Penguins Free Agency Day 4: Finnish winger next target

One-year contract close to completion

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Turns out size really doesn't matter.

It's length that counts.

When Penguins general manager Ray Shero is building a team, anyway.

He continued doing that yesterday -- working with assistant general manager Chuck Fletcher on a contract the Penguins hope to finalize today with free-agent winger Janne Pesonen, the 2007-08 scoring champion in Finland's top league -- but it was the moves Shero made Wednesday that captured the essence of his philosophy.

He completed a seven-year, $35 million agreement with goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, then struck a pair of one-year deals with free-agent wingers Miroslav Satan and Ruslan Fedotenko.

Fleury joined Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Ryan Whitney and Brooks Orpik on the list of young players who are under contract for extended periods and make up the nucleus around which the team is assembled.

Conversely, Satan and Fedotenko joined a revolving cast of complementary players who were brought in on short-term deals and are far from certain to be retained after those contracts expire.

In the salary-cap era, keeping a lineup intact from year to year isn't practical. General managers routinely face difficult decisions, like the ones Shero made when he declined to offer free-agent forwards Jarkko Ruutu and Adam Hall the three-year contracts they were seeking, limiting his proposal to two years.

Both had to seek that extra season elsewhere, and both got it -- Ruutu from Ottawa, Hall from Tampa Bay.

Shero, while acknowledging the contributions of both players, resisted any temptation he might have had to stray outside his self-imposed guidelines.

"The long-term deals are for the core of this team," he said.

Pesonen, 26, had 34 goals and 44 assists in 56 games with Karpat in Finland's SM-Liga and is in line for just a one-year deal. That's mandated by the NHL's collective bargaining agreement, which. requires players his age to get a one-year, two-way deal.

In addition to being the league's current scoring champion, Pesonen was the SM-Liga Rookie of the Year in 2003-04, has been a member of four league-championship squads and was the playoff MVP in 2007.

His size is a bit suspect -- he's listed as 5 foot 11, 179 pounds -- but his speed, skill and instincts make him an intriguing prospect if he can adapt to the smaller rinks and more physical play of North America.

The Penguins hope Pesonen, like Satan and Fedotenko, will take some of the sting out of losing first-line right winger Marian Hossa to Detroit as a free agent. Then again, whatever wounds Hossa's departure Wednesday inflicted on Shero began to be salved almost immediately.

"I'm the only general manager in the league who can lose Marian Hossa, at whatever time I talked to him, and [then] sign Evgeni Malkin," Shero said.

Getting Fleury locked up for the next seven seasons likely helped, too.

Fleury's agent, Allan Walsh, said, "it's a lot more difficult to do a long-term deal" than one lasting two of three years, but praised management's approach to the Fleury talks.

"You're look at the marketplace today and trying to predict where it's going to for the next seven years," Walsh said. "You don't want to miss the market. It can change dramatically over just a couple of years."

Negotiations took about three weeks, he said, and had no significant complications.

"The process was very smooth, and the Penguins are to be commended for the way they approached Marc," Walsh said. "There was a lot of forthright discussion. There was no real gamesmanship at all.

"They sat down with us and said, 'We want Marc here, long-term. He is a critical piece of our team, part of our core. We're prepared to make a huge financial commitment to him.' "

In return, he added, Fleury "was not going to be driving the marketplace, looking to break records" with his salary.

"That's not what a great career is all about," Walsh said.

"You could be the highest-paid guy in a market you don't want to be in, where the team doesn't win anything. If so, how fulfilling of a career would you have?

"Being part of what exists in Pittsburgh as the No. 1 goalie and one of the leaders of this team is a coveted spot, and it's where any young goalie who wants to be a winner would want to be."

Jagr headed to Russia

Less than 24 hours after Jaromir Jagr was told that the New York Rangers couldn't wait any longer to try to negotiate a new deal, the 36-year-old Czech right winger signed a lucrative two-year contract with an option to play for Avangard-Omsk, a Russian team that is part of the new Continental Hockey League.

Also -- Sharks grab defenseman Dan Boyle from Lightning for Matt Carle and prospect.

Dave Molinari can be reached at .


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