As free agency officially opens tomorrow, July 1st, Pittsburgh Penguins’ fans have been eagerly awaiting a decision by Jaromir Jagr and his agent Petr Svoboda to see if Jagr will be returning to where it all started. As we all know by now, a decision was supposed to be made by Jagr on Wednesday, but there have been a number of reports as to where Jagr even is right now. The Penguins general manager Ray Shero has put a deal on the table for Jagr for 1-year and is rumored to be for $2.1 million. Getting lost in all of the Jagr hype, are the signings that have taken place and what they mean for the other Penguin free agents.
The Penguins have re-signed forward Pascal Dupuis for a 2-year deal worth $1.5 million annually. Dupuis, who came to Pittsburgh in the February 2008 deal for Marian Hossa, was one of the many Penguins who stepped up his game with the absence of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin in the second half. Dupuis finished with the third highest amount of goals (17) and points (37) in his career last season. A fixture on the top-ranked penalty killing unit, Dupuis was tied for fourth in the NHL last season with four shorthanded goals, a career high.
It was also announced yesterday that the Penguins decided to bring back Arron Asham for another year for $775,000. I was quite surprised at this signing as I felt he was one of the more expendable players. Asham battled injuries last season and only appeared in 44 games for the Penguins. However, Asham led the team with three goals and tied for the lead with four points in the playoffs last year. If Asham can stay healthy this year, then he will be a good fixture on the fourth line with Craig Adams and hopefully some of his past playoff heroics, will transfer to the regular season.
While it is good news that the Penguins signed Dupuis and Asham, it also signals the end for a couple fan favorites. The signing of Dupuis all but guarantees the end of the road for Max Talbot in Pittsburgh. The Penguins offered Talbot a multi-year deal, but he turned it down. On Tuesday, the Penguins traded his rights to the Toronto Maple Leafs, but they were unable to work out a deal with Talbot. With a weak free agent class this year, it looks like Talbot will cash in and I’m happy for him. He will always be remembered for the fight with Daniel Carcillo of Philadelphia in 2009 and more importantly, his two goals to win Game 7 of the Stanley Cup in 2008.
The signing of Asham also signals the end of the road for Mike Rupp in Pittsburgh. Going into the offseason, I felt Rupp, after Adams, was the most important free agent for the Penguins to sign. Again with the weak free agent class, Rupp wanted more than the Penguins were willing to pay and will get a good deal with another team. Rupp’s size will be missed in front of the net and he isn’t afraid to step up for his teammates when needed. It’s no guarantee that Rupp won’t be back, but with free agency starting tomorrow, it isn’t looking promising.
What does look promising for the Penguins is that with Rupp looking to be on the way out, it looks like Eric Tangradi will make the opening day roster. Tangradi came over in the 2009 deal with Chris Kunitz for Ryan Whitney. Tangradi played 15 games for the Penguins last season before being the victim of the Trevor Gillies cheap shot in Long Island. Tangradi does have a big body like Rupp and showed net-front presence last season as he was instrumental in the Penguins first powerplay goal of the playoffs by screening Dwayne Roloson.
When tomorrow comes, the madness will officially begin. Tune into www.ovathletics.com or follow @ovathletics and @MichaelWaterloo on Twitter for constant updates on free agency and whether Jagr and Tyler Kennedy will be returning to Pittsburgh next year.