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Early-afternoon update on Pens’ FA situation.

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The calls, texts and emails are out. Some have been returned. A quick update:

= There remains nothing new developing with D SERGEI GONCHAR, though I get the feeling from talking to his teammates that he is torn on possibly leaving the Penguins and chasing a three-year deal on the open market come noon Thursday. There hasn’t been any noise coming my way from his representatives this morning. I hesitate to say that silence could mean something is close, because that would be pure speculation. I’ll say this, though: In the 24 hours before LW MATT COOKE agreed to his contract last Monday night the lines of communication with his camp closed. The same can be said of previous contract negotiations I’ve covered, notably with C JORDAN STAAL (late-2008), D BROOKS ORPIK and G MARC-ANDRE FLEURY (July 2008).

After speaking with GM RAY SHERO late Monday, I certainly was left with the impression that the Penguins will not move on their offer. Obviously, his policy is not to negotiate in the press, but I can tell you the offer was for two years. I’ve heard rumors of a total salary, but nothing I would feel comfortable reporting.

I spoke with an agent at the NHL Entry Draft who told me he believed at least three teams would offer Gonchar a three-year deal at his previous annual salary ($5 million), and that he believed two of those teams would be willing to provide Gonchar an extra $1.5 million over the course of a contract if it meant closing the deal. If one agent has heard this then you can bet Gonchar’s agent, JP BARRY, knows a big payday is out there come Thursday.

There isn’t going to be a bidding war on the Penguins’ side. In fact, they’ve not really moved from whatever they’ve proposed. Barry is a reputably tough but fair negotiator, and it’s important for readers to remember that his job is to do what’s best for his client. That being said, he works for Gonchar — and if Gonchar wants Barry to make something work in Pittsburgh all he has to do is give that order.

I’m expecting this to go to Thursday because Shero told me there is no pre-UFA Day deadline for any of his free agents. I wouldn’t at all be surprised, though, if come Thursday afternoon Gonchar has taken a survey of his options and informed Barry to re-engage the Penguins.

That would be a risk for Gonchar. By Thursday the Penguins may not have the cap room to keep him.

There is a Plan B if neither Gonchar nor D DAN HAMHUIS (or both) sign by Thursday. This won’t be like July 1-2 2008, when talks with RW MARIAN HOSSA dragged out so long that the Penguins didn’t have great options in front of them on the open market. They’ve targeted upgrading the defense corps, and they’ll do that even if the two defensemen they most want — Gonchar and Hamhuis — opt to go the free-agent route.

= Speaking of Hamhuis, he and Shero did speak at length on Monday. Shero described those talks in more detail in a story that appeared today in the print Trib. Generally, the talks went “good,” according to Shero.

There has been a lot of speculation that Hamhuis wants to play in Canada, and preferably Western Canada. That may be true, but nobody from his camp has told me Hamhuis’ is targeting a return to his home country. I do know he wants top-pairing responsibilities, and the Penguins can provide him that. They’ll also be able to sell the most lavish players’ facilities of any NHL arena at the Consol Energy Center, and a player-friendly environment cultivated in the post-lockout era by majority co-owners MARIO LEMIEUX and RON BURKLE.

Hamhuis has a decision to make, and if his priority is returning his family to Canada, then nothing the Penguins have said to him since Sunday will have mattered anyway.

An e-mailer asked me why Hamhuis would sign with the Penguins instead of the Flyers, who couldn’t get a deal done after acquiring his rights several weeks back. The Flyers are a reputably first-class organization according to players. However, Hamhuis wouldn’t have been slotted onto the top pairing in Philadelphia. If where he plays — slotting on a title contender, not the city — is a factor for Hamhuis, the Penguins are an attractive fit.

Shero told me Hamhuis was going to take talk of Pittsburgh to his family and get back to Shero today. Again, all is quiet from Hamhuis’ camp, so take what you will from that.

–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.

Comments

  1. diane says:

    Thanks for the updates!

    I don’t think of Hamhuis as a #1 defenseman either. Brooks Orpik has done all for the pens. Now, if you want to call Oprik 1aa, like Sid and Evgeni, okay. Hamhuis, not the crown jewel on D.

    No interest in Anton Volchenkov?

  2. Jim Duron says:

    Rob, Lets say the Pens lose out on both Sergi and Hamhuis what is the next move?
    Is a big Defensemen like Andy Sutton on the wish list then? Do they change the defense first idea?

  3. Frank says:

    “This won’t be like July 1-2 2008, when talks with RW MARIAN HOSSA dragged out so long that the Penguins didn’t have great options in front of them on the open market.”

    It sure is starting to feel like it.

    First, it was “do or die day” for Gonchar on the first day of the draft. Then it turned to Saturday. Then it turned to Monday. Now it is being reported that talks will continue through July 1st.

    I say forget Gonchar and throw the big money contract at Volchenkov (he’s actually worth it) and then see what Hamhuis wants to do. If you are going to throw $5.0 million at a defenseman, at least put it towards a guy who can actually play defense and is closer to 30 years old and not 40 years old.

 
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