Penguins weighing salary options

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The Penguins have a week to pare another dozen players -- or possibly more -- from their roster for the start of the 2013-14 season.

Precisely how they will do that isn't known, in part because there's no shortage of possibilities with 20 forwards, 12 defensemen and three goalies still in training camp.

What is certain is that in order to comply with the NHL's salary ceiling of $64.3 million for the coming season, at least one veteran with a one-way contract is going to be working elsewhere in the near future.

That doesn't necessarily mean, however, that general manager Ray Shero is going to be forced to trade someone the organization would prefer to retain -- defenseman Matt Niskanen comes immediately to mind -- to slip under the ceiling.

Fact is, he might not have to trade anyone.

It turns out that a provision in the collective bargaining agreement that took effect in January -- a provision the Penguins did not favor when it was being negotiated -- could spare them the need to part with a player they would like to keep.

The CBA allows teams to deduct up to $925,000 of the salary of a player with a one-way contract -- which means he is paid the same amount whether he is in the NHL or the minors -- from the club's cap hit if he is assigned to the American Hockey League.

The Penguins, and some other clubs, were philosophically opposed to that concept because it allows teams to be only partially penalized for negotiating suspect contracts. Basically, it makes it possible for financial mistakes to be buried, at least in part, in the minors.

Nonetheless, it means the Penguins could trim their cap total, as well as their roster, by sending bottom-of-the-depth-chart veterans to Wilkes-Barre.

"It's definitely different under this system, where you have that latitude," Shero said.

Doing so would carry the risk of losing those players on waivers, although anyone the Penguins would expose to those obviously would not be part of their early season plans.

Counting all players with one-way contracts, along with rookie goalie Jeff Zatkoff and defenseman Simon Despres, the Penguins are believed to be a little more than $1.6 million above the cap ceiling.

Simply sending Despres ($840,000), who does not require waivers, and Zatkoff ($537,500) to Wilkes-Barre would not quite get them to the cap ceiling, however, assuming they wouldn't seek long-term injury relief for the salary of goalie Tomas Vokoun, who is out indefinitely after having a procedure Saturday to dissolve a blood clot in his pelvis.

Such relief is available only if a player is unavailable, because of injury or illness, for a minimum of 10 games and 24 calendar days.

A decision on seeking relief for Vokoun's contract presumably will not be made until the Penguins have a better idea of how long he will be unable to play.

The Penguins trimmed their training-camp roster to 35 Sunday by assigning eight players -- forwards Nick Drazenovic, Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond, Steve MacIntyre, Jayson Megna and Adam Payerl and defensemen Scott Harrington, Philip Samuelsson and Brendan Mikkelson -- to the Baby Penguins.

MacIntyre, Drazenovic and Mikkelson are on waivers, and must clear at noon Monday before they can join Wilkes-Barre.

Coach Dan Bylsma said additional cuts are planned for today and that the Penguins plan to be within 3-5 players of their regular-season roster by the time they travel to West Point later this week.

One of the 35 players still in camp is veteran right winger Chuck Kobasew, who is on a professional tryout and is attempting to defy some steep odds by earning a contract.

There is precedent for that -- forward Adam Hall did it early in Shero's tenure, and still is in the league -- and Kobasew has made a spirited bid for a spot.

"We all know Chuck Kobasew pretty well, in terms of the player he is and the person he is," Shero said. "I think it's a good decision that he made [to accept a tryout], in terms of where he is.

"He's made it interesting for himself. He's added something. He got good speed. He's got maturity in his game. He gets inside. He's shown the ability to kill some penalties.

"We'll see what the next week brings."

NOTES -- The Penguins' lineup for a preseason game against Chicago at 7:08 p.m. today at Consol Energy Center will be chosen from the following: Goalies Marc-Andre Fleury and Zatkoff, forwards Pascal Dupuis, Kobasew, Chris Kunitz, Tanner Glass, Dustin Jeffrey, James Neal, Beau Bennett, Matt D'Agostini, Harry Zolnierczyk, Joe Vitale, Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby, and defensemen Matt Niskanen, Olli Maatta, Rob Scuderi, Robert Bortuzzo, Simon Despres, Derrick Pouliot and Kris Letang.


Dave Molinari: or Twitter @MolinariPG. First Published September 23, 2013 4:00 AM


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