Penguins acquire forward Zolnierczyk, look to retain assets

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Harry Zolnierczyk got a new team Monday, when the Penguins acquired him from Anaheim.

And sometime soon, Zolnierczyk, a left winger scheduled to be a restricted free agent July 5, is going to receive a qualifying offer from them.

And he won't be the only one.

General manager Ray Shero said Monday he also expects to extend qualifying offers to forwards Tyler Kennedy and Dustin Jeffrey and defenseman Robert Bortuzzo before the July 2 deadline.

"I don't see us not qualifying anybody, at this point," he said.

Doing so with those restricted-free-agents-to-be will allow the Penguins to match any offer they might receive from another club.

The NHL's collective bargaining agreement stipulates that players paid less than $660,000 in a just-completed season must be offered at least 110 percent of their salary in a qualifying offer, while those receiving up to $1 million must be offered at least 105 percent, and those getting more than $1 million must be offered at least the same amount.

Consequently, the minimum qualifying offers for the players in question would be: Kennedy, $2 million; Jeffrey, $687,500; Zolnierczyk, $660,000; and Bortuzzo, $577,500.

But low-profile trades -- the Penguins sent minor-league defenseman Alex Grant to the Ducks to get Zolnierczyk -- and qualifying offers aren't Shero's only concern these days.

He's also trying to work out new contracts with players scheduled to become unrestricted free agents July 5, like forwards Pascal Dupuis and Matt Cooke. He's attempting to forge a deal with defenseman Kris Letang, who has one year left on a deal with a salary-cap hit of $3.5 million, too.

Shero said he expects to continue negotiations with all of those players this week.

Dupuis' agent, Allan Walsh, confirmed by email that "talks are ongoing," but added that he "can't say much more than that right now."

Pat Morris, who represents Cooke, said he has spoken with Shero and that "I know [Pittsburgh] wants to keep Matt if it's economically possible."

Kent Hughes, who is Letang's agent, made a similar point.

"We plan to continue talks to see if we can reach some kind of agreement," he said. "It's clear both sides would like to conclude an agreement."

Shero said he does not have any deadlines -- aside from those imposed by the CBA -- for finalizing deals with potential free agents.

"Especially with the unrestricted guys, you just have to keep at it," he said. "At some point, you have a deal, or at some point, you decide it's better off to test free agency.

"We're not at that point yet with anybody. But it's an important week for us and some of these players."

He added that acquiring Zolnierczyk was not connected to the Penguins' potential free agents in any way, and that bringing him in should not be interpreted as evidence that he has resigned to losing a particular player.

"Harry Z is a guy we've looked at in the past and have played against a lot," he said, adding that he believes Zolnierczyk will provide "good competition for the bottom six" forwards.

Zolnierczyk, 25, skates well and plays bigger than he is (5 feet 11, 175 pounds).

"He's an energy player," Shero said. "I think it's a good change for him, and Alex Grant probably needed a change, as well."

Zolnierczyk split the 2012-13 season between the Anaheim and Philadelphia organizations. He appeared in seven NHL games with the Flyers, getting one assist and 36 penalty minutes. He put up 11 goals, eight assists in 68 penalty minutes in 61 games in the American Hockey League.

Zolnierczyk has three goals, four assists and 71 penalty minutes in 44 NHL games, all with Philadelphia.

Zolnierczyk got a four-game suspension in March, while still with the Flyers, because of a hit to the head that gave Ottawa defenseman Mike Lundin a concussion.

Zolnierczyk, who attended Brown University before turning pro, had a significant legal issue while playing junior hockey in British Columbia.

He was given a three-year conditional discharge -- essentially, probation -- in connection with the production and distribution of a pornographic video involving an underage girl.

The incident was expunged from his record when the three years passed.

NOTE -- Don Meehan, agent for unrestricted free-agent Jarome Iginla, said in an email that he had a conversation with Shero about his client re-signing here, but that Iginla's future "may very well be an issue which will be determined only after the start of free agency."

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First Published June 24, 2013 2:00 PM


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