The Pittsburgh Penguins have talked for weeks about bolstering the bottom-6, but this is a free agent market where players values are escalating, there’s going to be many situations this summer where two years from now we’re saying that team got burned.
With a tight cap situation, Pittsburgh has to balance whether to overpay for an immediate need or not, but the team is checking on multiple players through the first 36 hours of the free agency interview process.
Among the Names to Surface:
The Penguins plan to meet with Benoit Pouliot’s agent Kent Hughes Friday, while there’s been early contact with reps for Coyotes forwards Radim Vrbata and David Moss, among others, Inside Pittsburgh Sports has learned.
Pouliot provides excellent size at 6-foot-3, and speed on the forecheck. Was a great fit in Allain Vigneault’s system, similar to the Penguins who like to push the pace. 15 Goals and 36 points in the regular season, added 5 goals in the playoffs. What the Penguins like about him is the size, speed, and possession numbers, tops among free agent forwards at 55.1%. He was a bargain for the Rangers at $1 million per season and is looking for a bump in pay and at least a three year deal. One concern with Pouliot was the amount of offensive zone penalties in the playoffs.
The Penguins also plan to meet with Radim Vrbata’s agent Rich Evans this week. Vrbata, 33, had 20 goals and 51 points in 80 games for the Coyotes. He made $3 million last season and his age is a concern. A bit inconsistent but has tremendous hands, vision and finesse and is an excellent skater. Has rarely played with top offensive talent. Jim Rutherford traded Vrbata when he was a young player and Rick Tocchet was a part of the Lightning coaching staff in 2008-2009 when Vrbata left the team and went back to Europe due to his wife having complications with here pregnancy. Those issues are a thing of the past and both members of the organization know Vrbata.
Moss is a versatile player with excellent size 6-4, 220, who can play all three forward positions. He had 8 goals and 22 points last season, and sixth best possession numbers among free agent forwards at 52.3%. Is a former 20 goal scorer but that was a while ago. Advance stats show he was unlucky last season. Moss, though, made $2.1 million last season. Price will need to come down.
- The Penguins have anticipated Jussi Jokinen being too pricey this summer but only three teams had reached out to Jokinen’s agent Todd Diamond yesterday. One of them was the Winnipeg Jets. Diamond expects to speak to more teams in the next two days but it will be interesting if teams are cautious about Jokinen, even in this market.
- There’s been no confirmation yet that Nikolai Kulemin is high on the Penguins list but word out of the Kulemin camp is they would be very intrigued by the Penguins. Kulemin is close friends with Evgeni Malkin and wants to be a top-6 forward. He feels he wasn’t used right in Toronto, according to a source. There could be a left wing opening on Malkin’s left wing.