Pittsburgh Penguins Offseason Update

Earlier today, Damian Romano touched on what Ray Shero's options are to ensure that the Pittsburgh Penguins have the best team on the ice as possible. Let's take a look at the latest buzz surrounding the team as we try to pinpoint which is the most probable as of this afternoon :

- Per Will DePaoli of the Insider on Pittsburgh Sports, many across the league feel that veteran wing and former Colorado Avalanche Marek Svatos is on the Pens radar. As I reported at Pens Universe earlier this month, I've been told by multiple sources around the league that Svatos's inability to stay healthy and be productive, simultaneously, has all but ruined his chances at receiving a one-way contract in the NHL. If Svatos, at 28 years old, is willing to take on a one year, two-way contract at under a million dollars, he could be a low-risk, high-reward for many teams in need of a wing, Pittsburgh included. If not, it's hard to imagine many teams making room for a roster spot for Svatos.

- As reported within my last update, the Penguins only had very casual interest in winger Maxim Afinogenov. Regardless, Afinogenov has decided he will take his services outside of the NHL and sign a five year deal with the KHL's SKA St. Petersburg.

- Paul Kariya has been a name floated around the Penguins rumor mill for quite some time now. I've been told by a source close to the Anaheim Ducks that Kariya will either choose to finish his career where it started (he was drafted fourth overall by Anaheim in 1993) or choose to retire. I've heard that both Kariya and his veteran teammate Teemu Selanne are both leaning towards playing one more year together in Anaheim.

- The air is quiet on Raffi Torres updates. Ray Shero likes Torres and sees him as a terrific fit in Bylsma's system (he was deep in talks with Columbus Blue Jackets GM Scott Howson at the 2010 trade deadline, but backed off when the asking price was defenseman Ben Lovejoy), but isn't willing to overpay for him. Torres struggled with the Buffalo Sabres in 2010, playing most of the year on the team's fourth line, but his last salary with Columbus was nearly three million per season. The Pens have made contact with Raffi and his agent, Steve Reich, but no mutual interest on either years or dollars. This is pure speculation on my part (with a little truth sprinkled in), but the combination of Shero's interest in Raffi Torres and Steve Reich's location makes Torres the name to watch if Shero is to acquire a free agent before training camp. Reich, who is based out of Pittsburgh, attended the University of Pittsburgh Law School, and serves as a board member for both the St. Clair Hospital Foundation and the Mario Lemieux Foundation. His agency, ReichPM, represented Mario Lemieux, Ron Francis, and other noteworthy Penguins during their playing time in Pittsburgh.

- The dates have changed, but for Bill Guerin, the song remains the same. Guerin wants a salary close to what he received last year (one year, two million dollars), but he seems to be the only one who shares his feelings on that. Guerin received interest from Tampa Bay, Montreal, and the New York Rangers this offseason, but like Shero, none were willing to meet Guerin's financial expectations. Due to his age, Stanley Cup winning pedigree, and struggling play in the 2009-'10 season, Guerin's main motivation to lace it up for one more season seems to be financial.

- Former Pittsburgh Penguin Ruslan Fedotenko is expected to announce his plans for the 2010-'11 season soon, per his agent Allan Walsh's twitter.

- With Jordan Staal likely to begin the season in the Pens top six, it's no secret that adding a third line center was a consideration for Shero. It's been speculated within the organization that while a player like Rob Niedermeyer (who signed with the Buffalo Sabres this offseason) would have been a great fit for Dan Bylsma, the team's coaching staff like who they have rather than most of the players left on the market. Tyler Kennedy, Max Talbot, and Mark Letestu are all being considered for the role. Ironically enough, all players are approaching the final years of their respective contracts. Given Letestu's two-way contract and the Penguins proximity to the cap ceiling, it's unlikely, barring injury, that Letestu will make the NHL squad out of the gate if Shero signs a free agent to a one-way contract.

- As Damian wrote earlier today, trades are always a possibility between now and the deadline. However, I wouldn't expect a substantial deal to occur for the Pens until the trade deadline. Typically, aside from acquiring Chris Kunitz prior to the deadline in 2009, the majority of the Penguins' substantial deals have occurred on deadline day and with a roster structured well enough to compete as is, a trade before the season is even more unlikely. The Penguins have the prospects in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton to replace much of the Penguins depth on the bottom lines and a large portion of Pittsburgh's bottom six players are approaching their final year of their contract. The following players (with their salaries listed afterwards) from the Penguins squad last season should be on "trade watch" during the upcoming season :

Pascal Dupuis - 1.4 million (UFA in 2011)
Max Talbot - 1.05 million (RFA in 2011)
Mike Rupp - 850k (UFA in 2011)
Eric Godard - 775k (UFA in 2011)
Tyler Kennedy - 850k (RFA in 2011)
Craig Adams - 550k (UFA in 2011)

None of these players have been currently connected to any deals, but expiring contracts in the NHL are worth their weight in gold come trade season.

Stayed tuned to Pens Universe for the latest as the offseason progresses.

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