Another center is on the Penguins' radar

Staal or Malkin due to become winger

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The Penguins have what is widely regarded as the premier collection of centers in the NHL.

That is not preventing them from trying to add another.

Mostly because one of their top guys at the position likely will be filling a different spot on the depth chart this fall.

A plan to shift Evgeni Malkin or Jordan Staal from center to wing would create a void on the third line -- whether it was because Staal went to the wing, or because he moved into Malkin's spot on the second line -- and the Penguins are investigating a number of candidates to take over that job.

One is Rob Niedermayer, 35, who earned $1 million in New Jersey last season.

The Penguins have about $3 million in salary-cap space remaining (when prospect Eric Tangradi's contract is not included in the total), and generally like to maintain a seven-figure cushion against the cap ceiling to accommodate developments like short-term injury calls-ups and trades.

If Niedermayer would accept a deal similar to the one he had with the Devils, he would fit in under the cap easily. At least one other club, Edmonton, is believed to have a serious interest in signing Niedermayer.

He is 6 feet 1, 201 pounds, versatile and a good skater, but not much of an offensive force. Reliable as he is in his own zone, Niedermayer has not put up as many as 40 points in a season since getting 51 for Florida in 1998-99.

A member of the front office, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed Sunday that the Penguins are considering trying to sign Niedermayer, but added that they "are looking at a couple of other guys, as well."

While the identities of those players were not divulged, the list of capable checking-line centers still available via unrestricted free agency includes:

• Former Penguin Dominic Moore, late of Montreal. He seemed to fall out of favor here because former coach Michel Therrien was unhappy with his shot-blocking work, but he is coming off a solid season in Montreal. Moore, 29, is 6 feet, 188 pounds and had 10 goals and 18 assists in 69 regular-season games with the Canadiens, who paid him $1.1 million.

• Jeff Halpern, who had nine goals and 10 assists in 71 games with Tampa Bay and Los Angeles. He is 34, 6 feet and 203 pounds, and made $2 million in 2009-10. Halpern had an obvious disdain for the Penguins when he broke into the league with Washington, and it is not clear whether that has changed.

• John Madden, who was paid $2,938,500 while helping Chicago win the Stanley Cup. He is 37, 5 feet 11 and 190 pounds, and had 10 goals and 13 assists in 79 regular-season games. He was consistently effective in a blue-collar role against the Penguins during his many seasons in New Jersey.

• Ryan Johnson, who had one goal and four assists in 58 games with Vancouver. He is versatile, albeit offensively limited, and 6 feet 1, 202 pounds. He was paid $1.1 million in 2009-10.

Madden and Halpern presumably would have to accept significant pay cuts to end up here.


For more on the Penguins, read the Pens Plus blog with Dave Molinari and Shelly Anderson at www.post-gazette.com/plus . Dave Molinari: dmolinari@post-gazette.com .


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