The NHL Board of Governors meetings wrapped up this week and on Monday all 30 NHL General Managers were given different scenarios of what the salary cap projects to be in 2011-2012, based on the 5% inflator, value of the Canadian dollar, ect.
The salary cap is 59.4 million in 2010-2011 and one league contact told me league executives are projecting the cap to be in the $61.5 million range in 2011-2012, with a strong possibility that the cap will rise into the low $62 million range if the players accept the 5% inflator. Two agents told me this week it’s no guarantee that the 5% inflator will be accepted but the consensus is that it likely will, further enhancing the cap.
When the salary cap rises, so does the salary cap floor which is not a popular scene from owners of small market teams who were driving forces during the lockout in keeping the cap under $40 million.
There’s been a strong group of 7-to-8 owners for the past year who have been looking for momentum to get pressure on the NHL to reduce the structure of the cap in the next CBA, but it doesn’t appear at this point that there will be enough support on that standpoint.
On the Penguins front, with a general idea of what the cap will be 2011-2012, this is the time when the Penguins brass will begin formulating a plan to attack their large group of impending free agents.
The team doesn’t expect to begin negotiations or approach specific pending free agent targets about possible extensions until after the new year but two players have been targeted as priorities on the extension front before the end of the regular season.
Pittsburgh has just 5 forwards signed through this season with Sidney Crosby ($8.7 million), Evgeni Malkin ($8.7 million), Jordan Staal ($4 million), Chris Kunitz ($3.75 million), and Matt Cooke ($1.8 million).
On the blue line, Pittsburgh has Paul Martin ($5 million), Zbynek Michalek ($4 million), Brooks Orpik ($3.75 million), Kris Letang ($3.5 million), Alex Goligoski ($1.83 million) and Ben Lovejoy ($525,000) signed through this season.
At the goaltender position, Marc Andre Fleury ($5 million) and Brent Johnson ($600,000) are under contract beyond this season.
Pittsburgh has $51.155 million committed to 5 forwards, 6 defensemen and 2 goaltenders.
Coming up through the system, Dustin Jeffrey (RFA), and Eric Tangradi ($846,000), are among the two forwards who project to make a serious run at finding a role on the big club next season.
A role player like a Joe Vitale ($512,000) also figures to be in the discussion if he’s still around.
On the blueline, Simon Despres ($870,000), Robert Bortuzzo ($535,000), and Brian Strait are all projected to “possibily” be NHL ready next season, most notably Bortuzzo and Strait. Just remains to be seen if Pittsburgh clears roster room for any of them.
Impending unrestricted free agents for Pittsburgh include Pascal Dupuis (31 yrs old, $1.4 million), Maxime Talbot (27 yrs old, $1.05 million), Mike Rupp (30 yrs old, $825,000), Eric Godard (30 yrs old, $750,000), Arron Asham (32 yrs old, $700,000), Craig Adams (33 yrs old, $550,000), Mike Comrie (30 yrs old, $500,000), Chris Conner ($550,000), Deryk Engelland (28 yrs old, $500,000).
Tyler Kennedy (24 yrs old, $725,000) and Mark Letestu (25 yrs old, $500,000) are restricted free agents.
Plenty of tough decisions await Penguins management but here’s what is said to be the tentiative plan as of now.
Multiple sources tell Inside Pittsburgh Sports that the Penguins will reach out to Pascal Dupuis’ and Max Talbot’s camp and that the two have been tabbed as the priorties at this point, with Dupuis the “bigger” priority.
Dupuis, 31, is making $1.4 million this season and is regarded inside the organization as one of the Penguins most valuable players due to his ability to play anywhere in the lineup and his presence on the penalty kill.
His value was on display once again Wednesday night against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Of the two, Dupuis should be the easiest to get done this season before the trade deadline or sometime after it. He is also more of the priority.
Dupuis is a family guy who wants to stay here in the worst way, I’m told and he backed that notion up today when I spoke with him after the morning skate about wanting to be here beyond next year.
“It’s means a lot, I do want to be here, ” Dupuis told Inside Pittsburgh Sports when asked about the possibility of Pittsburgh approaching him about an extension at somepoint this season.
“Family is geat, loves it here, hockey is unbelievable and this is where I want to be next year, ” Dupuis said.
His agent Allan Walsh has a good working relationship with Pens GM Ray Shero. However, Walsh tends to be a tough negotiator in mid-season for players in the last year of their contract.
Walsh will almost certainly be seeking a three year deal for Dupuis, likely using Matt Cooke’s 3 year – $5.4 million deal as a bench mark.
A three year deal could be a possibility from the Penguins end but I’d look for a 2 year deal in the range of $1.75 million per season to get done by spring time.
Talbot, 27, is making $1.05 million this season. The Penguins absolutely love the leadership he brings to the table and that is something GM Ray Shero values highly after losing several veterans over the years in the likes of Ryan Malone and Rob Scuderi.
For Talbot, he’s in an interesting situation. He has a great situation in Pittsburgh and place he is embraced by the city but it’s also his first time to explore the free agent market. That will always weigh on a player.
Pittsburgh has to be careful when dealing with Talbot. Yes his leadership to the team is very valuable but let’s be honest, he’s a replaceable player on the ice.
I’ve heard talk Talbot’s market price is in the low $2 million range. That’s a price Pittsburgh should have no interest in going.
With Talbot, it’s likely going to be about term and I’m very intrigued to see how this plays out.
Another intriguing situation for Pittsburgh is defenseman Deryk Engelland. His unique toughness as a defenseman and his ability to be adequate in the defensive zone will lead to him getting his salary at least doubled on the open market.
Many believe he’s pricing himself out of Pittsburgh.
He’s already being labeled as a Marty McSorely when it comes to being a late bloomer.
How Pittsburgh attacks their defensive situation after this season will be a dynamic to watch. I fully expect them to try to move Ben Lovejoy whose contract becomes a one-way deal next year.
Alex Goligoski is not going anywhere this season but eventually Pittsburgh may have to pass that bridge with Despres, Bortuzzo and Strait in the system.
Engelland’s a player who is said to be fortunate of the opportunity Pittsburgh has given him and he would be a great guy to keep around as a 6th and 7th defenseman.
If I’m Pittsburgh, I approach him abut a 2 year deal, give him some job security in the range of $800,000, per season basically taking up Eric Godard’s cap space.
However, if I’m Deryk Engelland I have my sights set on exploring the free agent market.
Meanwhile, Mike Rupp and Craig Adams are two guys Pittsburgh will look closely at bringing back but at this point there’s no clear indication that the Penguins will approach either about an extension in season.
Adams is a guy you explore after the season and who will come back around the same salary. He’s not at the point in his career where he wants to bounce around the league searching for a job.
Rupp like Dupuis would absolutely love to stay in Pittsburgh. Hard to imagine Pittsburgh not being interested in bringing him back on a two year deal.
As for Arron Asham and Chris Conner, neither will be priorities during the season. They will be looked at after the season.
Now that Pittsburgh has a general idea that they will have at least $9-$10 million to play with, the team can begin to formulate a plan on how to attack their group of free agents but don’t expect any talks to start up until mid-January or so.
The Penguins normal approach has been not to negotiate after the trade deadline but the Penguins last season signed Kris Letang and Brent Johnson to deals in March.
Of all of the pending free agents, count on Dupuis dawning a Penguins sweater in 2011-2012.
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