Unrestricted free agent Asham would like to stay with Penguins

| Monday, June 11, 2012, 10:46 p.m.

Right wing Arron Asham hasn't heard from general manager Ray Shero since the Penguins' season concluded in April.

But he's still hoping for that call.

Asham is set to become an unrestricted free agent July 1 but would love to remain with the Penguins. He has played here in each of the past two seasons on one-year contracts.

“No word yet,” Asham said. “But I'm hoping that I hear something from the Penguins by the NHL Draft (on June 22 at Consol Energy Center). That's when I should know if I'm back or if I'm looking for another place to play.”

Like Asham, left wing Steve Sullivan is set to become unrestricted free agent, while defenseman Matt Niskanen will become a restricted free agent if no deal is reached by July 1. Shero said last week that he hasn't made final decisions regarding who the Penguins will attempt to retain.

It remains unknown if the Penguins will pursue Asham or Sullivan.

“I hope they do,” Asham said.

His preference is to sign with the Penguins before the free-agency period begins. Asham signed a one-year deal worth $770,000 on June 29 last year. He initially signed a one-year, $700,000 deal with the Penguins on Aug. 20, 2010.

“I definitely would like to stay here,” he said. “I'm extremely happy here. My family loves it here. So do I. It's a solid team, and I want to be a part of it. I want to win a Stanley Cup, and I think we've got the horses here to do it.”

Asham is unsure whether his suspension in Game 4 of this year's playoff series against the Flyers will negatively affect the Penguins' desire to bring him back. After Flyers forward Brayden Schenn left his skates to hit defenseman Paul Martin — Schenn was given a two-minute penalty for charging, and Martin missed the final three games of the series because of a concussion from the hit — Asham hit Schenn with a high cross-check that glanced off the rookie's face.

Asham was suspended four games for the incident. The final one will be served at the beginning of the 2012-13 season.

“It's a tough question,” Asham said. “I don't know if that suspension is going to be something that hurts me or not. It's something that happened. I was trying to stick up for a teammate. I was trying to do a team-oriented thing.''

Asham, 34, is a veteran of 13 NHL seasons.

He said he would like to play “two or three more years, hopefully.”

Asham is a popular presence in the locker room and in the community. He hosted a weekly radio program this season and among his guests was center Sidney Crosby.

One of the league's more accomplished fighters, Asham is happy to contribute as a quasi-enforcer while also producing occasional offense. He has scored 10 goals in 108 games with the Penguins and scored three goals in a seven-game playoff series loss to the Lightning in 2011. He missed 56 games the past two seasons due to injuries.

Team toughness — and having someone to protect Crosby and center Evgeni Malkin — is something the Penguins value.

“I'm still capable of going out there and giving you a good 10 or 12 minutes and contributing offensively,” he said. “I'll fight when the team needs me to. I haven't lost much of the fighting skills.

“It sure would be nice to be back. But I don't know what the plan is. Lots of tough decisions. I wouldn't want to be Ray right now.”

Josh Yohe is a reporter for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at jyohe@tribweb.com or 412-664-9161 ext. 1975.

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