonchar talk not going away, despite the fact that the 41 year old can no longer play at an adequate level and has 3 goals in his last 125 regular season games.
It also had the Penguins checking in on 40 year old Marty St. Louis who looked to have aged 20 years during the Rangers post-season run. Pittsburgh met this week with St. Louis agent Lewis Gross to see what St. Louis plans were moving forward.
Jim Rutherford being patient and not getting desperate, overpaying for a top-6 winger on draft weekend was smart, but it’s also put a short term win-at-all cost GM in dangerous waters where it won’t be a surprise if Rutherford dips his toes into the free agent pool.
Rutherford’s best work as Penguins GM was last summer signing players from a value standpoint. Steve Downie $1 million, Blake Comeau $700,000, Christian Ehrhoff $4 million, all one year deals. You won’t be getting Joel Ward or Justin Williams signed to deals that scream value, that’s for sure.