[Johnson seen by management as potentially taking tough minutes away from Letang]
[How the Johnson signing ended the ability to sign Grabner]
[Neal camp approached Penguins about a return?]
[Dominik Simon part of coaching staff’s plans]
[Cullen expecting to play a lot of wing]

Latest Pens Buzz

— Jim Rutherford drove the bus in signing Johnson, sources say. This wasn’t some consensus organizational decision that Jack Johnson is the answer to the Penguins solidifying their top-4.

Rutherford see’s something the rest of the hockey world doesn’t as the Penguins negotiated against themselves for Johnson as he had a one year offer from the Anaheim Ducks and was in discussions on a two year deal with the Detroit Red Wings as a fallback plan if Mike Green signed elsewhere.

Montreal expressed interest at the draft but were quickly told the player would not consider playing in Montreal.

Pittsburgh not only see’s Johnson fitting into a second-pairing role, I’m told one prominent member of the organization (not the coaching staff) has looked at tape of Johnson and see’s signs of Johnson being able to play the right side in a potential top pairing role with Brian Dumoulin, to free up some defensive responsibilities for Kris Letang.

The signing will be fascinating on how it plays out in the short-term and the long-run.

Jim Rutherford may end up being the smartest man in the building or not………..

— The signing has executives around the league scratching their head in how Pittsburgh was willing to do this type of contract with Jack Johnson but they weren’t willing to make the Ian Cole relationship work last season.

Prior to the start of last season Rutherford told one of the local papers that he was thinking of signing Cole before the season. Pittsburgh ended up never making an offer before the season, sources say, and we obviously know where things went from there.

I checked in with the Ian Cole camp and they bluntly told me [hide] hypothetically if Pittsburgh approached them last fall with an offer similar to the Jack Johnson contract, there would have been little negotiation from their end.

“He loved Pittsburgh,” the source said of Cole who landed a three year deal with Colorado on July 1.

What the Penguins did and didn’t do last summer makes this Johnson signing even more interesting from throwing Cole to the side as the 2017-2018 progressed, to signing Matt Hunwick for three years but not willing to do a three year, $9 million contract with Trevor Daley last summer and so on.

Another sidebar to all of this, you have to wonder what Mike Sullivan really thinks of the signing.

Sullivan and John Tortorella are not only best friends, Sullivan thinks the world of Tortorella as a hockey evaluator.

— When you have Sidney Crosby/Evgeni Malkin with a Stanley Cup window of realistically 3-4 years left, every roster spot has value when it comes to the cap.

That’s why you don’t negotiate against your self like the Penguins did with the Johnson signing in going five years.

What’s been interesting in hearing from agents is what the Penguins also had cooking prior to the team agreeing to terms with Johnson on Wednesday, June 27.

Michael Grabner was very, very interested in signing with the Penguins, even met with the organization on Monday the 25th, but once the Penguins went ahead with Johnson, things got dead quiet from the Penguins end with Grabner’s agent Jerry Buckley.

The Grabner camp To read this insider news, subscribe to get “Inside Access”!

Meanwhile, If the Penguins wanted to go bold when they opened $5.25 million in cap space briefly with the Sheary, I’m told Pittsburgh had information during the interview period that To read this insider news, subscribe to get “Inside Access”!

Some other rumblings out there is that the coaching staff had a desire for the organization to pursue PTo read this insider news, subscribe to get “Inside Access”!

Dominik Simon has a lot more support on the Penguins coaching staff than even realized. He’s part of their plans next season and right now pegged as one of their 12 regulars.

Told assistant coach Mark Recchi see’s a ton of ability in Simon and Pittsburgh remains intrigued about Simon’s ability to play with Sidney Crosby.

One edge Simon, Zach Aston-Reese have over Daniel Sprong entering next season is the trust of the coaching staff.[/hide]

Matt Cullen has been told the preliminary plan is to start him next season on left wing with Riley Sheahan as the fourth line center. Of course it’s early July and things can change with the personnel but that’s where things stand in regards to how the roster is currently constructed.

— For the second straight summer, the Penguins DID NOT MAKE Chris Kunitz an offer. Any talk of the Penguins having interest in him was agent driven I’m told. There was not much consideration from the Penguins end.

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