Tampa Bay Lightning v Pittsburgh Penguins - Game Five

Penguins keep Tyler Kennedy after all, signing him to two-year, $4M deal

More than a few people felt like the Pittsburgh Penguins were about to part ways with Tyler Kennedy when they didn’t extend the center a qualifying offer. Apparently that didn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things, though, as the Penguins reportedly signed Kennedy to a two-year, $4 million deal today. Kennedy was set to become an unrestricted free agent today because of the lack of a qualifying offer but obviously that won’t happen.

Before we discuss Kennedy a bit, it’s important to connect his signing with the Penguins’ decision to pull their reported one-year, $2 million offer to Jaromir Jagr. You never know if the two sides can come to an agreement and make a lot of Penguins fans happy in the process – again, we thought Kennedy might be on his way out, too – but it doesn’t seem particularly likely at this time.

As far as Kennedy’s contract is concerned, it seems like a reasonable deal. The undersized center was a well-liked player among hardcore fans in Pittsburgh, but for his first three seasons, there was the sense that he couldn’t connect on the chances he created with his speed and hockey IQ. Injuries to Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin increased his workload with the Penguins through the second half of 2010-11 and he delivered with the best year of his career. He scored a career-high 21 goals and 24 assists for 45 points in 80 game. Kennedy also averaged 14:32 minutes per game, the most of his career.

The Penguins have done a solid job of locking up role players lately, signing Kennedy, Arron Asham and Pascal Dupuis to new deals. Pittsburgh has 21 roster spots covered already with about $3.6 million of cap space remaining, according to CapGeek.com. That should keep the Pens from the few remaining big names in the mix, but they might be able to tweak their team with a solid forward or two.

Ducks name Kesler alternate captain

Ryan Kesler
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For the second time in his career, Ryan Kesler is wearing an “A.”

On Thursday, the Anaheim Ducks announced that Kesler would serve as one of the club’s alternate captains this season, taking over for Francois Beauchemin, who signed in Colorado this summer.

With the move, Kesler joins Anaheim’s existing leadership group of captain Ryan Getzlaf, and alternate Corey Perry.

“It’s an honor,” Kesler said, per the Ducks. “It’s special. I’m going to wear it with pride and lead by example.”

As mentioned earlier, Kesler has some experience as an alternate — he wore an “A” in Vancouver from 2008-13, but had it removed prior to the start of the ’13-14 campaign.

It’s not surprising Anaheim went in this direction. GM Bob Murray made a huge investment in Kesler this summer by inking the 31-year-old to a six-year, $41.25M extension.

Diaz could leave Rangers for Europe

Raphael Diaz, Mike Sislo
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Could Raphael Diaz be on his way back to Switzerland?

We’ll know in a month.

Diaz, who lost out on the Rangers’ final blueline spot in training camp, has reported to the club’s AHL affiliate in Hartford but doesn’t seem pleased with his current situation, per the Post:

The 29-year-old Diaz, who cleared waivers last Saturday after the Blueshirts opted to keep rookie Dylan McIlrath as the club’s seventh on the blue line, is interested in the European option if he is not in the NHL.

The Blueshirts have told Diaz they will revisit the situation at the end of October, but have not promised to release him or assign him to a European team at that point.

If Diaz, a Swiss native who represented Switzerland in the 2014 Olympics, does play in Europe during the season, he would have to go through waivers in order to return to the NHL.

Diaz’s agent, Ritch Winter, told the Post that Diaz signed a one-year, $700,000 deal with the Rangers “to play with the Rangers.”

And it’s understandable if Diaz — a journeyman offensive defenseman — isn’t happy with this situation.

While some believe McIlrath earned his roster spot on merit, some think it’s because of his contract status. McIlrath, who’s only 23 and a former first-round pick, would’ve needed to clear waivers to go back to Hartford, and it’s believed he would’ve been claimed by another club.