With the big Stanley Cup championship buzz still floating around the air in Pittsburgh, the Penguins look to have a well deserved relaxed off-season. With the off-season approaching that means the NHL Entry Draft, and most importantly free agency, are right around the corner. Most of the Penguins free agents that were signed last season played a key role in the Penguins Cup run this year. Some of them to name, Matt Cullen and Eric Fehr. Both, great assets to the organization this past championship season was welcomed to the Burgh through free agency. This year I think the Penguins should approach free agency a little differently.
In my opinion, I think the Pens should lay low in free agency. The main goal for this free agency period has to be resigning Matt Cullen (UFA), Ben Lovejoy (UFA) , Justin Schultz (RFA) and honestly maybe back up goaltender Jeff Zatkoff (UFA) with all the Marc-Andre Fluery trade rumors flying around. Bringing new faces to the team I think would be a little unnecessary.
Ben Lovejoy surprised me this post season, which made me believe we should definitely try to get this guy back next season. I’m not a big Lovejoy fan but the way he helped the Penguins when Trevor Daley went down with injury and Kris Letang getting suspended back in the second round against the Washington Capitals played a big role to the playoff success. Who knows though, this past contract of Lovejoy, had him making 1.1 million dollars, after the stellar playoff performance he might what a little more of the cheddar. I think the Pens might be able to bump up some of the cash, but I don’t think they should drastically raise it. If Ben seeks a contract of 1.5 million and up, I say let him walk. If it’s in the 1.3, 1.35 ballpark I’d consider it. The most amount of years I could see him getting is 1 and that’s probably what it’ll be, in my eyes.
Matt freaking Cullen, The team dad. The amount of leadership and dedication to the game shown from this guy just makes me want to resign him. We all know Penguins General Manager Jim Rutherford would like him back also. GMJR told reporters that “There’s a spot on this team for him next year.” It all come down to what Cullen wants to do. Matt is contimplating on retiring or going one more year. I think it’s in his best interest to go another year here in the Burgh. If he retires though I don’t blame him, he’ll go out his final season as a Stanley Cup champion. I think the Pens could give Matty a one year contract worth 1 million dollars. He proved this year that the old guy is just as good as any young guy in that locker room. He deserves all that he makes and hopefully he will pull through and play in the black and gold again next year.
When I heard the Penguins traded for Justin Schultz, I immediately thought that’s what we needed. Schultz, being the young guy he is also helped out on the blue line like Ben Lovejoy did these playoffs. He flew under the radar but impacted the team just the right amount to grant us with the success we needed. I liked Schultz ever since we traded for him and I’d like to see him back in the 412 next year. Although just like Lovejoy, he might want a little more money. I wouldn’t mind paying Justin what he wants because I think with a little more time and the help of defensive coach Sergei Gonchar, I think Schultz will definitely be a stud second pairing defensemen.
We all have been hearing the rumours about goaltender Marc-Andre Fluery possibly getting traded. Yeah we get it, we have 2 stud goalies that both are more than capable of being NHL starters. So what happens if the Pens do trade MAF? Who will back up Muzz? Jeff Zatkoff will be a Pittsburgh Penguin if Fluery gets traded at the draft or a little bit past the draft. Jeff played in games one and two of the opening round of the 2016 playoffs against the New York Rangers and didnt look to half bad. He’s the perfect guy to keep on the bench till you’re go to goalie needs a rest or gets hurt in a game. I can see GMJR giving “Mr Game One” a one year deal buying time for him to see what they want to do for the following year backup goaltender wise.
I don’t think we need to many new faces in the locker room this year, due to free agency. I can see the Pens going out and getting 1 depth offensemen and a depth D-man. That’s honestly the only thing I think the Pens need. Hey, if it’s not broke don’t fix it. Keeping the core group of guys from the 2015/2016 Penguins roster would be the ideal senerio for the Penguins this off season. There isn’t that much that we need and I don’t think we need to do anything about it. So I challenge you to keep and eye on free agency and don’t be to surprised when you don’t see the Penguins bringing in to many new guys. Like I said before, if it isn’t broke then dont fix it.