Gameday/Recap/Post: Happy Canada Day! Happy Free Agent Signing Day! WB/S is Going to the Calder Cup Finals!

Well so far today has been pretty quiet for the Penguins. That’s mostly because Suter has pretty much announced that he won’t make his decision today, and it seems likely that Parise won’t be making any announcements either.

The first Penguins signing of the day was an AHL goalie by the name of Jeff Zatkoff. He was an AHL All-Star last year (like Thiessen the year before). Its not an exciting transaction to be sure but it seems like a safe bet and it should help to create a solid competition with Thiessen and hopefully in two years time (although Thiessen only resigned for one year) one or the other will have asserted themselves as ready to be the NHL backup. came Riley Holzapfel, another minor leaguer largely touted as a “checking” center, however his 16 goals and 21 assists in 57 games at the AHL level doesn’t sound too shabby. Originally chosen in the 2nd round of the 2006 draft, so he’s certainly not too old and has been well thought of. Could be a good fit and a good asset knowing that definitely Beau Bennett, and possibly Tom Kuhnhackl and Dominick Uher will be playing at the AHL level and would likely benefit from playing with a younger center with some offensive upside. Maybe I just like his last name but he almost sounds like he could be next in line in the Letestu-Jeffrey-Vitale lineage of serviceable centers to come out of Wilkes Barre.

Then things took a bit of a surprising twist when the Penguins announced that they had come to a new 2-year deal with Steve MacIntyre who I had previously written off as the most unlikely pending free agent that the Pens would resign. Although this may seem surprising I’m starting to figure it out and this might just be a great idea. We’ll start at the NHL level. Both of the New York teams have gotten more violent with the Islanders acquiring Matt Carkner and the Rangers acquiring both Michael Haley and recent ex-Pen Arron Asham (more on him below). In light of that, I think the Pens are wise to keep an enforcer close at hand. Further, a lot of people came to MacIntyre’s defense on Twitter today saying that he’s actually a great locker room presence at the AHL level. This makes sense. If you ever check up on his Twitter, @Smacker33 he seems like a totally solid dude and really involved in the things that matter to him. So there’s that.

The only true NHL signing of the day so far for the Pens has been Tanner Glass. In my alternatives post I targeted Jordin Tootoo as the bottom six forward the Penguins would be wise to sign. I completely forgot about Glass, if not for forgetting I probably would have put his name up there too. He was the first official free agent signing of the Jets last year (because he is a native of Manitoba) and before that had spent his career in Vancouver. Certainly his 5 goals and 11 assists are nothing to brag about, but his 246 hits were good for 10th in the league (far ahead of Tootoo I might add). Even better, Glass was a major penalty killer for the Jets last year which is something the Pens would not have gotten from Tootoo or Asham if he had resigned. Overall the deal is 2-years at $1.1 million per. In terms of that, Glass might be the bargain of the tough guy class. Asham got less per season, $1 million even, but if his career in Pittsburgh is a precursor he’s only going to be healthy for 60 games a year, Glass played in 78 last year and 73 the previous year so he looks to be a little more healthy or fit or something like that. The other two “tough guys” were the aforementioned Tootoo who signed with Detroit for $1.9 million per season and Brandon Prust who was the big winner with a $2.5 million annual contract from Montreal. I really like Glass and I think he brings a lot to the table without costing a whole lot of money. It will be interesting to see where he slots in at, probably 4th line but it seems expensive to pay a fourth liner over a million dollars per year, but that’s just me.

The next signing for the Penguins is Dylan Reese. Born and raised in Upper Saint Clair this was a neat pick for the Pens. He’s a defenseman and he fits into that mold like Robert Bortuzzo and Brian Strait, a guy who could slot in as an NHLer but has never fully stuck there (or in other words, what the Penguins have a lot of already). He signed a 2-year, 2-way deal with the Penguins so that suggests to me that he’ll be spending some time in Wilkes Barre. The interesting thing with both Reese and Glass is that they both played college hockey at Ivy League schools. Glass played at Dartmouth and Reese played at Harvard, they join the Penguins who already have Ben Lovejoy (another Dartmouth graduate) and Craig Adams (another Harvard graduate) and clearly make the Penguins at the very very least the smartest team in the NHL.

I believe the last signing of the day for the Penguins was another minor league forward by the name of Warren Peters, which sounds like a really unfortunate name. Apparently he played in the Minnesota Wild’s system and was a key part of their back to back Calder Cup runs over the past two seasons.

So in other words, it was a quiet day for the Pens, although I think they have done a great job replenishing the farm system with a combination of career minor leaguers and guys who have the possibility to break out. Hopefully tomorrow will bring lots and lots of good news because they unfortunate bit is that most of the alternatives I laid out yesterday have been claimed elsewhere.

I’m not complaining at all, according to literally everyone on TSN, NHL Network, the Canadian national media, and the local Pittsburgh media, the Penguins are very quietly confident about Zach Parise. If I had to take a guess, I think Parise has narrowed his choices down to either resigning with the Devils or signing with the Pens. My guess is that the Pens offer is slightly better but Parise is all of a sudden feeling the sentiment that Crosby has spoken of, the desire to play his whole career with one team. With Marty Brodeur possibly offering himself as a human sacrifice to get Parise to stay in Jersey it might be really pulling at his heartstrings. So long as either Parise or Suter is wearing a Penguins jersey on October 12, I won’t care about what has transpired so far, but if the Pens should fail to land either, this could be a long offseason and it could result in a lot more turnover in order to acquire the players we need via trades. Further, it’s been reported that Paul Martin has stepped up big time (along with Crosby) in the Welcome to Pittsburgh, Zach party planning. I think that means that Martin is officially going to be a Penguin for at least 3 more years.

As mentioned above, the only Penguins player from last year to sign a deal with a new team was Arron Asham who will be concluding his tour of the Atlantic Division with the New York Rangers. Dude has literally played for all 5 teams, I wish him the best and I hope he doesn’t try to kill someone in Pittsburgh now. I don’t know what to think about this, I mean Asham’s last act in a Penguins jersey is definitely going to stick with Penguins fans, for probably all of the wrong reasons, but he was a good guy and served a valuable role during his time here.

Here’s a quick rundown of the biggest signings and other news of today:
• You’ve probably heard that Jordan Staal signed a 10-year $60 million contract extension with the Hurricanes before actually playing one game with them. I got real pissed about this earlier, and I’m still upset, but I guess that is the power of family in the NHL today. When Staal turned down Shero’s offer I wasn’t surprised because I felt like it was weak money for a player of Staal’s caliber, but now seeing him actually agree to it in Carolina is sort of a betrayal, couldn’t they have offered him like an extra thousand dollars or something? It was further announced that Jordan has also already been given an “A” in Carolina, and that the Hurricanes either want to bid on Parise and or Suter or try to trade for Rick Nash.
Avalanche: simply put, they’ve dominated this first day, first they got Greg Zanon for 2 years at $2.25 million, he’s a physical defensemen who could have crept up on the Penguins radar if he wasn’t like the second free agent to sign today. After that they got John Mitchell from the Rangers, good depth center. The big signing was PA Parenteau who they got for 4 years and $4 million each. They’ve even thrown their hat into the Parise/Suter sweepstakes.
The biggest contract of the day so far has been Jason Garrison’s new deal with Vancouver, it’s a six year deal that will pay $4.6 million annually. Again, I liked Garrison, but this seems like a horrible deal for the Canucks. I don’t disagree with the dollar figure, however, that’s a lot of years to promise to a guy who had one break out season in a contract year.
The Dallas Stars gave $9 million over two years to Ray Whitney. Technically speaking, Whitney was the best free agent available in terms of point production (by a lot), but the dude is 40 years old. All money in contracts that players over 35 sign are absolutely guaranteed, just some food for thought.
• Filip Kuba signed with the Panthers for $4 million a season. Another good puck mover, will easily replace Garrison down there.
The Lightning decided to sign Sami Salo, who might be older than my dad, for $3.75 million a year. Really I have a lot of respect for Steve Yzerman, but the moves he makes when it comes to defense are absolutely mind-blowing.
• The player I most wanted to see the Penguins sign, Bryan Allen signed a $3.5 million a year deal with Anaheim. I can get over Parenteau, Garrison, and others, but this would have been the perfect move for the Pens, c’est la vie.
• Dustin Penner signed a new one-year deal with the Kings worth $3.25 million. Penner has to be the biggest head case in the NHL. He’s still in his 20’s but he’s been run out of two cities (Anaheim and Edmonton). For his career he’s a 20+-goal man, yet in 65 games during the regular season this year he put up a meager 7 goals and 10 assists. In the playoffs he put up 11 points in 20 games and now he’ll be making approximately what Kris Letang will be making this year. Wow.
• During their coverage TSN went off on a ridiculous xenophobic rant against Alexander Semin. His agent later made a statement about how disgusted he was by what the TSN guys said. That’s ridiculous, this has long been a problem with the way the Canadian media handles hockey, but in this day and age it’s just tired. There have been seven seasons in the post-lockout era. Over those seven seasons 3 Canadians have been named MVP (Thornton, Crosby, Perry), the Russians have won it 3 times (Ovechkin twice, Malkin), and a Swede (Henrik Sedin). A little math will tell you that the Europeans have won the Hart more than the Canadians recently and that should be all you need to know about the work ethic of “lazy European players.” According to some people on the Internet, Semin’s most likely destination is the very Euro-friendly Red Wings, however, they likely won’t make a serious offer until Parise is signed by somebody.

• The only two players left from my list from yesterday are Shane Doan and Matt Carle (and again, I don’t want Carle). Doan has announced that he won’t make a decision until July 9, one day after the latest potential owners of the Coyotes are supposed to assume control of the team. If Doan does not feel like his best interests still exist with the Coyotes he will seek to sign elsewhere. Apparently he has expressed interest in possibly joining the Penguins, and the Kings have made it known that they would attempt to sign Doan if possible. The Flyers made an offer to keep Carle but they must have told him not to agree to it until Ryan Suter makes his decision, I have no idea why he would keep to that promise, but these things happen. Until we know where Suter is going, we won’t know what Carle is doing, one final name to throw into that mix is Bryce Salvador. Just another of those historically solid Devils defensemen, however, he is 36. The argument for Salvador would be nearly identical to the one that I made for Bryan Allen, except that Salvador will literally be a 2-3 year stopgap because after that he’ll likely retire.
• I think Keith Yandle is looking better and better as a future Penguin, although if we sign Parise, and therefore can’t trade Martin, I don’t know exactly how to get him here.


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