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Pens plan to keep Kennedy, land Jagr

| Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Penguins cut Tyler Kennedy loose Monday, but general manager Ray Shero said he wants to re-sign him before NHL free agency begins Friday.

Shero also hopes to reach a tentative agreement on a one-year deal with Jaromir Jagr before Friday, industry sources told the Tribune-Review last night.

Kennedy, a right winger, became an unrestricted free agent after the Penguins chose not to tender him a qualifying offer by a 5 p.m. deadline yesterday. Shero said that decision was made to avoid an arbitration hearing.

"We want clarity in this situation. By doing this we get the most clarity," Shero said. "An arbitration hearing can go into early August. We want to know what's going on before then."

Shero also said he planned to speak with Jagr's agent, Petr Svoboda, either last night or today. The

Penguins aren't known to have made Jagr an offer as of last night, but team officials spent yesterday seriously considering the option of signing Jagr, sources said.

Shero also said he wants one or both of two unrestricted free agent forwards -- Mike Rupp and Pascal Dupuis -- signed before Friday, when free agency begins at noon.

Of the players Shero is targeting, only Jagr can't be signed before Friday per the NHL's collective bargaining agreement. However, Jagr's camp would like to have parameters of a deal worked out before Friday, sources said.

Svoboda said last week the Penguins and Detroit are the top two contenders to sign Jagr, a right winger who last played in the NHL in 2008.

If Friday arrives without Kennedy, Jagr, Dupuis and/or Rupp signed, the Penguins will turn their attention to available free agents to fill out their roster.

"We have a replacement list," Shero said.

The Penguins are approximately $8 million under the salary cap for next season.

Shero stressed that he didn't believe heading to arbitration with Kennedy was a wise move, insisting Kennedy "had a good case."

Kennedy, 24, saw his ice time increase because of injuries to Penguins stars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin in the second half of the regular season. He responded with a career-high 21 goals.

"(Kennedy) wants to come back," Shero said. "And we certainly want him back."

A qualifying offer would have provided Kennedy only a 10 percent raise on his previous salary ($725,000), per the CBA. Kennedy's camp expects he can at least double that annual salary and score a multiyear deal on the open market.

Kennedy was a restricted free agent until yesterday. If the Penguins had tendered him a qualifying offer, he still could have signed with a another club Friday, but the Penguins would have had a week to match or receive compensatory picks if they opted to decline.

By not tendering Kennedy an offer, the Penguins will relinquish his rights come Friday, as they will with Rupp, Dupuis and other unrestricted free agents such forward Max Talbot.

Shero said Talbot, who has turned down a three-year offer from the Penguins, would test the market Friday.
Shero is optimistic about Kennedy's return, and coach Dan Bylsma is downright enthusiastic about the possibility of adding Jagr -- a five-time scoring champion in his 11 seasons with the Penguins from 1990-2001.

"I've been on the record a few times saying what the attributes of Jaromir Jagr are," Bylsma said. "They're still really good."

Bylsma also addressed any concerns that Jagr, 39, would struggle adapting to the Penguins' up-tempo style.

"If Jaromir Jagr, hypothetically, were to (sign with the Penguins), I don't think we'd have to change everything drastically," Bylsma said, "If you watched Jaromir play in the World Championships, his down-low play was outstanding. He hasn't missed a beat in that regard."

Bylsma acknowledged that he isn't sure what to expect as the week plays out.

"It's a frantic time," he said.

Additional Information:

Where they stand

A look at the Penguins' most relevant free agents:

» Tyler Kennedy: An unrestricted free agent, the Penguins would like to sign him before he can sign elsewhere starting Friday.

» Mike Rupp: He and the Penguins are in negotiations but remain apart on money.

» Pascal Dupuis: Length of contract appears the only thing preventing a deal.

» Max Talbot: The Penguins have no intention of bringing him back.

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