A big chip falls… to Philly.



While speaking with Penguins GM RAY SHERO on Friday he said that regarding free agency the ball is already rolling around the NHL. Even though the FA period opens July 1, clubs are determing which if their players they can realistically considerably keeping and, as evident by the move made today by the Phildelphia Flyers to acquire D DAN HAMHUIS from Nasvhille, teams are looking for ways to acquire players with the intention of taking free agency off the board.

First, the lowdown on Hamhuis to Philadelphia:  http://www.tsn.ca/nhl/story/?id=325130

I am makign some calls to see if the Penguins were in on talks to acquire Hamhuis, a player I felt would be a pefect fit for them next season and beyond. Certainly the Penguins didn’t have a player such as D RYAN PARENTto offer the Predators. Still, with Hamhuis off the board — I cannot imagine the Flyers made this move without 100 percent confidence he will sign a long-term deal before July 1 — the acknowledged strong market for pending free-agent defensemen has taken a hit, as have perhaps the Penguins play to retool their defense.

With no positive progression on talks with D SERGEI GONCHAR’s camp, the Penguins might be wise to consider moving on re-signing Ds MARK EATON and JORDAN LEOPOLD. Keeping Gonchar or LW MATT COOKE would garner a big-pop headline before July 1, but retaining Eaton and Leopold — two for the price, perhaps below, it would cost to keep Gonchar — might be just as important. The only healthy NHL-tested defensemen under contract to the Penguisn are KRIS LETANG and ALEX GOIGOSKI. As for BROOK ORPIK, who is recovering from sport hernia surgery and will be ready for camp — well, his importance to the to the Penguins has never been greater. If Gonchar doesn’t return (likely), this corps becomes Orpik’s to lead, and I’d also suggest it becomes vital for the Penguins next season to maximize Orpik ($3.75 million cap hit) as a true shutdown defenseman, a guy who plays in all the big spots against the best players. Why pay for a guy on the FA market when Orpik is already on the roster?

By the way, I must credit the Flyers. Their move in 2007 to trade for D KIMO TIMMONEN and W SCOTT HARTNELL and keep those players from testing the FA market was shrewd, and it helped spark a franchise turnaround. I thought then that both players would have been high on the Penguins’ FA radar, but the Flyers nixed that by trading with Nashville for those players’ rights and then signing them before July 1.