Free Agency – Forwards

Ruslan Fedotenko, Bill Guerin, Petr Sykora, Miroslav Satan, Mike Zigomanis and Craig Adams.

What do those names mean to you?  Many were integral pieces to the recent Stanley Cup run.  Some are veterans, others budding youth.

Different sizes, strengths, positions and abilities, but all are free agents this off-season.  The Penguins’ future probably doesn’t hinge as much on this summer’s signings as last year.  However, there are players here that many of us would like to see back.

The National Hockey League has a set salary cap at $56.7 million for the upcoming season.  The Penguins have approximately $47.4 million invested so far.  That leaves roughly $9.3 million in cap space to either re-sign free agents, search for new talent or browse Wilkes-Barre for call-ups.

These are rounded figures.  Click read more to see the breakdown of signed players and free agents at the forward position, along with what moves I think the Penguins can/should make.

First off, let’s look at the forwards.  The following are under contract for the 2009-10 season.  Each player is listed with his salary for next season.

Sidney Crosby – 9 mil
Evgeni Malkin – 9 mil
Chris Kunitz – 3.6 mil
Jordan Staal – 3.5 mil
Pascal Dupuis – 1.4 mil
Matt Cooke – 1.2 mil
Max Talbot – 1.05 mil
Eric Godard – 750k
Tyler Kennedy – 600k

= $30.1 million invested in forwards

That leaves Ruslan Fedotenko, Bill Guerin, Petr Sykora, Miroslav Satan, Mike Zigomanis and Craig Adams as free agent forwards.  There are some questionable factors with some of these players.

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Ruslan Fedotenko (earned $2.25 million last season).  This is a player I’d really like to see back.  He meshed with Evgeni Malkin rather well and actually might be a guy to look at for a long(ish)-term contract.  I’ve got to assume he’d be interested in coming back to play with Geno.  The fact that he was dealt from the Islanders probably helps, making the appeal of success maybe more important than $$$.  That number seems about right for him as far as salary goes.

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Bill Guerin (earned $4.5 million last year). What can you say about Guerin.  He’s the veteran presence you want on a team.  It’s obvious that he and his family took a liking to Pittsburgh in his time here.  There are a few questions to ask, though.  First, does he want to call it quits or come back?  Second, can he continue to produce on a line with Crosby and Kunitz as he ages?  Third, do the Pens want an aging veteran like Guerin?  Do they want to take a risk with him?  It’s tough to say.  I think he’d have to take a pay cut to stick around if he wants to and the Pens want him.

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Petr Sykora (earned $2.5 million last year).  Of all the guys, Sykora’s case is the most tricky.  Do you sign the guy and hope he returns to form?  I don’t think his asking price is more than the $2.5 million he earned last year.  His declining play has probably pushed the likelihood of high bids from other teams as well.  I think it might be worth the risk to resign Sykie, but for a one-year deal.  His decline down the stretch warrants nothing more.

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Miroslav Satan (earned $3.5 million last year).  Gone.  It just didn’t work out.  He had some moments and carried himself like a professional should.  However, that doesn’t make up for his inability to mesh with one of the world’s greatest players.

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Mike Zigomanis (earned $650k last year).  Sign him up!  He’s a small price to pay for an outstanding faceoff percentage.  We don’t know too much about him since he played limited time due to injury.  However, some of his time spent on the power play points to offensive talent.

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Craig Adams (earned $600k last year).  Sign him up too.  He’s a solid fourth-liner.  He provides a big goal every once in a while, such as goal no. 2 of Game 7 in Washington, and is a great all-around energy guy.  He’s worth the small salary he can ask for.

My Take:

I think the first guys you go after offensively is Fedotenko.  The combination of him, Malkin and Max Talbot turned out to be huge in the playoffs.  I think that’s a key line to the Penguins’ success and Ray Shero and Co. would be wise to keep it together.

They can probably get Feds for around the same number.  He had 16 goals and 23 assists while missing a good chunk of time to a broken hand.  He is a 20-goal scorer when healthy and, at 30 years old, still has prime playing years left.

I’d then try to sign Sykora to a one-year deal.  It’s either him or Guerin.  What it might come down to is the fact that Sykora will be cheaper to buy.  He’s six years younger than Guerin and, despite his postseason collapse, still scored 25 goals during the regular season.  I think they might be able to nab him from the free-agent market for around $1.5 million, which would be a steal.

So that’s Feds and Sykie for a combined salary of 3.75.  If Shero can pull that off that would be great.

Lastly, I’d add Adams and Ziggy.  They would probably combine for a salary of around $1.5 million.  Zigomanis can’t really ask for too much more than what he earned last season, considering his health issues that cut playing time.  As for Adams, he can probably ask for a bit more.  As it stands, though, he’s still a fourth line center and only has so much pull.

That’s as much as I think they’ll do with the forwards.  It’s always hard to say goodbye to guys like Guerin and Gary Roberts, but they are aging and sometimes it’s just time.

Call-ups are always part of the equation as well.  Wilkes-Barre has been a big part of the Penguins’ success.  However because of that, the system isn’t as strong as it once was.

The Pens will probably look at Janne Pesonen, who is also a free agent.  He notched 82 points (32+50) in 70 games.  He might get a legitimate shot in the NHL this coming season.  So could Jeff Taffe, who spent significant time with the Pens in 2007-08.  I don’t think Luca Caputi will start the year with the main club.  He may get his chance as next season progresses, but his numbers show he still needs a little more work at the AHL level.  Eric Tangradi is a darkhorse.

To be honest, this whole thing is always confusing and anyone’s guess is as good as the other.  This is what I’d do.

Either way this will be a great summer.

GO PENS.

Chris | PPT

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3 thoughts on “Free Agency – Forwards

  1. Pingback: Free Agency – Defense « Pittsburgh Puck Talk

  2. Pingback: Remembering the Madness « Pittsburgh Puck Talk

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