The Pittsburgh Penguins started the 2012 free agency signing period by replacing several players, resigning a few key players and sending an offer to highly sought Zach Parise. The Pens added more depth to the roster and reached agreements for extensions with several key players.
The Penguins started signing early, acquiring the negotiating rights to goaltender Tomas Vokoun from the Washington Capitals in exchange for a draft pick. Pittsburgh signed Vokoun to a deal worth $4 million over the next two seasons. The signing of Vokoun adds depth to the goaltending position after Brent Johnson proved to be an incapable backup last year. The signing of Vokoun forces Marc-Andre Fleury to play at a more consistent level to maintain his starting job. Vokoun still possesses the ability to play 25 to 30 games in the regular season and allow Fleury more games off. Vokoun also serves as a viable option if Fleury falters in the postseason again. Just under $2 million per year for a backup goaltender looks expensive, but a lot less expensive than a useless Fleury at $5 million per year.
Arron Asham dealt with injuries and disciplinary action over two seasons with Pittsburgh. Meet new and improved replacement Tanner Glass. Glass plays a game similar to Asham, but measures in two inches taller. Not known as a prolific scorer, Glass mucks, grinds, kills penalties, blocks shots and drops the gloves if necessary. The Penguins probably overpaid slightly at $1.1 million per year, but needed to add a role player to fill out the forward lines.
Management probably never guaranteed Dylan Reese a roster spot, but the Pittsburgh native happily signed with his hometown team. Reese spent part of last season with the New York Islanders, showing good consistency and a bit of offensive ability at times. He joins a deep pool of capable defensemen already in the Penguins' system. Along with Dartmouth grad Tanner Glass, Reese adds even more smarts to a team with two Ivy Leaguers already on the roster (Craig Adams, Harvard/Ben Lovejoy, Dartmouth).
Minor League Players: (Jeff Zatkoff, Goaltender/Riley Holzapfel, Forward/Warren Peters, Forward/Trevor Smith, Forward/Brad Thiessen, Goaltender/Steve MacIntyre, Forward)
The Penguins signed several players to play for AHL affiliate Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Baby Penguins with the potential to play stints with the big club if necessary. Goaltender Brad Thiessen re-signed with the Penguins after posting a 3-1 record backing up Marc-Andre Fleury for part of last season. Steve MacIntyre looks to remain the Penguins premiere enforcer when needed.
Pittsburgh re-upped defenseman Matt Niskanen. The Penguins acquired Niskanen in the same deal that brought James Neal to Pittsburgh. Niskanen remained fairly consistent for the Penguins this season, chipping in offensively at times, and played okay in the postseason despite a near utter collapse by the team. The former first rounder signed for about $2.3 million per year for the next two years. This may be a bit steep for now, but it may be a bargain if he continues improving over the year.
El Capitán, the head honcho, Sid the Kid, Sidney Crosby signed a massive extension to stay in the Steel City for the next 12 seasons. Sid makes an average of $8.7 million per year under the new deal. While the deal comes with risk, especially after Crosby's well-documented concussion problems over the past two seasons, the reward permeates any doubt. Crosby played strong down the stretch for the Penguins, tailed off a bit in the playoffs, but hopes a full offseason of intense training puts him back on top in the NHL.
The Penguins (along with the Red Wings, Flyers, Wild, Devils and Blackhawks) hope to hear a decision from highly sought winger Zach Parise soon to finish building the team either with or without the Devils captain. So far the Penguins' offseason looks a little boring, but with a plethora of youth waiting for training camp in September, the team looks ready to battle for a top spot in the East yet again.
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