With not even two weeks since the start of Free Agency, the Penguins have already had quite an offseason. What more can be said in the wake of the team trading for star winger Phil Kessel that hasn ?t already been said countless times. For most, it seems the Penguins aren ?t finished yet and with plenty of free agents out there and some remaining cap space, the Penguins may have their eye on a few free agents.
Current Roster and Needs
After signing defenseman Brian Dumoulin to a two-year contract at $800k per year, the Penguins have approximately $4.6 million of salary cap space with a total of 9 forwards, 8 defensemen, and 1 goalie signed to the NHL club. Assuming Jeff Zatkoff is likely to take over as the backup, that will leave the Pens with approximately $4 million to sign/call-up three forwards to fill in the 4th line.
The biggest question that will be facing the forward group moving into the season will be what style the 4th line will play and who will be on it. The Penguins have several internal options, including Beau Bennett (yet to be resigned, but has been qualified as an RFA), youngsters Conor Sheary, Oskar Sundqvist, Scott Wilson, and Bobby Farnham among others who will have the development camp and the eventual training camp to impress the front office.
With the signing of Beau Bennett likely on the horizon prior to the beginning of the season, the Penguins would have two open spots left to compete for on the 4th line. Assuming the range for Bennett ?s cap hit comes in between $1 million and $1.5 million per year and one of the younger players makes the fourth line, the Penguins will have approximately $2 million left over to sign another forward if no other moves are made.
Who ?s Available that Meets the Penguins ? Needs?
The free agency market in the NHL is still busting with unsigned players with plenty of potential looking to find a home for the next season. While the market may still be packed with risks and rewards, the Penguins have a very specific idea of what they are looking for in a player and at what cost. Here are some potential options for the Penguins either as free agents or on professional tryout contracts during camp:
Player (Position, Age, 2014-2015 Team, Cap Hit):
Alex Semin (RW, 30, CAR, $7m): Not much is unknown about the talented-winger formerly of Washington and Carolina, other than what figure he is looking for in a contract and is his ?heart ? in it? If the rumors that put Semin at a one-year contract at around $2 million are true, he could be the highest reward out of any of the remaining free agents.
Eric Fehr (C, 29, WAS, $1.5m): Another sought after player that is known for his energy and ability to score against the Penguins. Fehr bounced around the Capitals line-up all of last year, playing anywhere from the top-line to the fourth-line center. Fehr could slot in as a top-line winger in a pinch for a short stay, or could move-up ahead of Sutter on the third line.
Jiri Tlusty (C/W, 26, CAR/WPG, $2.95m): After a disappointing campaign last season following-up an impressive season the year before, Tlusty could look to regain some ground by revisiting the good times with his former GM in Carolina, Jim Rutherford. Tlusty could be this year ?s Blake Comeau, signing a cheap (not quite Comeau cheap, but definitely a bargain) contract with the Penguins and finding his game.
Sean Bergenheim (LW, 30, MIN, $2.75m): An inconsistent scorer, but all-around solid winger. Could come in cheaper than many of the others available, but would fit well with what the front office is looking for on the 3rd and 4th lines.
Curtis Glencross (LW, 32, CGY/WAS, $2.55m): Glencross didn ?t quite fit in with the Capitals team as well as hoped, but that doesn ?t mean teams won ?t be interested. Glencross is a player that isn ?t quite talented enough to score consistently, but is a physical player that goes to the corners and makes space. The biggest hesitation for the Penguins is whether or not they still have that player in Chris Kunitz, which would make Glencross a bit redundant.
Tyler Kennedy (C/W, 28, SJS/NYI, $2.35m): The Penguins’ front office has made it clear they are looking for speedsters that put the puck on the net. Not many free agents fit that description better than Tyler Kennedy, who has expressed an interest in returning to the Penguins. One major problem for Kennedy returning to the Penguins is that the Penguins have made it clear that they are looking for four lines that can score, which makes it likely that Kennedy won ?t be returning.
Derek Roy (C, 31, EDM, $1m): Likely due for a pay increase after finding his game with the Oilers in the latter part of last season, many were surprised when Edmonton chose to pass on bringing him back. Roy, like Fehr, could push Sutter to the 4th or provide a hard-working, physical element to the 4th line that can still put up points, despite his size.
Brad Boyes (RW, 32, FLA, $2.625m): Boyes is the type of scorer that could provide a fallback option for the Penguins. Inconsistent at best, Boyes is a playmaker that can get the puck to the net, but is increasingly soft. Boyes may not fit the mold of what the Penguins would prefer, but could possibly be the best bargain on the market.
Other options: Martin Erat, Scottie Upshall, Mike Santorelli, Lee Stempniak, and Scott Gomez
The Penguins have plenty of time and the patience to find the right pieces as the season is still months away. In that time, the Penguins will have the opportunity to find a player that is looking for a chance that can pay the highest reward, regardless of risk.