Team still mulling third line center options
Twenty one days into free agency, the Pittsburgh Penguins are taking a patient approach on the free agent market like the rest of the league, since the first wave of signings happened on July 1.
The Penguins have $3.492 million in cap space but that is only counting the 18 players they have under contract on one-way deals. Not enough players to fill out their opening night roster.
The Penguins bolstered their blueline with the signings of Zbynek Michalek and Paul Martin on July 1. The team believes their top-5 (Orpik, Martin, Letang, Michalek, Goligoski) rivals anyone in the league.
Question marks through remain upfront, especially their winger situation for their top-2 lines.
The team has lost Ruslan Fedotenko, Alexei Ponikarovsky and possibly Bill Guerin. All three players had a role as a top-6 forward at some point during the 2009-2010 season.
A primary need is to address their winger situation but the most likely scenario is that the Penguins will fill those roles with in-house options or the return of Billy Guerin.
It has been a unique year with a number of impact wingers left on the market.
The opportunity exist where an impact winger could be signed for a salary under $1.5 million per season but the Penguins have chosen not to be aggressive as the team has yet to find the right fit scheme wise and financially.
More “no’s” from agents representing some of the top wingers on the market regarding potential interest from Pittsburgh continued today.
The latest is winger Raffi Torres, a player the Penguins had interest in at the deadline and have been “kicking the tires” on the past two weeks.
However, the team’s interest appears to be lukewarm at best. Steve Reich the agent for Torres confirmed to Inside Pittsburgh Sports this afternoon that the Penguins have not made an offer to the 28 year old winger.
Torres projects to take a significant paycut from his 2009-2010 salary of $2.75 million and is patiently looking for the right fit. Torres’ camp has yet to receive a firm offer from interested teams.
Other no’s this week came from Maxime Afinogenov’s and Alexei Ponikarovsky’s camp. A source close to Afinogenov told Inside Pittsburgh Sports on Tuesday of this week, that there hasn’t been any kind of legitimate interest from Pittsburgh of late.
Meanwhile, Ponikarovsky has no plans in discussing a contract with Pittsburgh.
Other top wingers on the market include Coyotes winger Lee Stempniak who scored 28 goals last season. To this point there has been no discussions between the Penguins and Bob Murray, the agent for Stempniak, mostly due to Stempniak’s demands. Stempniak and the talented Alexander Frolov are not on the Penguins radar.
Two wildcards still on the market is veteran winger Paul Kariya and Marek Svatos. Kariya, 35, has yet to decide if he wants to return for a 16th NHL season.
Kariya is expected to wait until August to make a decision as his agent Don Baizley has been receiving inquiries. It’s possible Pittsburgh could become an option but anyone reporting that the Penguins are in talks with Kariya is off-base. Anaheim, Vancouver and the New York Rangers are at the top of Kariya’s wishlist.
Rich Evans, the agent for Marek Svatos has contacted a number of teams including the Pittsburgh Penguins about his client being a potential fit. There has been no follow up from Pittsburgh and it’s believed the only way Svatos would become a fit in Pittsburgh is on a training camp invite or a two-way contract.
Svatos, 28, a right handed shot, is a former 30 goal scorer.
The Penguins are comfortable with their roster upfront but the possibility of adding a third line center has not been ruled out. The team remains in contact with Kurt Overhardt, the agent for Brendan Morrison.
Morrison remains an option as does Billy Guerin.