Free-agent Penguins make pitch to stay

| Monday, May 2, 2011

Forward Max Talbot was the last player to depart the ice at Consol Energy Center following the Game 7 loss to Tampa Bay last week. He looked like a guy begrudgingly saying goodbye to Pittsburgh.

Seemingly all of the Penguins' free agents want to remain here, but the economic reality is that many won't be back.

Talbot, whose popularity and clutch performances have always dwarfed his statistics, might be forced to sign elsewhere but is pining for an offer from the Penguins. He hopes general manager Ray Shero and coach Dan Bylsma decide to keep him around.

"Ray's going to talk with Dan, and we'll see if I'm still in the plan," Talbot said. "It starts with them and everyone knows my position, so it's all going to be about talking."

The Penguins have never approached Talbot about a new contract.

"There's so many positions and only so much salary in the salary cap to go around," said Shero, who said he will begin to make plans for free agency in the coming days.

Talbot isn't the only unrestricted free agent who badly wants to remain with the Penguins.

Winger Pascal Dupuis, like Talbot, helped the Penguins claim the 2009 Stanley Cup and would prefer to continue his career here. A versatile forward capable of playing on any line, Dupuis might receive a raise from his current salary of $1.4 million per season come July 1, when any NHL team can make an offer. With about $55.4 million of payroll already invested in next year's roster, Shero simply might be unable to retain Dupuis, a terrific penalty killer who scored 17 goals this season.

"I want to be a part of this team for the long run," Dupuis said. "My agent's going to talk to Ray."

Mike Rupp and Craig Adams, standouts on a terrific fourth line, are more likely to return. They both played at reasonable salaries last season -- Rupp earned $825,000 while Adams received $550,000 -- and are both eager to return.

Rupp, who could return in an enforcer/fourth line role with the likely departure of right wing Eric Godard, has become a fixture in the community and will move his family here this summer regardless of where he signs.

"I love it here," Rupp said. "It's just a special place. My family likes it. I want to play here next year, no doubt about it."

A decade ago, Pittsburgh had become an unattractive destination for NHL players. Now, no one wants to leave. A boatload of young superstars, a spectacular arena, a youthful and growing fan base, and an ownership group that is respected and willing to spend to the salary cap's ceiling have turned the Penguins into the team no one wants to leave.

Shero's job this summer won't be easy.

"It would be huge (if we could all stay)," Talbot said. "We have a great group of guys here. Everyone is a friend and family."

Additional Information:

Decisions, decisions

Penguins general manager Ray Shero will be forced to make difficult choices this summer because so many of his team's forwards are free agents:

Unrestricted: Alex Kovalev, Pascal Dupuis, Max Talbot, Mike Rupp, Eric Godard, Arron Asham, Craig Adams, Chris Conner, Mike Comrie, Nick Johnson.

Restricted: Tyler Kennedy, Dustin Jeffrey.

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