NHL Free Agency: Fedotenko takes pay cut to remain with Penguins
Ruslan Fedotenko celebrates a goal against the Hurricanes in the Eastern Conference final. Fedotenko, an unrestricted free agent, opted to take a pay cut and stay with the Penguins.
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Here's how it's supposed to work: A guy goes out, helps his team win a championship and gets rewarded in his next contract.
That's what happened with former Penguins defenseman Rob Scuderi, who made $725,000 last season but signed a four-year deal worth $3.6 million per season with Los Angeles Thursday.
Scuderi, though, seems to be very much an exception, at least among the Stanley Cup champion Penguins.
The latest example is winger Ruslan Fedotenko, who yesterday accepted a one-year, $1.8 million contract to return. He got $2.25 million when he signed with the Penguins in 2008.
Fedotenko is the third Penguins regular this week to accept a pay cut to return. He was preceded by Bill Guerin ($2 million, down from $4.5 million) and Craig Adams ($550,000, down from $600,000).
It's not that management refuses to acknowledge the contributions those players made. Just that the Penguins have very little space left under the NHL's salary cap and still hope to add another capable body or two before next season.
They have committed just over $54,000,000 of cap space to 19 players who figure to be on the NHL roster for the 2009-10 season, when the cap ceiling will be $56.8 million.
"Both with Guerin and Fedotenko, we explained our cap situation and what we had to do," general manager Ray Shero said. "It says a lot for them to come back and fit themselves underneath the salary cap to help us try to get another championship."
Perhaps Shero took the wrong approach to his negotiations with Scuderi, who he really wanted to keep. Maybe he should have offered Scuderi a reduction in salary, not a healthy raise.
Fedotenko attracted interest from a number of clubs, particularly Minnesota, and is believed to have passed on more lucrative offers to stay with the Penguins. He not only took less money than was proposed elsewhere, but took a one-year contract when the Penguins gave him the option of two.
A few hours before agreeing to terms with Fedotenko, the Penguins signed Sewickley native Nate Guenin, a 26-year-old defenseman, to a one-year contract. It will pay him $500,000 if he plays in the NHL, $105,000 if he's in the American Hockey League.
Guenin, who is 6 foot 2, 210 pounds, appeared in one game with Philadelphia last season, but put up 14 assists in 62 games with the Flyers' American Hockey League affiliate, also based in Philadelphia.
He was the New York Rangers' fourth-round draft choice in 2004 and could become the third Western Pennsylvania-trained player to play for the Penguins, joining Ryan Malone and Bill Thomas. (Thomas, a Fox Chapel native, is an unrestricted free agent, and the Penguins don't plan to re-sign him.)
Although Guenin could play in the NHL next winter -- "He plays with grit and has a little bit of experience," Shero said. "He could be in competition for a call-up role, for sure"-- the Penguins remain in the market for an experienced, low-priced defenseman who can take a regular shift.
Jay McKee, who had the final season of his four-year, $16 million contract bought out by St. Louis this week, is part of a cluster of players the Penguins are considering.
"I'd like to get another defenseman somewhere," Shero said. "We'll continue to keep an eye on things."
Although the Penguins also are looking for a No. 2 goalie, finding a defenseman to play on the third pairing appears to be their top personnel priority now that Fedotenko is under contract.
While Fedotenko's return fills one of the wing slots on the top two lines, it likely snuffs any chance of Janne Pesonen returning to the Penguins. He was touted as a possible top-six forward when they signed him as a free agent out of Finland last July but got limited playing time in the NHL and almost never worked with skilled linemates.
"Janne, quite honestly, probably came more into play in the event we weren't able to re-sign Ruslan," Shero said. "We like Pesonen as a player, but he's looking at some other opportunities, as well."
And perhaps waiting for some club to offer him a pay cut.
NOTES -- Tom Fitzgerald has left the Penguins' coaching staff to take over the newly created position of assistant to the general manager, while Dan MacKinnon is the team's new director of player personnel. Fitzgerald had been director of player development before joining the coaching staff when Dan Bylsma replaced Michel Therrien as coach Feb. 15. His spot as an assistant coach has not been filled yet; Shero said he expects the search to begin in about 10 days. ... Center Jeff Taffe, who played eight games with the Penguins last season and was a strong part of their minor-league club in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, agreed to a two-year contract with the American Hockey League Rochester Americans, making him property of Florida, according to the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle.
First Published July 4, 2009 12:00 am