The Penguins acquired the signing right to former Predators defenseman Dan Hamhuis from the Flyers.
By Shelly Anderson Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
LOS ANGELES -- Penguins general manager Ray Shero left Staples Center after the first round of the draft Friday night looking at three scenarios at the top end of his team's defensive core.
He had just acquired the rights to defenseman Dan Hamhuis from Philadelphia in exchange for a third-round pick in the 2011 draft, and he was still working with J.P. Barry, the agent for top Penguins defenseman Sergei Gonchar.
Come July 2, the start of free agency, the Penguins could have one of those defensemen, neither or both.
Hamhuis and Gonchar are eligible to become unrestricted free agents if they are not signed by then. They would be among the more coveted free-agent defensemen if they hit the open market.
The Flyers acquired the rights to Hamhuis, 27, from Nashville a week ago for defenseman Ryan Parent but could not strike a deal.
"I think he's a great all-around defenseman who really could have helped us, but we just couldn't come to an agreement," Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren said.
Shero said Hamhuis, who earn $2.5 million last year, and Gonchar do not represent an either/or scenario.
"The talks with Sergei Gonchar are not dead," Shero said, adding that getting both would give the Penguins a strong defense.
"We'll juggle it, I guess. It all depends on the numbers now with both [Gonchar] and Hamhuis. First thing's first -- I'll just talk to Dan to see what his interest level is, and we'll go from there."
Shero and Barry have been talking about a deal for Gonchar, the team's power-play quarterback and a strong offensive defenseman who reached 50 points last season for the ninth time in his career despite playing in just 62 games.
It is believed the Penguins are holding at a two-year offer for Gonchar, 36, and that Gonchar, while preferring a three-year deal, is willing to sign for two years for the right price -- one that likely would be higher per season than a three-year contract. He is coming off of a five-year, $25 million contract.
Shero spoke with Barry just after making the Hamhuis deal. Barry said he had not spoken with Gonchar but got the impression the Penguins would like to have both defensemen.
Shero was an assistant general manager with Nashville when the Predators chose Hamhuis 12th overall in the 2001 draft, and he is hoping their relationship will help in negotiations.
"There's risk, obviously, but I've known Dan a long time," Shero said.
Hamhuis, 6 feet 1 and 209 pounds, had five goals, 24 points for the Predators last season. He has never had more than seven goals or 28 points in the NHL but has missed only seven regular-season games over the past five years.
"He's a real solid two-way player, plays against top lines, provides you with a little bit of offense, can play on your second power play," Shero said. "He's a great kid, great character. He'll certainly strengthen our defense if he gets on it."
In the meantime, Shero hopes to meet today with the agents for some of the team's other pending free agents, including winger Bill Guerin and defenseman Mark Eaton.
"With July 1 coming up, we still have time next week, but I'd like to let the players know where we are -- if I can move on something or I can't move on something or I need more time."