Pittsburgh Penguins Off-Season Report: Et tu, Ruutu?

WoooooSenior Writer IJune 30, 2008

With the opening day of free agency set to begin in about 13 hours, the Pittsburgh Penguins have already received more bad news than good.

Ryan Malone and Gary Roberts have left town, signing with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Marian Hossa and Brooks Orpik have turned down the Penguins' initial offer and elected to test the free agent market beginning tomorrow.

While neither player has ruled out a return to the Penguins' organization, neither has officially stated that they will be wearing the black and gold come October.

So, what about the eight other unrestricted free agents on the Penguins' roster?

Ray Shero has been suspiciously quiet about his plans for the teams' "role players" during this offseason, but one Penguin who has never been known to hold his tongue has stepped forward to comment on his looming free agency.

When asked where he sees himself fitting into the Penguins' talent-littered lineup next season, forward Jarkko Ruutu responded "First-line wing."

Ruutu was obviously showing off his well-known sense of humor, but in all seriousness, Dave Molinari of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette was determined to get something more out of the gritty on-ice trash talker.

Ruutu is spending the summer in his native Finland, but even from overseas, Ruutu knows that his fate will likely be decided in the coming week.

The key variable in the Penguins' off-season plans seems to be Marian Hossa. Whether or not Hossa returns to the team will undoubtedly affect the likelihood of such role players as Ruutu, Georges Laraque, Pascal Dupuis, and Adam Hall, among others, returning to the Penguins.

"I kind of expected it. I've been through stuff like this before" Ruutu said of the Penguins' GM's decision to wait until the deadline to unveil his plans.

"Pittsburgh is a great team, and, hopefully we can work something out", he added.

Ruutu earned $1.15 million in each of his last two seasons and his play during the Penguins' playoff run has surely raised his stock.

However, hockey, like any sport, is a business, and Ruutu recognizes that.

"It's a business for them (the management), just like it is for me", commented Ruutu.

Perhaps in a few short hours hockey fans will begin to gain the answers to the seemingly endless list of questions they have about the fate of their beloved team.

Information courtesy of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.