Latest UFA update, and Cup Final thoughts.

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FIRST, A CLARIFICATION

Thanks to an observant reader, I was tipped off to some misinformation from my previous post. Regarding Penguins prospects who are restricted free agents, please scratch from my previous listing Cs MARK LETESTU and DUSTIN JEFFREY. Letestu is in the final season of a two-year deal, and Jeffrey is in the last year of his entry-level contract, according to Penguins ASS’T GM JASON BOTTERILL.

CONTRACT UPDATES

Unfortunately, as of Thursday afternoon there isn’t news to report on the Penguins’ potential unrestricted free agents. I’ve been in touch with the agents for players who seemingly are the highest priorities (according to readers) – Ds SERGEI GONCHAR and MARK EATON, LW MATT COOKE – and, well, there just isn’t a lot going on right now.

That could change fast, though. GM RAY SHERO is headed to Toronto for the NHL Draft Combine workouts, and conversations could pick up there as often that event provides an opportunity for managers and agents to talk.

I can report that Gonchar’s camp expects to meet with Shero at the Combine. As I wrote in the previous post, a Penguins UFA told me that as he understands the situation, everything starts with Gonchar. So, perhaps the Penguins’ free-agent dealings are about to heat up.

Remember, with the likes of Gonchar and impending UFAs, the Penguins hold exclusive negotiating rights until free agency begins at noon on July 1.

STANLEY CUP FINAL

A lot has been made of this Final being a nightmare for Penguins fans, but I don’t buy that working theory. I don’t know any Penguins fans that are rooting for the Flyers, even though arguably the most despised former Penguin since RW JAROMIR JAGR — that would be Blackhawks RW MARIAN HOSSA — is chasing that elusive Cup win.

My pick is Flyers in six.

Maybe I’m seduced by having watching them dismantle a Montreal club that beat the East’s presumably most Cup-ready clubs. Mostly, I just have the feeling, as I have for some time, that the Flyers are to this NHL era what the Steelers were to the NFL last decade: A great team with a potential dynasty in its path. The Steelers won Super Bowls in seasons they didn’t have to best the dynastic Patriots in the playoffs. The Flyers are in the Final the season they didn’t draw the Penguins in the playoffs. It’s enough to make me wonder. Also, I think the Flyers are a tougher team – mentally, emotionally – and that will give them a chance to split at Chicago in Games 1 and 2 and ride the Orange Crush at Philadelphia to a 3-1 series lead.

I’d love to hear from any Penguins fans that are choosing a historic rival over a jilting winger. If you are going with the Flyers, share with me your reasons at hockeyday@tribweb.com. Please include your full name and hometown if you want those reasons to appear in the blog.

–BY ROB ROSSI

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