Free agents Suter, Parise keep Penguins waiting in line

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The NHL's free-agency signing period began at noon Sunday.

The workday for Penguins general manager Ray Shero and his staff ended in the evening, but the team's pursuit of its two primary targets -- left winger Zach Parise and defenseman Ryan Suter -- won't conclude until sometime today. At the earliest.

The Penguins submitted offers to both free agents Sunday, but hardly were the only team to do so.

Parise and Suter are the top talents in the Class of 2012, and each attracted enough proposals to clog their agents' fax machines.

Word from the Parise camp Sunday evening was that he wanted to reflect on the offers overnight, and that there "should be a decision by late [today]." Suter's timeframe looks to be more flexible, although a decision today is expected.

Precisely what the Penguins thought about the Sunday events isn't known, because Shero did not speak with reporters.

Reading the tea leaves on what a free agent is thinking is, at best, challenging, but the Penguins appear to be in contention for both, with Parise perhaps the better bet to sign with them.

Their effort to get Parise got a boost when center Sidney Crosby -- a friend and presumptive linemate if Parise joins the Penguins -- called to lobby him. And, despite a report suggesting Suter is leaning toward signing with Detroit, there is no evidence he has ruled out signing with the Penguins.

The Penguins' most serious competition for Parise includes Minnesota, the Red Wings, New Jersey, Los Angeles and Philadelphia, while Detroit, Minnesota and Nashville are among the clubs vying for Suter.

Landing either -- or both -- might well require the Penguins to take on contracts that are heavily front-loaded and possibly include exceptionally large signing bonuses. The latter are getting popular because of the possibility the 2012-13 season being shortened, or even wiped out, by a labor dispute.

While the Penguins haven't made a habit of front-loading contracts, the $104.4 million, 12-year deal Crosby agreed to last week is structured that way. It is worth $12 million in each of the first three seasons, but just $3 million in each of the final three.

There have been reports of Suter and Parise receiving proposals for as many as 13 years, and with a total value of more than $100 million. The Penguins have long used Crosby's $8.7 salary-cap hit -- a figure matched by Evgeni Malkin -- as an artificial salary cap for their team.

While Penguins officials left Consol Energy Center without knowing whether they will add Parise and/or Suter to their payroll, they were involved in a number of personnel moves Sunday.

The most interesting might be that Upper St. Clair native Dylan Reese, a defenseman who spent the past three seasons in the New York Islanders organization, agreed to a one-year contract that will pay him $600,000 if he's in the NHL.

The most significant acquisition, though, likely was rugged winger Tanner Glass, who got a two-year deal with a cap hit of $1.1 million.

Glass, 28, is a physical winger -- he placed 10th in the league in 2011-12 with 246 hits -- who had five goals and 11 assists in 78 games with Winnipeg last season. He missed the final four games of the regular season because of a broken foot.

He killed penalties for the Jets and likely will be used in that role here.

"I hope I can come in and contribute to this team on the penalty kill," Glass said. "It's something I worked hard on the past few years of my career. It's a lot of fun to do. I really enjoy it."

Glass can move into the bottom-six spot vacated by ex-Penguin Arron Asham, who signed a two-year deal with the New York Rangers.

Joining the Rangers means that Asham will have played for all five Atlantic Division teams. He will have to sit out the first game of the regular season to complete a four-game suspension he received during the Penguins' opening-round playoff series against Philadelphia.

Along with adding Glass and Reese, the Penguins re-signed enforcer Steve MacIntyre -- he got a two-year deal that's worth $625,000 if he plays in the NHL, less if he's in the minors -- and agreed to two-way contracts with minor league goalie Jeff Zatkoff and forwards Riley Holzapfel and Warren Peters.

Zatkoff was 21-17-1, with 2.49 goals-against average and .920 save percentage in 44 games with Los Angeles' American Hockey League affiliate in Manchester in 2011-12.

Holzapfel had 16 goals and 21 assists in 57 AHL games with Syracuse and St. John's last season, while Peters accumulated seven goals and four assists in 20 games with AHL Houston and one goal and four assists in 58 games with Minnesota.

It was, unquestionably, a most productive day for the Penguins' minor league team. The kind the Penguins hope to have for themselves today.

NOTE -- Crosby's contract will pay him $12 million in each of the first three season, $10.9 million for the next two and $10 million for the sixth, followed by $9 million, $9.6 million, $9 million and, finally, $3 million in each of the final three seasons.


First Published July 2, 2012 12:00 AM


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