All quiet on the Penguins' front
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Like any general manager, Ray Shero isn't big on divulging his intentions. Even if he knows something that isn't common knowledge, he isn't likely to share his secrets -- especially with free agency set to open this week.
Still, there was a sense of utter honesty when he was asked on three occasions during NHL Entry Draft weekend about the Penguins' free agency situation. Each time, he gave the identical answer: "There is nothing to report."
That could be a problem. With unrestricted free agents free to sign anywhere beginning Friday, the Penguins are running out of time to retain some valuable role players. The problem is, some of them are playing hardball.
"This is obviously going to go into the week," Shero said. "We were more worried about the draft during the weekend."
Right wing Craig Adams is the only unrestricted free agent to have re-signed with the Penguins. As for everyone else ...
"There isn't much going on," said Shero, shrugging.
Center Max Talbot wants a five-year deal from the Penguins, which isn't likely to happen. Left wing Mike Rupp and right wing Pascal Dupuis want significant raises, but the Penguins might only be willing to offer minor increases. Negotiations don't appear close to a resolution for any of these players, though the Penguins do seem more likely to sign Rupp and Dupuis than Talbot, who last week turned down a three-year offer.
Agent Allan Walsh, who represents Rupp and Dupuis, was unable to shed any light when reached last week.
"It is not appropriate for me to comment on the status of negotiations at this time," he said.
Perhaps the biggest names for the Penguins this free-agent season are right wings Jaromir Jagr and Tyler Kennedy. Jagr's status remains unresolved -- Shero likely will speak today with his agent, former NHLer Petr Svoboda -- but the Penguins sound intent on retaining Kennedy, a restricted free agent.
Coach Dan Bylsma showered Kennedy with praise over the weekend, suggesting the right wing has evolved into a top-six forward. Kennedy scored a career-high 21 goals last season.
"I think we saw more of that (top-six ability) last season, especially after (Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin) were out," Bylsma said. "He started showing more of that type of game and more of what you want to see on the power play, too."
The Penguins are somewhere between $8 million and $9 million under the salary cap, receiving extra flexibility when the ceiling soared to $64.3 million last week. They must give Kennedy a qualifying offer by today, which requires the team to offer at least 105 percent of last season's salary -- Kennedy earned $725,000 -- to retain negotiating rights.
Kennedy is believed to be seeking at least $2 million per season.
"Talks are ongoing," said Steve Bartlett, Kennedy's agent. "We will continue to try and find a solution, but there are still some issues to resolve."Additional Information:
Several pending free agents may or may not be wearing Penguins sweaters next season. The market opens Friday, so the next few days should be telling:
Restricted free agent
• RW Tyler Kennedy -- His camp and the Penguins aren't believed to be close to a deal.
Unrestricted free agents
• RW Pascal Dupuis -- Progress appears to have been made in negotiations, but a deal doesn't appear imminent.
• RW Jaromir Jagr -- As the ultimate wild card, his status could greatly alter the Penguins' plans.
• LW Mike Rupp -- The Penguins would like to retain him, but his current asking price exceeds what they would like to spend.
• C Max Talbot -- His days in Pittsburgh appear numbered unless he opts for something shorter than the five-year deal he is seeking.
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