Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Pens Free Agents

Now that the Pens' season is over, it is now time to take a look at the free agency list. This is a list of current Penguins players whose contracts have expired. Some of these players will be resigned by the team, but others will not be wearing the skating penguin next season. There is also a number of other free agents who the Pens have been rumored to be looking at, but I will not speculate at this time. The players who will be free agents are:
Sergei Gonchar- Though Gonchar is probably the most well known name in this list, his high contract demands and age as well as his lackluster play defensively in Game 7 and through the playoffs make it highly unlikely Gonchar will be back with the Pens next year.
Matt Cooke- The Pens will hopefully do everything in their power to resign Cooke, who was a key component to the team in both ends of the ice. My feelings are that Cooke will be back next season.
Alexei Ponikarovsky- Ponikarovsky has not been entirely what the Pens have hoped for since acquiring him at the trade deadline. This combined with the amount of money he eats up from the cap make it pretty unlikely he returns to the Pens.
Ruslan Fedotenko- Fedotenko spent most of the playoffs riding the bench, even when he was perfectly healthy. His production during the season dropped drastically and the coaches have somewhat lost faith in him. I don't forsee the Pens offering him very much to come back.
Bill Guerin- The Pens would gladly offer Guerin a one or two year deal, if he chooses to return to the NHL for another season. The question is not if he can still play well, but if he still wants to. His decision cannot be predicted by anyone but him, so the Pens will just have to wait and see.
Mark Eaton- I believe that Eaton is the biggest question mark of the entire offseason. While his regular season play was criticized, he had a strong showing in the playoffs. Eaton's contract is somewhat large, but not unaffordable if the Pens want to bring him back.
Jordan Leopold- Leopold, another midseason acquisition, has played some solid hockey for the Pens since arriving. I believe his future depends on what the Pens decide with Eaton, because it is unlikely they keep both. For now, Eaton has a slight advantage but Leopold is certainly a capable option.
Jay McKee- McKee was put into the role of 7th defenseman after the Pens got Leopold. He did see some playing time, but was often scratched. The Pens could certainly afford to bring McKee back if they wanted, but I doubt he would even want to return.
Ben Lovejoy- Lovejoy is considered by many, myself included, to be an NHL starter next year. The Pens will likely give him a decent sized pay raise, but it would be worth it as he is now ready to be an impact player at the NHL level. Expect him to be back next year.
Deryk Engelland- Engelland brings a strong, physical presence to the table and while he may not be fully ready for full time NHL competition, he is certainly an able fill-in and brings some physicality and experience to Wilkes-Barre Scranton. I think he will be back next season.
Chris Conner- What Conner lacks in size and stregnth he compensates for in speed and energy. He was one of the first people that the NHL Penguins looked to when they needed a replacement, and even saw some time in the playoffs. If the price is right, there is a decent chance he will be back.
Nick Johnson- Johnson plays a physical and hard-working style of hockey, and can be a potential NHL 3rd or 4th line player with another year or two of minor league development. He shouldn't be too expensive, and is definitely worth consideration to re-sign.
Ryan Bayda- Injuries plagued Bayda's last season with the WBS Pens, as he saw little time. When he did play, he was decent but certainly injury prone. The fact that he is also quite old for an AHL prospect makes it unlikely he returns unless he comes very cheap.
Chris Lee- I see this as a 50/50 shot that Lee returns. He was effective at the AHL level, but does not have much NHL upside. He could come back, though, if the organization wants to have some experience in Wilkes-Barre.
Aaron Boogard- Wilkes-Barre has enough fighters to be without him, but he might come back if he goes very cheap. I still think the Pens let him go.

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