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Penguins: A look into the Future (Free Agents 2013)

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I decided to put this article together because of all the talk about the Penguins not having the ability to afford certain players that may be available come trade deadline. In no way am I saying that a trade needs to happen, but I am showing what the current Cap situation is and where the Cap will be, come July 5, 2013.

Current Cap: $70,200,000

Current Roster Salary: $61,673,576

Available Cap: $8,526,424

With seeing those numbers, it is obvious the Pens could be a buyer come this trade deadline, if indeed it is a sellers market. The one thing you must remember though,  is the Penguins will not make a move that will hurt the team’s future, a future which includes Malkin, Crosby, Neal,  Letang, and Fleury. If a move is made it could be for a rental player, much like of the caliber that Hossa was, or we could see a move bring in someone who may benefit from a change and succeed much like Neal has. Either way do not expect the Penguins to take on a contract for that would damage the chance of keeping any of the core players.

So lets take a look at this coming off season and see what the Pens may be looking at.

The Penguins currently have four players looking at Unrestricted free agency on July 5, Cooke, Dupuis, Adams, and Lovejoy. On top of that they have five players looking at Restricted Free agency, Kennedy, Tangradi, Boychuk, Jeffery, and Bortuzzo. So what is a team to do with a shrinking salary cap?

One thing is certain, the #1 priority for Ray Shero is extending both Malkin and Letang this upcoming off season. Unfortunately from a Salary standpoint both will see a pay raises, which will ultimately cause the team to have to decide who is and is not expendable. So lets take a look at the Line up and who Shero may or may not keep.

Unrestricted Free Agents (numbers in parenthesis shows current salary)

Any player whose contract has expired can declare himself an unrestricted free agent if he is at least 27 years old or has at least seven years of service as an NHL player. There are no exceptions here, once a player becomes Unrestricted they are free to sign with whomever they choose, with nothing going back to the team that lost said player. 

Matt Cooke($1.8m): Cooke has been a huge asset for the Penguins since arriving in ’08-’09, despite his flaws with his aggressiveness Cooke proved that he is capable of putting up decent numbers scoring 19 goals and 38 points in the 2011-2012 season. Cooke could easily make the same or get a little more on another team willing to take a shot at his style of play, but I think it is important that Shero try and keep him for the same money, if not less.

Pascal Dupuis($1.5m): What can’t you say about Dupuis? After coming to Pittsburgh in the Marion Hossa trade from Atlanta, he has been one of the most consistent players on the ice as well as one of the only players to have to ability to keep up with Crosby. Much like Cooke, Dupuis had a great year last season scoring 25 goals and 59 points. He is a player that will be looking at a bit of an increase in pay, so keeping him will be a little more difficult especially if Cooke is re-signed. Pascal should be priority #2 for Shero to Re-sign this off season.

Craig Adams($675,000): Craig Adams has been a very solid player since being grabbed off of waivers a few seasons ago, what you expect to get from Adams is what you get on a nightly basis, he will work hard and support his team as much as possible, unfortunately for him there are plenty of players in the system and in the NHL who can do this job. At the right price Adams should be re-signed, but anything more than what he makes now is not worth it.

Ben Lovejoy($525,000): If Ben Lovejoy is still in a Penguin sweater by years end, it will be a surprise. He is a decent Defensemen who is capable of playing about 10+ minutes a game, but with the amount of Defensive prospects the Penguins have in the system Lovejoy could be a good piece to sweeten a deal if a trade were to happen at some point this season.

Restricted Free Agents (numbers in parenthesis shows current salary)

A RFA is a player who has completed his entry-level contract, but does not have enough NHL service to become an unrestricted free agent. This player qualifies as a restricted free agent when his contract expires. There are exceptions to the rule as other clubs can have them sign an offer sheet which the current team would have to match in order to keep the players services, if they do not match then the team that lost the player will get compensation in the form of draft picks from the club that signed said player.

Tyler Kennedy($2m): It may be time for Kennedy to move on. Since his superb season two years ago, Tyler has had trouble matching that level of play despite being one of the most consistent third line players in the league. Unfortunately for the team his services will be valued much higher on the market then with this club. If he were to stay he would absolutely be looking at a pay cut. A change of scenery may be exactly what he needs though.

Eric Tangradi($726,000): After two seasons of getting a decent amount of NHL playing time, Tangradi hasn’t become the player that the Penguins hoped he would be. Is it because of poor play, or because of not utilizing him properly? Either way I would be surprised if he continues his career in Pittsburgh after this season.

Zach Boychuk($625,000): Unfortunately Boychuk has yet to prove himself on the Penguins, but if his current play continues and he grows to become what a 14th overall pick should become,  you can be sure he will receive a bit of a pay raise and be in high demand.

Dustin Jeffery($$575,000): After a tough road to recovery from injury a couple seasons ago, Jeffery seems to have found his groove and looks to be a main stay in the NHL, at least in the foreseeable future. He plays with a lot of heart and is always willing to do whats best for him and the team. Look for him to become a big part of the Penguins future if Kennedy and or Cooke happen to move on.

Robert Bortuzzo($525,000): This is a player the Penguins need to keep, if he improve at the NHL Level, he may be the best choice the Penguins have at replacing Brooks Orpik in the near future. He has size, and plays well on the puck.

Current Roster Salary Prior to July 5: $61,673,576

Salary dropped: $8,951,000

Current Roster Salary after July 5: $52,722,576

Amount left to spend: $11,577,424

So going into next season the Penguins seem to have Money on their side. Baring any trades made this season the Pens will have nearly $12 million to spend in the Free Agent pool. A decent amount will go into both the Malkin and Letang extensions, but those wont count against the Cap until the following season, which the Cap has not yet been set.

So going off of what we have here, the Penguins seem to be in great position if ownership is willing to spend to the Max. It would be foolish not to, since now is the time to win. Keep in mind the following season there are eight more players not including Letang and Malkin that will need new contracts, players such as,  Sutter, Kunitz and Orpik who are big pieces to the puzzle.

But as always.

In Shero We Trust.

- Robert

All salary totals gathered utilizing capgeek.com

Robert Slavinsky

Pittsburgh Penguins writer for hockeytracker.net. Since my childhood I have followed hockey, from the years of The Great One up to The Next One I have followed the fastest sport on ice. Growing up in Pittsburgh PA, I have had the privilege to witness some of Hockey's Greats. Since the days of Le Magnifique no other team in Pittsburgh has mattered to me but the Penguins.