evgeni-malkin1 SUNDAY’S TOP-5
(1) The Penguins top priority is getting Evgeni Malkin locked up to a new six to eight year extension in the next month, but preliminary talks the Penguins have had in recent months with Malkin’s agent J.P. Barry has the Penguins believing it’s not a slam dunk that Malkin agrees to a deal in the six to eight year range with Malkin possibly interested in a shorter term deal. The ball will be in his court when negotiations pick back up in the next 7-10 days.
(2) The Penguins have yet to conduct their pro scouting meetings, but the guess here is regarding Kris Letang that the Penguins first priority will be to open up negotiations and see whether a deal can get done before the Penguins open the trade gates for Letang. If Letang’s demands go over $7 million per season on a seven to eight year deal, I believe then the Penguins will strongly look into trading him, but until then, he remains a player they want to keep.
(3) Some in the organization were not thrilled at the time when Shero decided to go through with it and trade 2011 first round pick Joe Morrow for Brenden Morrow. It was a high price for Morrow, a fading player who was a 4th liner at the time with Dallas, and that’s where he ended up in Pittsburgh. Trading Joe Morrow, a young puck moving defenseman who scouts feel has potential to be a top-4 d-man, is a move that could really come back to backfire for the Penguins if Kris Letang’s demands become too high like some in the organization feel will happen.
(4) The Penguins off-season will be filled with storylines from Marc Andre Fleury who the Penguins are likely to explore trade options for, to contract discussions with Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang on whether the two sides can find a number that works for both. When including Beau Bennett and Simon Despres, the Penguins have close to $57 million committed to 17 players for next season and under $8 million in cap space.
If they can find a team willing to take on all of Fleury’s salary, which won’t be easy, that clears $5 million and an under the radar decision the Penguins have to make is on Jussi Jokinen.
Shero gambled taking on $2.1 million of Jokinen’s cap hit for next season and when healthy down the middle, the Penguins have no place for Jokinen in the top-9 and he’s worthless as a 4th line player. As the Bruins showed, you want your 4th line to consist of players like Gregory Campbell, Daniel Paille and Shawn Thornton, not a skilled player like Jussi Jokinen who is a finesse player that needs to play with skilled players.

Jokinen has the ability to play wing and the Penguins need to make a quick decision on whether they envision Jokinen playing a top-9 role next season. If they don’t, the Penguins need to look to clear his $2.1 million cap hit off the books. Jokinen will likely have trade suitors.
The opportunity could be there for the Penguins to shed $7 million off the cap in trading Fleury and Jokinen.
(5) The Penguins exit interviews are at noon today. Dan Bylsma will also be speaking today. Shero normally speaks but isn’t scheduled to today. Read what you want into that but it could mean that an organizational decision hasn’t been made on Bylsma. We’ll have some updates posted later in the afternoon.