A Look at the Pending Free Agents

Josh Yohe from the Trib had some tweets recently about his understanding of the contract situation for the Penguins’ pending free agents. The good news is that in terms of the Pittsburgh Penguins roster, there are 5 old men and one RFA. The bad news is that with the exception of Simon Despres and the younger guys who haven’t played in the AHL yet (Morrow, Harrington, Beau Bennett), almost all of the farm system is at the end of their rookie contracts. Brian Strait, Robert Bortuzzo, Carl Sneep, Eric Tangradi, even Brad Thiessen and Cal O’Reilly. Luckily that isn’t a real big deal though, I’m sure the Penguins will tender all of them pretty highly, and if no one was willing to make the tender offer on Steven Stamkos last year, I’m not too worried about a team trying to steal some of our young defensemen.

But so back to the actual pending free agents. As it stands the list of UFAs is Steve MacIntyre, Arron Asham, Richard Park, Steve Sullivan, and Brent Johnson. Given that the Penguins have already bought a new backup goalie we know that Johnny is gone. No word was given on MacIntyre but if he comes back that will be news of the century. Yohe reports that Asham has said he wants to return and that Steve Sullivan is not going to retire. Park was considered the likely odd man out. I don’t know about this, I understand that you need someone who is as tough as Asham even if most teams are turning away from full on fighters, but if you really have to choose between Park and Asham, I’ll take the Korean who can literally play with anyone on the ice rather than the bad guy from Kindergarten Cop who cross-checked a man in his throat in the last game he played. There’s no doubt that Sully experienced a rejuvenation in Pittsburgh, and you hope that so long as he can remain healthy and productive, the Penguins will continue to be able to work out one year contracts with him, just like the Pens did with Billy G a few years ago. One thing that could work in Sully’s favor (that didn’t help Billy G) is that he doesn’t play in front of the net getting beat up every game. One thing that could work against the Penguins while negotiating with Sullivan is that they aren’t as ascendant as they were when Billy G came to town. Then it was a total no-brainer for him to stick with the team even if he made less money. What is to stop Sully from seeking a similar contract with another team given the Penguins recent playoff woes?

The only RFA on the Penguins NHL roster this year is Matt Niskanen. As I’ve radically changed my opinion about Nisky throughout the course of the season it will come to you as no surprise that I believe that it is absolutely imperative for the Penguins to resign Niskanen with the expressed interest of expanding his role on the team. Ultimately his numbers weren’t at his career best from the 2008-09 season he had with Dallas (6G, 29A), but perhaps more importantly, rather than finishing -11 like he did in that season, he was a +9 this year mostly playing on the Pens’ third pairing. For what its worth, Niskanen was even a plus player in the playoffs for the Penguins this year (+2) although he also missed two games. Niskanen was a first round pick in the same year that Sid went first overall, so clearly there were people who believed in him then, and from what I’ve seen of him this past year, he might be the right fit for our system. It won’t be cheap to sign Nisky, expect a raise to about $2.5 to $3 million per season, but I think it would be money well spent.

Letang and Niskanen, they could play together…

Dave Molinari shed some light on the Free Agent situation for the Pens today, most of which corroborates what Yohe had to say:

Penguins have, or are expected to, extend qualifying offers to Niskanen, Tangradi, Veilleux, Strait, Bortuzzo, Grant and Sneep.

So in other words, these guys have either already been “resigned” or will be. I totally forgot about Alex Grant, another solid d-man who was hurt for most (if not all) last year. Man the Pens are deep at defense.

Shero says Sullivan and Asham “have been good players for us” and that he plans to discuss their futures with their agents next week.

I have a feeling that we’ll know a lot better about all of these guys come July 1. I really can’t wait.

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