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Late-AM update on Pens FAs

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Actually, dear readers, by the time I get to posting this it will probably be in the noon hour Wednesday; so perhaps “early AM” is false. Speaking of false, that is the theme for the first update note:

— I cannot honestly say if there are reputable reports or if the questions stem from message-board/radio talk, but I’ve received several questions via email about the Penguins trading a roster player for the rights to an impending free agent. I suppose this scenario would be possible, though also possible is LeBron James opting to play next season with the Penguins. My point: I wouldn’t put a lot of stock into any rumors of the Penguins’ acquiring a player’s rights with less than 24 hours remaining before FA season opens tomorrow at noon. GM Ray Shero has been talking to a lot of people, but not seriously about acquiring another player with whom he must negotiate.

— Heard from an agent late Tuesday who found it “curious” that Shero has not swapped contract terms and numbers with the camp for D Dan Hamhuis. Shero told me upon acquiring Hamhuis that he anticipated the first few days of talk being focused on assessing if Pittsburgh was a place Hamhuis wanted to be, and I’m not sure this final day before FA season won’t be much of the same. I maintain that a likely scenario — if Hamhuis does choose the Penguins — is him testing the market tomorrow and then accepting whatever offer the Penguins have made, assuming that offer remains on the table. For him to stay off the market at this point doesn’t seem to make much sense.

By the way, and I’d love to hear some thoughts on this (hockeyday@tribweb.com), I also maintain that Shero made the right move to snag Hamhuis’ rights even if Hamhuis signs elsewhere — unless Hamhuis signs with the Flyers. My contention is that these three days of talks provided Shero the best chance to sell Hamhuis on the Penguins. Hamhuis was a guy he would have targeted on July 1, anyway, so why not have a few days before where the conversations could be exclusive? A 2011 third-round pick likely won’t arrive in Pittsburgh to play at the NHL level until 2014 at the earliest, and by then the landscape of the NHL, let alone the Penguins, could have drastically changed. The Penguins’ window is three years with this group, maybe only two; Shero made the right call by acquiring Hamhuis, even if Hamhuis doesn’t sign. Then again, maybe you disagree.

— From what I can gather, it is very quiet around the NHL today, leading me to believe that what I started hearing at the draft — that the opening day of FA aeason could be uneventful — might be on target. This isn’t a great crop of free agents, and as my Trib colleague Josh Yohe noted today in his nice piece on FA season, there is some thought that many teams’ self-imposed budgets are closer to the NHL salary floor than the $59.4 million cap.

It’s worth reminding that the Penguins plan to spend to the cap, but they are projecting around $11 million in free space.

— There isn’t anything new to report on D Sergei Gonchar, though I did hear this morning that trading his rights might be a possibility. That said, it’s hard for me to believe a team wouldn’t want at least 24 hours to negotiate with Gonchar, and we’re under that right now. Also, Gonchar has a no-trade clause. I spoke with his agent this morning and there is absolutely no movement toward a deal with the Penguins. From both sides I hear the same thing: “They know where we stand.” I can’t recall a tougher negotiation that I’ve covered.

As always, keep checking back for updates. Thanks for reading.

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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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