With just a few days to go before the July 1st opening of the free agency market, the Penguins have so far failed to complete any of their post-season priorities. It was no secret that the Penguins wanted to lock up a long-term deal with Marian Hossa, re-sign Brooks Orpik, and tender a trade prior to the draft to acquire a first round pick. To help with the challenges, the Penguins filed for salary arbitration with Marc-Andre Fleury to buy some time on his contract talks to focus on getting the other deals done. So far, the Penguins have nothing to show for their efforts aside from some public rejections from the players involved.
Ray Shero and his team spent much of their pre-draft time and effort drawing up a long term deal for Marian Hossa. The offer tendered by the Penguins was rumored to be in the 7-year and $50M range. With Hossa’s post-playoff comments that he would be willing to accept less money to play for a great team, it was widely believed that this was a signal of his intent to stay in Pittsburgh. Last week, rumor had it that Hossa would sign a deal before last Saturday’s draft. However, on draft day Hossa rejected the offer and informed Shero that he was going to test the free agency market, noting that the Penguins were still at the top of the list. It seems an obvious negotiating tactic on behalf of Marian Hossa and his agent to let the free market pressure ensure that they get the best offer on the table before making a decision. Ray Shero noted however that the offer may no longer be on the table after July 1st. It seems a low risk proposition for a player that is sure to command matching or better offers outside of Pittsburgh.
During the Hossa negotiations, the Penguins were also shopping potential pre-draft trade deals to trade away the rights of pending free agents in return for a first or second round draft pick. The most notable was a rumored deal with Columbus to move Ryan Malone for a 2nd round pick. At the last minute, however, Ryan Malone stated his intent to test free agency and that he would not be talking to any teams prior to July 1st. This slammed the door shut on the Penguins hopes to get something in return for the blossoming power forward. It seemed a fitting gesture from the budding power forward and local hero after the Penguins’ management opted to not make Malone’s re-signing a priority for the team. As a result, the Penguins were not able to better their position for the draft.
The Penguins then put the focus on defenseman Brooks Orpik, with the intention of signing him before next week’s free agency deadline. The Penguins tendered an undisclosed multi-year offer rumored to be in the $3M per year range, Yestderday, Brooks Orpik and his agent turned down that offer. Orpik didn’t indicate that he intended to test out free agency, leaving open the possibility that a new offer and deal could be struck before Tuesday.
In other disheartening news, wiley veteran Gary Roberts has indicated through his agent that he is parting ways with the Penguins. “He very much enjoyed his time there,” his agent said. “But he understands that Ray has a number of items on his agenda that would take priority.” Roberts reportedly wants to continue his NHL career at least one more season.
In the only bit of good news from the last 2 weeeks, the NHL’s salary cap for next season was announced yesterday and it has grown by $6.4M over last season to $56.7M. League commissioner Gary Bettman had previously expected a $3 million increase. The higher cap gives team’s more bargaining ceiling should the team’s ownership be willing to foot the bill. The Trib reports that the Penguins ownership is believed to be willing to spend up to the cap, even though it would likely mean operating at a loss for the next 2 seasons until the Penguins move into their new arena. It will be interesting to see if this affects the on-going negotiations with Brooks Orpik and whether it creates an opportunity for revisiting the Hossa offer. It could also affect the post-July 1st negotiations expected between the Penguins and Evgeni Malkin.
On Tuesday, the free agency market will commence and the Penguins could find themselves having to re-wicker their priorities and objectives if they can’t land Marian Hossa and/or Brooks Orpik. I am sure this is not the scenario that Ray Shero wanted to be in at this point, but realistically it is probably the scenario that he expected to be in. You can’t blame a player for trying to maximize his earning potential. All we can do as fans of the game is hope for the best and hope that the majority of this special group of players remain intact for another run at the cup in the coming season.
Let’s Go Pens!