The Pittsburgh Penguins have a lot of work to do in the off-season to attempt to keep their core team together with the constraints of the salary cap as 12-players head to unrestricted free agency in a little over two weeks on July 1st. This week, Ray Shero started to set the table by prioritizing the difficult task ahead of him.
Shero made the first move on Friday by filing for salary arbitration for Marc-Andre Fleury with the National Hockey League. The league-managed arbitration hearings take place July 20 to August 4. This allows the Penguins to retain his rights past July 1st, when he would have become a restricted free agent, and grants them time continue to negotiate his contract. Shero noted that filing for salary arbitration gives the Penguins the extra time to continue to negotiate a contract with Fleury. “As a result of the filing, Penguins’ fans are assured that Marc-Andre will be under contract to our club for next season,” stated Shero. “We remain committed to negotiating a contract with him in the near future.”
According to Rob Rossi of the Pittsburgh Tribune Review, various players, agents and team officials have indicated off the record that a long-term contract for Marian Hossa is the #1 priority being pursued by Penguins’ management. Hossa’s value on the open market is expected to be above $8M per year, but he indicated at the end of the season that he was open to taking less salary for the opportunity to play on a good team. The Penguins are reportedly looking at a long term deal worth less than the $8M+ that Hossa might be offered outside of Pittsburgh. Rossi reports that the offer from Pittsburgh is likely to be worth nearly $50 million over seven years, which would be slightly more than his current $7M per year salary and less than he would likely command on the open market. The Penguins will need a quick decision on Hossa, as the outcome will likely affect their ability to close on other unrestricted free agents, to include Ryan Malone and Brooks Orpik. If the Penguins can ink a deal with Hossa, it is likely that they will only be able to retain one of the two. Both Orpik and Malone have increased their market value over the last season, and it would appear that there won’t be enough room payroll for all three players (Hossa, Orpik and Malone) without serious concessions by the players.
Evgeni Malkin made several encouraging comments for Penguins fans on Thursday night as he stated that he expects to sign a 5 or 6 year deal soon. The Penguins cannot sign a deal with Malkin until after July 1st due to league collective bargaining rules. Malkin stated that he would accept an annual salary less than the $8.7 million that Crosby will get over the next 5 seasons. Malkin, a league MVP finalist, was named to the NHL All-Star First Team after a pehenomenal season in Pittsburgh this year. “I’m an easy guy to deal with. I’d love to stay in Pittsburgh.” It is encouraging to note that the players want to stay in Pittsburgh, and it is a testament to the potential of the team, the management, and the chemistry that exists amongst this unique group of talented hockey players.