Separate reports emerged yesterday that the Pittsburgh Penguins will not re-sign unrestricted free agent forward Maxim Lapierre or defensemen Paul Martin and Christian Ehrhoff.
When it came to passing on Martin, 34, and Ehrhoff, 32, the idea was to focus on a defensive youth movement while reallocating those savings towards bolstering the Penguins’ group of wingers. That might ultimately be the path Pittsburgh takes, but Penguins GM Jim Rutherford countered those reports.
“I don’t want to cross anybody off the list because you don’t know what happens here in the next month,” Rutherford told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
Paul Martin’s agent, Ben Hankinson, also asserted that there hasn’t been any decision made yet and that returning to Pittsburgh is still a possibility.
Pittsburgh has a little under $61.8 million committed to 13 players, per General Fanager. That gives them some flexibility going into the free agent period, but signing Martin and Ehrhoff would make it difficult for them to add anyone else.
The Pittsburgh Penguins brought in some agitating new presences in 2014-15, but it sounds like at least one of them won’t be back.
TVA’s Renaud Lavoie reports that the team won’t re-sign Maxim Lapierre, allowing him to hit the unrestricted free agent market.
The 30-year-old was best known for getting under opponents’ skin. In 80 regular season games, he managed 11 points and 32 PIM, and probably received a wide array of profane insults for his pesky ways. After 45 games wih the St. Louis Blues, he joined the Penguins via a trade (the Blues nabbed defensive forward Marcel Goc in the deal).
Penguins fans and observers seem pleased that he’s on his way out:
The Penguins have other fish to fry this offseason, including a tougher decision to make regarding another (more productive) pest, as Steve Downie’s also heading toward free agency.
Penguins GM Jim Rutherford says the big news of this week — that owners Mario Lemieux and Ron Burkle are exploring a possible sale — won’t affect how the club works free agency.
“Nothing changes as far as how we run hockey operations,” Rutherford told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “We have a great city to play in and the best facilities of anyone in the league with the opening of our new practice facility.
“That should be very appealing to a free agent.”
Just prior to Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final, TSN broke news that Lemieux and Burkle hired Morgan Stanley “to explore the possibility of selling some or all of the NHL franchise.”
Shortly thereafter, the Pens released a statement:
“We conduct periodic reviews of our business and, because we have received several inquiries about the franchise in recent years, we decided to engage Morgan Stanley for their insight and counsel.
“After buying the team out of bankruptcy, ensuring its long-term future in Pittsburgh and creating a strong foundation for continued success, we believe it is time to explore our options.”
Before the club can begin exploring free agents, it needs to reach decisions on the eight players set to become UFAs: Daniel Winnik, Maxim Lapierre, Steve Downie, Blake Comeau, Paul Martin, Thomas Greiss, Christian Ehrhoff and Craig Adams. One decision has already been made — Adams has been told he won’t be brought back — and Ehrhoff’s agent recently suggested his client will go to July 1.
The club also needs a new deal for RFA forward Beau Bennett, and RFA d-men Ian Cole and Brian Dumoulin.