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Updates on UFAs, Shero’s contract, and calling all Virtual GMs.

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QUICK HITS

Well, dear readers, as I detailed in Tuesday’s Tribune-Review, Penguins GM RAY SHERO said talks with those impending UFAs he hopes to retain should head up this week. An update on that story:

= A collection of NHL agents, all who represent Penguins and a couple with clients set for UFA status, have sent word they are not aware of any announcement today by the Penguins regarding a potential signing. I can tell you after covering three NHL offseasons that if something is coming usually somebody knows.

= The NHL buyout period opened Tuesday, and it lasts two weeks. Buyout possibilities are tied into players’ ages. A player at or over 26 is eligible to be bought out at two-thirds of his remaining contract; a player younger than 26 can be bought out at one-third. Teams receive twice the years remaining on the bought-out player’s contract to pay the player a reduced salary. This provides the team salary cap relief.

The Penguins have 15 NHL regulars counting about $45 million against the NHL salary cap for next season. Six of those players will be on expiring contracts: Fs Pascal Dupuis ($1.4 million), Max Talbot ($1.05), Mike Rupp ($825,000), Eric Godard ($750,000), Tyler Kennedy ($725,000) and Craig Adams ($550,000).

= Speaking of Shero, he is set to enter the final season of his contract. The last thing the Penguins want is for him to be a lame duck next season. I’d look for team president and soon-to-be CEO DAVID MOREHOUSE to make re-upping Shero one of his first big moves in his new dual role. I’d also look for Shero to become one of the higher paid GMs in the NHL.

YINZ DON’T SAY

I’ve been told by many hockey fans that the days between the Stanley Cup Final and July 1 are the best of a calendar year because everybody can play Virtual GM. With that in mind, I’m hoping to use this blog to post some of the best GM scenarios from Penguins fans. The rules:

= For your plan to be considered for print all submissions must include your FULL NAME and CURRENT HOMETOWN.

= The salary cap counts. So, if the Penguins have 15 players costing about $45 million next season, assume they have about $14 million in available space on a NHL cap for next season at about $59 million. (I’ll give a 3 percent margin of error for that NHL cap number).

= Trade if you want, but, again, the cap must be considered – both short and long term. The site capgeek.com isn’t completely accurate, but it is a good resource for fans looking to research the cap situation facing the Penguins and other teams.

= The Penguins breakdown of under-contract NHL players for next season as of Tuesday: 10 forwards, 3 defensemen, two goalies.

= I reserve the option of assessing your GM plan. In fact, I might run some of the better plans past the GM.

To get this party started I’m turning to my cousin, Michael Henry Schwartz of Center, Pa. He sent me a four-page plan. I’m quick-hitting it. Shockingly, a relative of mine is a bit word. Anyway, his plan:

= Do not retain Ws ALEXEI PONIKAROVSKY and RUSLAN FEDOTENKO. Like many Penguins fans, Michael wasn’t keen on the team giving up a top prospect – W LUCA CAPUTI – for Ponikarovsky in the first place. I probably would have done a lot of things regarding Caputi differently, to be honest; but I can’t second-guess the decision to trade him. I am not alone in being shocked at Ponikarovsky’s poor performance after being acquired from Toronto.

= UFAs such as W ILYA KOVALCHUK and D ANTON VOLCHENKOV would be nice, but Michael doesn’t see either in the Penguins’ realistic plans. D ANDY SUTTON and W ALEX FROLOV he would go after. Sutton wearing a Skating Penguin? Hmmm…

= Michael has W MATT COOKE and D MARK EATON as the must-keeps among Penguins’ UFAs. For the right price he’d bring back D SERGEI GONCHAR and RW BILL GUERIN. His right price for Gonchar is $3.5 million, which is at least $2.5 million off what Gonchar might be thinking.

OK, kids, yinz are up…

–ROSSI

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Author: Rob Rossi

Rob Rossi is the lead sports columnist for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He has been called many names, but “Rossi” is the one to which he most often responds. He joined the Trib in November 2002 and was promoted to the columnist role in July 2014. Previously, he had covered the NHL’s Penguins (2006-14) and MLB’s Pirates (2006), while also working on beats associated with the NFL’s Steelers (2005-06) and the NCAA’s Pitt (2004-06). He has won national and local awards for his coverage of youth concussions and athletes’ charities. Also, he is a member of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association executive committee and the Pittsburgh chapter chair. Raised in Crafton and Green Tree and a graduate of West Virginia University, he has covered a Super Bowl, All-Star Games in baseball and hockey, the NCAA basketball tournament and over 100 Stanley Cup playoff games, including the Cup Final twice. Oh, and his sports reporting has led him to brief chats with Mick Jagger and Bruce Springsteen; so that’s pretty cool. He is a regular contributor on TV with WPXI, Root Sports Pittsburgh and TSN. Also, he is the authorized biographer of Penguins star Evgeni Malkin.

 
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