Penguins general manager Ray Shero held a conference call this afternoon with media regarding his team's efforts in free agency.
He discusses his inability to sign Zach Parise or Ryan Suter, the possibility of trades and the loss of Steve Sullivan. Here is the partial transcript:
On the process of offering contracts to Parise and Suter and waiting for them to decide:
"It took four days to find out but we respect the process. They’re both obviously very good players. They both end up on the same team in Minnesota. They’re going to help any team out. Zach as we all know is a really good two-way player, hence our interest. We thought he would be a very good fit here in Pittsburgh, short- and long-term. The same thing with Ryan Suter, a top pairing defenseman. These guys are hard to find. And as a free agent, they have the ability to choose where they want to play and the both chose to go to Minnesota."
How close did you come to landing either player?
"We never got close to anything like that in terms of any sort a verbal agreement or any sort of negotiation. We made offers to both players which were very fair and strong for both players. It became pretty apparent over the course of a few days that Ryan was probably not coming this way. In terms of Zach, we didn’t know what was going on until maybe later last night. They got together, did their thing. I guess we saw this a number of years ago with (Paul) Kariya and (Teemu) Selanne going to Colorado in a concerted effort as well. That’s what they’re going to do and we respect that. In terms of where we go from here in filling spots, you’re not going to find a Ryan Suter other there. We like the defense the way it is. If there’s a chance to upgrade, certainly we’re going to do that but there’s a number of teams that are looking for defensemen now and they’re difficult to find."
How important is it to find a winger to play with Sidney Crosby?
"If we could, that would be fantastic. It would make my life a lot easier. Sid does well with whoever he plays with and we have some pretty good forwards and a pretty good team here. Last year, we were fortunate to be able to work out a trade for James Neal. James came and signed a six-year contract recently and was named a first-team all-star and scored 40 goals. We’re getting there. That’s something we didn’t have before. Inch by inch, we’re getting there. He seemed to fit really well with (Malkin) and I’m sure, if given the opportunity he’d be great with Crosby as well. The most important thing in the job as a general manager, is putting together the best team possible. If we can find a long-term winger for Sidney, that would be fantastic. But as you can see, they’re not growing on trees here. You have to be patient. If there a chance to get someone like Zach Parise as we just tried to do, it makes a lot of sense and that’s why we tried to do it."
When did you decide to part ways with Steve Sullivan?
"We made a decision on (Sullivan) yesterday that we were going to move on anyway. We were in constant contact with his agent and he told me a couple of the team he had offers on. We talked again about it today internally and felt that for (Sullivan) it might be … we made an internal decision that (Sullivan) should probably take one of those offers and encouraged the agent to do so. In terms of missing out on anybody, no we didn’t miss out. There’s not another Suter or Parise out there. Other guys were signing, but they weren’t at this level, that’s for sure."
What does Tanner Glass offer your team?
"What Tanner brings is a guy we identified for our bottom six (forwards). He at the right age for us. He’s got a track record in the league. Great character, really good team person, can skate, get in on the forecheck, likes to create turnovers. He’s a physical guy who will fight when needed. He’s a guy who can kill penalties as well. He’s done that last year in Winnipeg. He’s been to a Stanley Cup final in Vancouver. He’s a good signing for us and I think our fans are going to be happy in Tanner Glass."
Does the salary cap give teams like the Wild a greater chance to land these players?
"It looks that way and that’s probably they way it’s been set up. Minnesota had a lot of cap space and they planned and set up for this. That’s part of the recruiting job. Zach Parise was born in Minnesota and that’s where he prefers to play at this point. Maybe it’s family reasons or professional reasons. As Penguins, we’d love to have him but I respect him. It’s no different for Jordan Staal. It was both professional and personal reasons for Jordan Staal. This is the way sports are these days. Players get to pick where they play eventually. They drive the bus in this thing. A lot of factors go into it besides just money. And there’s so much money to be had out there for these guys, they went to a place they felt would be best for them professionally and personally. In the end, that’s how the sport is now."
How does this impact your ability to sign Evgeni Malkin to a contract extension in the future?
"I said that last week when we signed Sidney, that we’re going to have (Malkin) in the next year or two looking at another extension with the Penguins. We hope that’s going to be the case. We want to make him happy as well. And we looked at what would happened if we had signed Parise or Suter and what those contracts would do a year or two out. You always try to keep that in mind. We’ve got an ownership group here that wants to win. We’ve got a team that’s good. We’re on the rise. A lot of things to offer. You always keep in mind we’ve got (Marc-Andre) Fleury up in three years. Malkin’s up in two years. (Kris) Letang is up in two years. And every teams has to look at those snaps shots and try to balance that salary cap and their assets as best as they can."
Is it posssible you could trade for Columbus' Rick Nash or Anaheim's Bobby Ryan?
"They’re under contract to their respective teams so there’s not much I can say about them. You never know what’s going to come your way. If you had asked me Tuesday before the draft that we’d be trading Jordan Staal three days later, I’d probably say no way. But it happened. It was the right thing to do for the team and the player. It worked out for both hopefully for the long run. … We’ve got a lot of assets. We’ve got cap space. … A lot of things can happen on short notice. We’ll see what the summer brings us and we’ll go from there."
How do you fill the hole in the top six forwards with Sullivan gone?
"We’re going to have to see. If we don’t fill that hole via free agency or trade, then somebody’s going to get an opportunity because we can’t play one short. We’ve always talked about (Kennedy) and the ability to make the move up and maybe it’s his time to do that. But we’re a ways away from the start of the season and we’re going to have see what comes our way. In terms of younger players, maybe it’s a Beau Bennett in time and when he gets his feet wet. You bring up Sullivan, I just want to say how a great fit he was for us. He was great for our power play and he’ll be missed. A great guy in the locker room. I just want to tip my hat to Steve. He had a really good year for us. It was a good bounce-back for him. We’re going to have to look to fill that spot. Maybe try to get a little bigger and a little younger, fine. We’ll see. I don’t know who’s looking to trade what at this point, what the cost is and free agent-wise, if anything shakes free, we’ll see what happens."
(Photo: Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)