ShareThis Page

Team's major role players should test free agent market in NHL

| Thursday, July 4, 2013, 7:39 p.m.
Left wing Matt Cooke, among the NHL’s top penalty killers, likely would have to accept a pay reduction and shorter term contract than he would prefer to return to the Penguins next season.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Left wing Matt Cooke, among the NHL’s top penalty killers, likely would have to accept a pay reduction and shorter term contract than he would prefer to return to the Penguins next season.

The Penguins could lose two key role players from their 2009 championship team today with NHL free agency set to begin.

Left wing Matt Cooke and right wing Craig Adams are eager to return to the Penguins but can sign elsewhere starting at noon Friday.

Adams has yet to receive an offer from the Penguins, who have maintained that they are interested in bringing the penalty killing specialist back.

Cooke, also among the game's elite penalty killers, made it clear following the season that he would like to return.

However, accepting a pay reduction from his previous deal — and agreeing to shorter term contract than he would prefer — appears the only way for Cooke to return.

Cooke earned $1.8 million per year during the past three seasons.

General manager Ray Shero has spoken numerous times with each of their respective agents, but no deal has been reached.

The Penguins currently are just $4.1 million under the salary cap for the 2013-14 season. That number is slightly deceiving because Shero prefers to keep the Penguins at least $1 million under the salary cap during the summer, leaving wiggle room for any in-season moves that may arise.

However, the Penguins don't intend on ignoring possible suitors Friday.

Team owners Mario Lemieux and Ron Burkle give Shero the freedom to spend to the salary cap. Also, according to the NHL's collective bargaining agreement with the league's players' association, NHL teams are permitted to spend 10 percent over the salary cap during the summer.

The Penguins, theoretically, could acquire a player Friday that would put them over the salary cap. They would be required to trade a player before the beginning of next season to get under the cap.

Speaking of trades, the Penguins have displayed little interest in re-signing their other unrestricted free agents, many of whom they recently traded for. Players likely to sign elsewhere this summer include right wing Jarome Iginla, left wing Brenden Morrow, defenseman Douglas Murray and defenseman Mark Eaton.

Iginla, Morrow and Murray were all added to the Penguins' roster in late-season acquisitions that were very much deals rooted in the short term. Shero acquired them to help the Penguins win the Stanley Cup in 2013, knowing full well that signing them this summer was no guarantee.

With the Penguins already spending significant money this summer — center Evgeni Malkin, defenseman Kris Letang, left wing Chris Kunitz and right wing Pascal Dupuis have received new contracts worth a combined $160.55 million during the past three weeks — only so much remains for the role players.

Teams like the Penguins that annually spend to the salary cap are attempting to adjust to the new cap figure, which is set for $64.3 million next season.

Despite a lackluster free-agent class, plenty of moves will surely be made Friday.

Given that only Philadelphia and San Jose possess less salary cap room than the Penguins, Shero figures to make only minor moves, barring a trade.

Josh Yohe is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter @JoshYohe_Trib.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.