The Penguins did not offer right winger Tyler Kennedy a qualifying offer by the 5 p.m. deadline today.
That means Kennedy will be an unrestricted free agent, free to sign with any team, as of noon Friday.
His time with the Penguins isn't necessarily over, however.
Both general manager Ray Shero and Kennedy's agent, Steve Bartlett, said this evening they will continue to negotiate, and seem reasonably optimistic they can reach an agreement.
"(The Penguins) have made it clear they want him back," Bartlett said. "And we've made it clear we want to come back."
Shero said, "I think (Kennedy) would like some fair market value," but added that, "I don't think he's shooting for the moon."
Had the Penguins extended Kennedy a qualifying offer, they could have matched any contract he would have received as a restricted free agent, or gotten compensation if they opted against matching it.
Although Shero said last Thursday that he intended to give Kennedy a qualifying offer, he changed his mind because he did not want to face the possibility of waiting until Kennedy had an arbitration hearing in a month or so to find out what he would paid.
"I think the whole arbitration thing was unpalatable to them," Bartlett said. "To have a third party tell them on Aug. 5 what they're going to pay someone."
What's more, if the Penguins deemed the contract he was awarded in arbitration unacceptable and walked away from it, which is their right under the NHL's labor agreement, the pool of potential free-agent replacements would have dried up weeks earlier.
The Penguins previously qualified forward Dustin Jeffrey, their other restricted-free-agent-to-be.
The big difference between Kennedy and Jeffrey is that Jeffrey is not eligible for salary arbitration.
Kennedy is, of course, and that's what led to Shero's decision today. Stunning as it seemed at the time, however, Bartlett insists its impact isn't necessarily that great.
For now, anyway.
"At this point, I don't think it's that big of a deal," he said. "If it doesn't get done by July 2, it will be more of an issue."
First Published June 27, 2011 10:00 PM