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Penguins sign veteran winger Asham

Another gritty, versatile, role-playing forward is part of the Penguins future, and they might not be finished with a veteran scoring winger from their Stanley Cup past.

General manager Ray Shero signed a deal Friday afternoon with winger Aaron Asham, landing a 10-year veteran with an underrated shot and knack for hard-nosed play to a one-season deal worth $700,000.

Asham, 32, will be among 12 NHL regular forwards at training camp in mid-September -- a camp that Shero is pleased will prove competitive, given the expected pushes for spots by prospects such as winger Eric Tangradi and forward Dustin Jeffrey.

The chances of either Tangradi or Jeffrey starting the season in the NHL would take a hit if the Penguins bring back right wing Bill Guerin.

"I told our coaches we'll make a decision on Billy next week," Shero said. "I've spoken with his agent the past couple of days."

Asham and Guerin were two of the many proven NHL veterans yet to sign with a team before yesterday, as the league's clubs seem to be divided among those dealing with no or limited salary-cap space and those with ownership imposed budgets.

The Penguins project about $1.7 in available cap space with 12 forwards, seven defensemen and two goalies on the roster. Guerin, who scored 21 goals last season, would need to accept a pay cut from his $2 million salary last season to return.

Asham, who can play either wing, notched 10 goals to go with 24 points and 126 penalty minutes in 72 regular-season games last season. He enjoyed a strong postseason run (four goals, seven points) for the Eastern Conference champion Philadelphia Flyers.

"He plays a style we like to play," Shero said.

That style is a blend of physicality and skill -- the latter recognized by the Penguins similar to forward Mike Rupp, who more than doubled his single-season high with 13 markers after signing last offseason.

"Definitely, it's something I thought about, the way Pittsburgh lets guys play," Asham said. "I showed last year, especially in the playoffs, that I can play the game. I'm not a guy who goes out there, runs around and fights. Given a chance, I can help a team offensively."

Penguins coach Dan Bylsma is an ideal candidate to give Asham that chance. Bylsma was an assistant coach with the New York Islanders when Asham played there five years ago.

A right-handed shot, Asham is one of Shero's favorite types: "A guy who can play up and down the lineup."

"I asked our guys this week, 'Can you believe he's still available?' " Shero said. "Would you believe he was available (10 days into free agency)• For whatever reason, there are really good players still on the market, and Aaron is a guy we had on our list for a while."

That list, for a few more days at least, still includes Guerin.

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