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Penguins agree to sign Ehrhoff - 07-01-14

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

The Penguins have agreed to sign unrestricted free agent defenseman Christian Ehrhoff to a one-year contract worth $4 million according to TSN's Bob McKenzie.

Ehrhoff, 31, had the final seven seasons of his previous contract bought out by the Sabres this past week. In 79 games last season, he scored 33 points (six goals, 27 assists) for a pretty poor Sabres team.

A native of Germany, Ehrhoff (6-foot-2, 196 pounds) has played for the Sabres, Canucks and Sharks in his NHL career.

-A few highlights:

 

His signing leaves the Penguins with $10,630,833 of salary cap space according to CapGeek.com.

 

EN Says: There are a few layers to this signing.

First, with the team putting a greater emphasis on advanced statistics, Ehrhoff is a good fit. Over the past five years, Ehrhoff has been of the top defensemen in the NHL with various advanced metrics.

Beyond the advanced numbers, Ehrhoff is a pretty good player. He's a left-handed puck-moving defenseman who has a rocket of a shot. Playing for two pretty good Canucks teams in 2009-10 and 2010-11, he boomed in 14 goals each season.

Ehrhoff is a big-minutes eater. He lead the Sabres last season with 23:54 of ice time per game. He spent 3:27 on the power play and 2:35 on the penalty kill. In his own zone, he's reliable but he's hardly a bulldozer when it comes to playing around his own net.

Additionally, Ehrhoff has been pretty durable throughout his career having never played fewer than 64 games in a full NHL season since becoming a full-time player at the level in 2005-06.

That said, given the Penguins' abundance of assets on the blue line, we're not sure the Penguins really had a need on the blue line with so many prospects in the system, albeit with Olli Maatta and Derrick Pouliot recovering from significant shoulder ailments.

Ehrhoff's signing leads us to suspect something else is in the mix with a potential trade to clear up some cap space. There are still some significant holes up front among the bottom-six forwards.

This signing further cements the end of days for Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik in Pittsburgh.

For Ehrhoff, this appears about joining a winning team after some lean years in Buffalo. He told TSN, "I'm excited to play with [Sidney] Crosby and [Evgeni] Malkin. Hopefully that can take me to my ultimate goal, winning the Cup."

Erhoff is still getting paid handsomly by the Sabres as a condition of his buyout. He doesn't appear to mind taking a one-year contract to get a chance at the Stanley Cup and to potentially cash in with another big contract as a free agent next summer.

(Photo: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

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NHL free agency chat - 07-01-14

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

We will be hosting a live chat for the start of the NHL's free agent signing period at noon. You can participate in the chat box below.

Live Blog NHL free agency chat with Seth Rorabaugh
 

(Photo: Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

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Empty Netter Assists - 07-01-14

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

Penguins

-We will be holding a chat regarding free agency starting today around noon. Tune in later.

-Who are some of the unrestricted free agent forwards the Penguins will take a look at to fill out their bottom six forward roles?

-The Penguins extended qualifying offers to all six of their restricted free agents; Forwards Brandon Sutter, Nick Spaling, Jayson Megna Bobby Farnham, defensemen Simon Despres (above) and Philip Samuelsson.

-"When you don’t win, change is needed and that’s why things are changing in that organization." - Predators forward James Neal on his former team, the Penguins.

-"I don’t think I could have really dreamed it any better being taken by my hometown team." - Forward Sam Lafferty, a native of Hollidaysburg, on being drafted by the Penguins.

-Happy 37th birthday to former Penguins forward Jarome Iginla. Acquired prior to last season's trade deadline in a deal which sent forwards Ben Hanowski, Kenny Agostino and a draft pick, Iginla appeared in 13 games for the Penguins in 2012-13 and scored 11 points. Iginla saw action in 15 postseason games last spring and scored 12 points. He joined the Bruins as a free agent last offseason.

-Happy 47th birthday to former Penguins forward Mike Eastwood. A free agent signing in the 2003 offseason, Eastwood spent one season with the Penguins. In 2003-04, he appeared in all 82 of the team's games and recorded 19 points. He retired in 2004.

Neapolitan Ice Cream Metropolitan Division

-The Devils placed defenseman Anton Volchenkov on waivers with the intention of using a compliance buyout on the remainder of his contract.

-The Devils re-signed restricted free agent defenseman Adam Larsson to a one-year contract worth $900,000. Coming off an entry-level contract with a salary cap hit of $925,000, Larsson, 21, appeared ni 26 games last season and scored three points (one goal, two assists).

-EN Says: Larsson (right) is a former first-round pick (No. 4 overall in 2011) who hasn't quite worked out yet. This is a prove-it contract for Larsson to show he has a place with this team at the NHL level.

-The Flyers made qualifying offers to restricted free agent forwards Jason Akeson, Tye McGinn, defensemen Brandon Manning and Erik Gustafsson. They did not extend a qualifying offer to goaltender Cal Heeter.

-Will Capitals assistant coach Todd Reirden, formerly of the Penguins, make a pitch to Brooks Orpik or Matt Niskanen?

Atlantic Division

-The Canadiens acquired forward P.A. Parenteau from the Avalanche in exchange for forward Daniel Briere and a fifth-round pick in 2015. Parenteau, 31, had two years remaining on a contract with a salary cap hit of $4 million. In 55 games last season, Parenteau had 33 points (14 goals, 19 assists). Briere, 36, has one year remaining on a contract with a salary cap hit of $4 million. In 69 games last season, Briere had 25 points (13 goals, 12 assists).

-EN Says: We really like this move for the Canadiens. They bring in in a younger, more productive player at a position they have a hole at. With captain Brian Gionta expected to leave as a free agent, Parenteau can fill in on the right wing of one of the top two lines. Parenteau (6-foot-0, 193 pounds) isn't overly large and can be knocked off the puck, but he's larger than Briere (5-foot-10, 175 pounds). While Briere did have some key moments for the Canadiens in the postseason, he was mostly unproductive in regular season play. Additionally, as a center, he was stuck behind other players on a team with solid depth at the position. For Colorado, Briere is insurance if pending unrestricted free agent forward Paul Stastny leaves the teams.

-“You’re never ready for it. You’re never expecting it so yeah, you’re a little bit blown away." - Canadiens defenseman Josh Gorges on general manager Marc Bergevin asking him to wave is no-trade clause.

-The Canadiens extended qualifying offers to forwards Joonas Nattinen, Lars Eller and defenseman P.K. Subban. They did not extend a qualifying offer to forward Ryan White.

-The Maple Leafs placed defenseman Tim Gleason (right) on waivers with the intention of using a normal buyout on the remainder of his contract.

-One year after signing with the Bruins, Iginla appears set to become an unrestricted free agent once again.

-The Sabres did not extend qualifying offers to restricted free agent forwards Cory Conacher and defenseman Jamie McBain.

-The Panthers officially used a compliance buyout on the remainder of captain/defenseman Ed Jovanovski's contract. The move will spare the Panthers Jovanovski's salary cap hit of $4.125 million.

-The Red Wings issued qualifying offers to restricted free agent forwards Tomas Tatar, Riley Sheahan, Landon Ferraro, Mitch Callahan, Andrej Nestrasil, defensemen Danny DeKeyser and Adam Almquist. Forward Cory Emmerton was among those who did not receive a qualifying offer.

-The Lightning issued qualifying offers to restricted free agent forwards Richard Panik, Brett Connolly, Cody Kunyk and Philippe Paradis, defensemen Andrej Sustr and Dmitry Korobov. It did not issue qualifying offers to defenseman Keith Aulie or goaltender Anders Lindback.

Central Division

-The Jets re-signed former Penguins forward Chris Thorburn to a three-year contract worth a total of $3.6 million. Coming off a contract with a salary cap hit of $866,667, Thorburn's new deal will have a cap hit of $1.2 million. Thorburn, 31, appeared in 51 games last season and scored 11 points (two goals, nine assists).

-EN Says: This is a questionable contract given Thornburn's  (right) age and his style of play. Never shy about dropping the gloves or throwing a big hit, he doesn't spare himself much wear and tear. This is a sizeable commitment to a player on the wrong side of 30.

-The Stars issues qualifying offers to restricted free agent forwards Cody Eakin, Scott Glennie, Antoine Roussel, defensemen Brenden Dillon and Cameron Gaunce. Former Penguins forward Dustin Jeffrey was among those who did not get a qualifying offer.

-The Wild issued qualifying offers to restricted free agent forwards Nino Niederreiter, Jason Zucker, Justin Fontaine, defenseman Jonathon Blum and goaltender Darcy Kuemper. Defenseman Tyler Cuma did not receive an offer.

-The Oilers gave Todd Nelson, head coach of their AHL affiliate in Oklahoma City, a three-year contract extension. A former Penguins forward, he was considered a candidate for their recently vacant head coaching position.

Pacific Division

-The Kings re-signed unrestricted free agent defenseman Jeff Schultz to a two-year contract worth a total of $1.7 million. Coming off a contract with a salary cap hit of $700,000, Schultz's new deal will have a cap hit of $850,000. Schultz, 28, appeared in 67 games last season and scored 13 points (two goals, 11 assists).

-EN Says: This is a depth signing. Schultz is a No. 6 or 7 defenseman on this team and has filled in competently when injuries have set in. With the team expected to lose defenseman Willie Mitchell to free agency, it might have to rely on Schultz even more.

-The Kings tendered qualifying offers to restricted free agent forwards Andy Andreoff, Dwight King (right), goaltender J.F. Berube, and defenseman Brayden McNabb.

-The Flames extended qualifying offers to defensemen Chad Billins Mark Cundari, forwards Lance Bouma, Joe Colborne, Ben Hanowski and goaltender Joni Ortio. Forwards Paul Byron and T.J. Galiardi, were among those not given qualifying offers.

-The Sharks extended qualifying offers to restricted free agent defenseman Jason Demers, Taylor Doherty, Matt Tennyson, forwards James Sheppard, Tommy Wingels and goaltender Harri Sateri.

-The Ducks re-signed restricted free agent goaltender Igor Bobkov to a one-year two-way contract.

(Photos: Justin K. Aller/Getty Images, Claus Andersen/Getty Images, Bruce Bennett/Getty Images and Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)

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Neal: 'When you don’t win, change is needed' - 06-30-14

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

The last time the Penguins made a major trade during the NHL draft, they traded forward Jordan Staal the day of his wedding in 2012.

During this past weekend's draft, James Neal found out he was traded a day prior to the wedding of former teammate Matt Niskanen.

Earlier today, Neal, now a member of the Nashville Predators held a conference call with media and talked about the trade, his time in Pittsburgh, his history of discipline and his future with the Predators.

Here are the highlights of the call:

(Note: Much of the call was interrupted by audio feedback and could not be transcribed.)

Opening statement:

"I’d like to thank the Penguins organization for everything over the past three years. Coming from Dallas and playing in Pittsburgh was an unbelievable opportunity for me. And now a new chapter in my career. I couldn’t be more excited to be with the Nashville Predators and get things going."

On being traded:

"Anytime you’re traded, it always comes as a shock. I think even if you knew you were going to get traded, it comes as a shock. To be welcomed into Nashville by so many people and so many fans and to come in to be a top guy and take on a lot of responsibility in Nashville, it’s something I’m looking forward to and something I’m excited for. It’s a crazy time but a real exciting time. I’m real excited to get into Nashville and get ready for a great season."

On the Predators having offensive woes last season:

"That’s part of why I came into Nashville. You look what Nashville did last year in playing over 50 games without their best player in our goaltender Pekka Rinne. Our defense is unbelievable and so is [captain/defenseman] Shea Weber. Obviously things are changing here. We’re going to be a more offensive team. I talked to coach [Peter] Laviolette. Nothing but a bright future ahead. That’s something I’m looking forward to. I’ve need to step up and be a top guy in this game and be a leader. I’m excited for that challenge."

On Laviolette’s style of play:

I like it a lot. It sounds very exciting. Winning puck battles. … It’s going to be big changes and I get to be a part of that.

On his suspensions:

"Your emotion gets the better of you. Obviously, there were things that have happened in my game that you regret. I have to change and be better for it. I've changed as a player, I've grown as a player. I'm still young, I have a very long way to go. Mistakes happen and I'm going to be better for it and move forward and not let that stuff happen again. I have to concentrate on being a leader on this team and taking my game to the next level."

On potentially helping the Predators recruit potential free agents:

“We've started that, obviously it started with me, and with myself coming here. Hopefully guys will want to come to Nashville. Like I’ve said, we have great goaltending, great defense and now we're starting to build our offense to be a more powerful team. That's a great start.”

On being back in the Western Conference:

"The West, I know a lot about the West coming up with Dallas. It’s tough. There’s a lot of great teams. My time in Pittsburgh and in the East helped me grow as a player. I’m thankful for that. It’s exciting to be back in the West."

On the Penguins coming up short in the playoffs in recent seasons:

"I think anytime when you’re surrounded like [Sidney] Crosby, [Evgeni] Malkin and [Kris] Letang you have those expectations to win. … It’s hard to put your finger on why you didn’t succeed. When you don’t win, change is needed and that’s why things are changing in that organization."

What do you see with the Predators?

"You see a team that missed the playoffs by three points in the tough Western Conference. They missed it by three points without their best player in Pekka. So everything is there, and I hope I can come in here and supply offense for a team that was lacking a little bit of offense. Things are changing and things are changing for the best. We have a great leader and a captain (Shea Weber), and we're just getting better."

Last time you were traded, it was midseason. How different is it being traded during the offseason?

"I think it’s better to go in and get to set up in Nashville. Find a place to live in. … When you get traded during the year, it happens so fast. You have to leave your teammates quick. Everything is a little hard to adjust to."

(Photos: Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

 

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Hollidaysburg's Lafferty inspired by 2000-01 Penguins - 06-30-14

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

Unlike previous years, the 2014 NHL draft didn't have an abundance of players with ties to Western Pennsylvania.

Also unlike previous years, the Penguins selected a player with ties to Western Pennsylvania in this year's draft.

With their fourth-round selection, the Penguins took center Sam Lafferty, a native of Hollidaysburg in Blair County. Having spent the past three seasons with Deerfield Academy in Massachusetts, a school which counts NHLers such as Craig Janney, Marty Reasoner, Alex Killorn and former Penguins Ben Lovejoy among its alumni. Lafferty (6-foot-0, 187 pounds) is expected to for the Tri-City Storm, a USHL team based in Kearney, Neb. In 2015, he is expected to attend Brown University.

After the conclusion of the draft Saturday, Lafferty, 19, talked about his background, his future and how the Penguins sparked his interest in hockey.

It's safe to assume you grew up a Penguins fan?

"Yeah. I’m from Hollidaysburg. Been a Penguins fan as long as I can remember. Lived in Hollidaysburg my whole life and played for the locals teams here. But yeah, huge Penguins fan."

What's your background as a hockey player?

"When I started, I played for a team called the Altoona Trackers. Played for them for several years before playing for a team called the Mid-State Mustangs based out of the same rink here in the Hollidaysburg/Altoona area. Stayed in Hollidaysburg until 10th grade then went away to a high school in Massachusetts called Deerfield Academy. I just graduated a few weeks ago. When I went away to Deerfield, I played split seasons for the Mustangs and also played in the Winter for Deerfield."

What was it like when you found out the Penguins drafted you?

It was incredible. I don’t think it’s really, really sunk in yet. The associate general manager [Jason Botterill] called me and just said, ‘We’re happy to have you as part of our organization.” I thanked him for the opportunity. From there, I was able to enjoy it with my family and friends. I got a lot of nice messages from all the people I’ve met over the years, all my friends from Deerfield. It was real nice to share it with every one.

At what point did it seem like being drafted was possible?

"I guess I knew there was a pretty good chance at some point. It thought maybe there was a chance Pittsburgh could take me but anything could happen on draft day. Kind of uncertain. I don’t think I could have really dreamed it any better being taken by my hometown team. Maybe a little bit earlier than I expected too. A little bit of a surprised and pretty surreal."

How do you describe yourself as a player?

"If I said If I had to compare myself to a Penguins right now, I’d say Brandon Sutter. We both play center. I think I have some similarities to him. Obviously, he’s a great player. He’s just someone I really try to emulate. A good two-way center. An all-around good player. Responsible but also really skilled."

Are there any Penguins' players or moments which really stand out for you as a fan?

"I think it started for me just watching them in the playoffs, I think in 2001 with [Mario] Lemieux, [Jaromir] Jagr [Martin] Straka, all those guys. Watching them in their [Eastern Conference quarterfinal] series against Washington, that really made me want to start skating. That’s kind of when I started going to the rink in town which had just been put in the year before. It was really good timing for me to be able to start skating right when I saw the Penguins on TV. That was sort of the inspiration for me."

(Photo: WTOV)

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