With the signing of Jay McKee, the Penguins are looking to close their foray into free agency for the 2009 off-season. As Damian noted before, the former Buffalo Sabre and St. Louis Blue signed for an amazing $800k for the upcoming season, a salary aided by the St. Louis Blues buying out the remaining year of his contract for 2.67 million. Being better than Hal Gill and probably a little bit behind Rob Scuderi from a skill standpoint, McKee is said to bring a great presence to the room. Clearly, a defenseman of his pedigree is rarely signed for such a low salary.
"It's no secret I'm receiving 66 percent of my salary from St. Louis, and that definitely came into play," McKee said. "The dollar amount wasn't as much of a concern as it was the last time I was a UFA."Jay McKee addition solidifies both the defensive lineup of the Penguins and the growing reputation of Ray Shero as being one of the better GM’s in the NHL. That counts for three players that Mr. Shero signed this year for under market value, with Billy Guerin and McKee being way under market value. Ruslan Fedotenko signed for a couple hundred thousand under his market value as well. The Penguins have ultimately survived Free Agency pretty well, and can now focus more to the upcoming season.
The signings in Free Agency have left the Penguins with $2.156mm in salary cap space. Remaining positions to be filled include a 7th defenseman and a backup goalie. The likely signing of RFA Ben Lovejoy, a smart young player moving up from the Baby Pens, will fill the position on defense. Considering that he made $850k last season, look for a slight raise for him.
The Penguins are looking into signing a veteran goaltender as well in the neighborhood of $700k. The commentary from most is that the veteran will push Curry for the backup position, but it seems more likely that the veteran will remain on the bench with the big club, while Curry will continue to develop and get playing time as the starter in Wilkes-Barre. The rumors for goalie surround the Penguins targeting both Kevin Weekes and Curtis Sanford, both quality net minders.
The end of Free Agency ultimately apparently will be simple, but will not leave the Penguins with much money under the cap. Barring a blockbuster type trade, I really think the Penguins will trade a forward, most likely Dupuis. His $1.4mm salary could be easily replaced with Dustin Jeffrey’s $510k. Jeffrey is a strong up and coming prospect who will definitely get a look during preseason camps. While there is no rush to do this immediately, I can’t imagine the Penguins staying with him throughout the entirety of the season. And perhaps Mark Eaton may be moved after the Penguins test Ben Lovejoy. There could be quality monetary savings there as well should he be moved.
But this is all speculation and the fun of looking ahead to the coming season. One thing is for sure: with the amount of money the Penguins had available to them under the cap, the Free Agency period has certainly been a success.