Penguins GM Ray Shero has some significant decisions to make this summer. Will he keep head coach Dan Bylsma? Will he trade or buy out Marc-Andre Fleury? Could he re-sign Jarome Iginla,Pascal Dupuis and Matt Cooke? Does he need to make other moves to re-sign Evgeni Malkin? Read on for the latest.
TRIBLIVE.COM: Rob Rossi examined the choice facing Pittsburgh Penguins GM Ray Shero this summer. Ownership will leave any decision on the future of coach Dan Bylsma up to Shero. Bylsma has one year left on his current contract, and Shero previously claimed he was pleased with his coach.
Ownership has also authorized Shero to spend what’s necessary to re-sign Evgeni Malkin, which could run the league maximum (eight years, $102.88 million, a $12.86 million annual cap hit). Malkin prefers to play in the NHL and remain with the Penguins, but hasn’t said if he’d accept a “hometown discount”. Kris Letang, who like Malkin will be a UFA next summer, wants to re-sign, leading Rossi to suggest Erik Karlsson’s contract (six years, $39 million, a $6.5 million annual cap hit) as a comparable.
It remains to be seen if Shero re-signs UFA Pascal Dupuis. The Penguins GM has held contract talks with Matt Cooke, but Cooke wants a three-year deal, while Shero is offering two years. Fellow UFA forward Craig Adams seeks a two-year deal. RFA Tyler Kennedy, who was in and out of the lineup, could be a tradeable asset, though Rossi suggests the potential departure of five forward via the UFA market could make the case for keeping Kennedy.
Shero reportedly loves Jarome Iginla but not how Bylsma used him. Rossi suggests a multi-year deal could be worked out with Iginla if he’s interested in staying, but believes “Iggy” would want a “no-movement” clause. Morrow and Murray aren’t expected to be re-signed. Marc-Andre Fleury could be a buyout candidate, though Shero has not given any indication that could happen.
OTTAWA SUN: Bruce Garrioch reports “a league executive” expects the Pittsburgh Penguins will either move Chris Kunitz or James Neal with the salary cap going down to clear cap space to re-sign Evgeni Malkin, who’ll be a UFA next summer. Garrioch also believes the Penguins could either trade Marc-Andre Fleury (suggesting Minnesota, Colorado or Florida as destinations) or buy out the remaining two years of his deal and go in a different direction, like making a pitch for Buffalo’s Ryan Miller.
DENVER POST: Adrian Dater makes the case for the Colorado Avalanche to buy out the remainder of David Jones’ contract and use the available cap space to sign Iginla.
CALGARY SUN: Eric Francis believes Iginla will have to accept a significant pay cut (he made $7 million this season) if he hopes to sign with a Stanley Cup contender this summer, partially because of his woeful performance in the Eastern Conference Final, and partially because of his age.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Terrific piece by Rossi on the decisions facing Shero this summer. Ignore the nonsense about Malkin being traded. I also believe Letang will be re-signed as he’s their best puck-moving defenseman.
Not sure why that unnamed NHL executive cited by Garrioch believes the Penguins need to move Kunitz or Neal to free up room to re-sign Malkin. For one thing, Kunitz – like Malkin – is eligible for UFA status next summer, so there’s no need to trade him. For another, the Penguins currently have over $39 million in projected cap space for 2014-15 (assuming the cap remains at $64.3 million), which I anticipate will increase when the cap rebounds to over $70 million for ’14-’15, and if they move out Fleury via trade or buyout. So, they’ll have plenty of room to re-sign Malkin and Letang, though they could eat up at least $16 million combined in average annual salaries.
If they lose most or all of their UFA forwards, they’ll have little choice but to retain Kennedy. Iginla could stay, though I suspect he’d have to accept a two-three year deal for around $3.5-$4 million per season. Even so, that could depend on if Bylsma remains coach, and if Shero feels “Iggy” has enough in the tank to rebound. I agree with Francis that Iginla would to accept a significant pay cut if he hopes to play for a Cup contender next season.
As for Fleury, I just can’t see the justification for keeping him now. If there’s a market for him, shop him. If not, buy him out, stick with Vokoun and bring in a promising young goalie who can take over full time in 2014-15. Sure, they could make a pitch for Miller, but they would need assurances he’d be willing to re-sign, which would also prove expensive.