Penguins notebook: Unrestricted free agents to hit market
June 28, 2014 11:41 PM
Penguins' Matt Niskanen checks Rangers' Mats Zuccarello into the boards in the second period of the Eastern Conference semifinals at Consol Energy Center May 9.
By Dave Molinari / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
PHILADELPHIA — Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford has made the obvious now official.
He said Saturday the Penguins don't expect to re-sign any of their 11 unrestricted-free-agents-to-be before they hit the open market Tuesday.
The Penguins have had little more than cursory contact with most of the 11 since Rutherford replaced Ray Shero as GM June 6.
Rutherford didn't rule out bringing some of them back after they explore free agency, although that seems unlikely.
"We'll keep the door open and an open mind, see how it goes for some of those guys," he said. "But based on what these guys are looking for, it won't happen prior to July 1."
Defensemen Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik headline that group, which includes forwards Jussi Jokinen, Tanner Glass, Marcel Goc, Lee Stempniak, Taylor Pyatt, Joe Vitale and Brian Gibbons, defenseman Deryk Engelland and goalie Tomas Vokoun.
The Penguins also have six players -- forwards Brandon Sutter, Nick Spaling, Jayson Megna and Bobby Farnham and defensemen Simon Despres and Philip Samuelsson -- scheduled to be restricted free agents. Rutherford has said he plans to extend qualifying offers to all of them, which would preserve the Penguins' right to match any offer another club might make to them.
Rutherford, who said the Penguins will not be forced to make any personnel moves solely to conform with the $69 million salary-cap ceiling for 2014-15, noted that he hopes to fill "three or four" holes in his lineup with free-agent signings.
Rutherford happy with scouts
It will be years before the work of the Penguins' amateur scouting staff for the 2014 draft can be accurately evaluated.
Rutherford seems impressed enough by what he has seen, however, that he doesn't anticipate making major changes to the staff. He suggested Saturday, when the draft wrapped up at Wells Fargo Center, that a few scouts might explore opportunities for higher positions with other clubs, but dismissed the idea that a housecleaning was in order.
"I really like what I see with this group," Rutherford said. "Sometimes when somebody new comes in, they think you're going to bring in all of your own people."
He said he "absolutely" does not plan to do make a clean sweep of the current staff, which was assembled by Shero.
New forward is versatile
Spaling, acquired Friday with Patric Hornqvist in the deal that sent James Neal to Nashville, has experience at all three forward positions but, he says, a preference for none.
"I've been played all over the place," he said Saturday. "I've been playing more wing [than center] the last couple of years, but I don't mind either."
Spaling, who played junior hockey with the Kitchener Rangers with Penguins defenseman Robert Bortuzzo, is known primarily for his defensive work and penalty-killing, but said he hopes to become more involved in the offense.
"I'd definitely like to be able to contribute offensively," he said. "I want that to be part of my game."
Other assistant coming soon?
Longtime NHL forward Travis Green hasn't been hired as an assistant coach yet, but there's every indication he will be. Soon. Green worked with new coach Mike Johnston at Portland in the Western Hockey League before taking over as head coach at Utica in the American Hockey League, and was an obvious candidate for the second assistant's job as soon as Johnston was hired.
"Mike is talking to him," Rutherford said. "We're hoping he comes on board."
Rich Tocchet, a member of the Penguins' 1992 Stanley Cup team, is Johnston's other assistant.
Dave Molinari: Dmolinari@Post-Gazette.com and Twitter @MolinariPG.
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