While the dog days of summer are heating up, the NHL offseason ,outside of Ilya Kovalchuk, is doing anything but. Still, for Pittsburgh Penguins fans, the offseason curtains have yet to be drawn. With $2,174,354 in cap space (capgeek.com), general manager Ray Shero certainly has the potential to continue to improve Pittsburgh's roster this summer. Here's the latest :
- I reported here earlier in the summer that the Penguins and former Buffalo winger Raffi Torres had mutual interest in Torres possibly coming on board with the Pens in 2010. Unfortunately for those hoping Raffi Torres would don the Black and Gold this fall, the Pens didn't walk away from their talks with Torres and his agent, Steve Reich, with a substantial offer on the table, according to Reich. This doesn't mean the door is permanently shut on a Torres signing, but it doesn't look good for those hoping to see the Raffi Torres reports come to fruition in Pittsburgh.
- Many reports have surfaced that Pittsburgh has shown interest in former Thrasher winger Maxim Afinogenov. While Afinogenov fits Dan Bylsma's uptempo-style system, but no reports have emerged that any contact or mutual interest between the two parties has been made. If the 30 year old Russian doesn't receive a pay raise with a competitive team, it would not surprise me if he takes his services to the KHL.
- Paul Kariya, another player reportedly connected to Pittsburgh, is going to wait until August to begin his search for a new NHL club. Despite many rumors, Kariya and the Penguins have had zero contact this offseason. Various reports have tied the veteran winger to playing out a final season with the Anaheim Ducks - the team he established his NHL career with. I've also been told that Kariya, 35, is giving serious contemplation for retirement.
- Due to the price of their services, neither forward Lee Stempniak, nor Alexander Frolov (arguably the best two wingers on the market past Kovalchuk) are on the Penguins radar.
- The hottest name on the block in regards to the rumor mill is former Colorado Avalanche forward Marek Svatos, according to William DePaoli of Inside Pittsburgh Sports. Svatos, 28, scored 30 goals in 2005-'06 with the Colorado Avalanche. Svatos has struggled to stay healthy over recent seasons with the Avalanche being on the cusp of a successful youth movement, wore out his welcome in Denver. Svatos's agent, according to DePaoli, has contacted the Penguins amongst many other teams looking for wing upgrades. While the Pens lack of scoring right-handed shots makes Svatos an enticing proposition, I've been told that unless he is willing to take on a two-way contract, it's unlikely that he'll find a position with a a contender this season.
- Former Penguin Alexei Ponikarovsky has been rumored to be a possible destination for the Los Angeles Kings. I've also been told that, due to Ponikarovsky's plummeting reputation across the league, spending a year in the KHL isn't out of the question for "Poni". He was contacted by many teams, including Pittsburgh, about signing a one year deal for roughly a million dollars, but Ponikarovsky's camp declined.
- Former Penguins Jay McKee and Ruslan Fedotenko have yet to be contacted about an NHL contract so far this offseason. McKee, who struggled throughout the 2009-10 season making only 750k, will likely have to take the minimum salary if he has any hopes of receiving a one-way contract.
- Bill Guerin's current situation with the Penguins remains in flux but is far from over. With the Penguins all but certain to be moving Jordan Staal into the top six for the upcoming season and without a great deal of substance surrounding the market for a winger signing, bringing Guerin back for a one year deal at a reduced salary could end up being Pittsburgh's best option at this point. I've been told that if Guerin is willing to take less money and less playing time than he did last season, he will be back with Pittsburgh. If not, Ray Shero and head coach Dan Bylsma are both very content with what they've seen from the organization's forward pipeline and aren't afraid to round out the roster via call-ups. Eric Tangradi, Chris Conner, Mark Letestu, Dustin Jeffrey, and Nick Johnson have all shown a penchant to have what it takes at the next level and could find themselves with full time jobs in the NHL soon. Though it's certain to draw league criticism between now and the opening puck drop, successfully prospect development, not blockbuster trades nor free agent signings, is paramount to sustained success in the NHL.
- Although totally unrelated to the Pittsburgh Penguin's roster (and it's potential to inflate the demand for migraine medicine), the Iyla Kovalchuk contract situation in New Jersey is worth monitoring closely and will have a drastic impact on the Atlantic Division. Kovy's contract was recently rejected by the NHL for "cap circumvention". Sportsnet reports that the Devils and Kovy will renegotiate the contract rather than go through an NHL salary arbitrator via the NHLPA. If the deal were to fall through, I would expect the Los Angeles Kings to get involved. I've been told that there is "zero chance" Kovalchuk signs with a KHL team.
Stay tuned to Pens Universe for the latest offseason news and updates throughout the entire summer.