The 2010 NHL entry draft is this upcoming Friday (June 25th), Free Agency will take place six days after the draft.
So far the Penguins have re-signed Matt Cooke, Steven Wagner, Ben Lovejoy, Deryk Engelland, Brent Johnson, and Nick Johnson.
The Penguins still have Sergei Gonchar, Bill Guerin, Jordan Leopold, Mark Eaton, Jay McKee, Alexi Ponikarovsky, Chris Connor, and Ruslan Fedotenko as potential free agents.
Fedotenko is most likely on his way out of here, Ponikarovsky and McKee seem to be on the same boat. Gonchar and Guerin continue to be question marks, although Gonchar continues to be one of Shero's priorities. Eaton and Leopold's futures with the Penguins depend mostly on Sergei Gonchar's status.
Ray Shero's biggest priority last season was to keep most of the Cup winning team in Pittsburgh, those players were Bill Guerin, Rob Scuderi, Ruslan Fedotenko, and Hal Gill. This offseason Shero's priorities are Sergei Gonchar and Matt Cooke. Cooke re-signed to a 3-year, $5.4M deal. Gonchar has yet to re-sign. The Penguins currently have $11.3M in cap space remaining.
The Penguins main necessity right now is defense, they are in need of a shut-down defensemen for next season. The Penguins can still retain Gonchar and a shut-down defensive defensemen, but that might leave a disturbance in wingers as the Penguins would only have around $2.8M remaining in cap space.
The Penguins could potentially sign a winger via free agency, names include Maxim Afinogenov, Alexander Frolov, Raffi Torres, Colby Armstrong, Jere Lehtinen, Darcy Tucker, Bill Guerin, Alexi Ponikarovsky, Evgeny Artyukhin, Arron Asham, Ruslan Fedotenko, Alex Tanguay, Slava, Kozlov, Marek Svatos, Lee Stempniak, Teemu Selanne, and Mark Recchi.
I would cross off the names Stempniak, Frolov, Torres, Ponikarovsky and Fedotenko. Ponikarovsky and Fedotenko most likely won't be back due to lackluster seasons and Stempniak, Frolov and Torres might be too much for the Penguins salary cap.
Colby Armstrong is in the hearts of a lot of Penguin fans, I personally wouldn't mind seeing him back as long as his cap hit is $1.8M - $2M a season, which I highly doubt he'd take.
Tanguay and Kozlov came off disappointing seasons with non-playoff teams, so I'd rule them out.
Afinogenov is interesting, he only made $800K last season with Atlanta and was able to put up 61 points (24 were goals).
Tucker, Lehtinen, Guerin, Recchi, and Selanne seem the most realistic, all of them except Tucker made $2M a season or under, they're all veterans who are able to provide leadership and experience as well as some offensive production.
Asham and Artyukhin would primarily be depth signings, if the Penguins would move Talbot or Kennedy to the top two lines.
The Penguins will most likely spend most of their cap in defensemen, free agents include names like Sergei Gonchar, Anton Volchenkov, Paul Martin, Derrick Morris, Zbynek Michalek, Mark Eaton, Jordan Leopold, Garnet Exelby, Randy Jones, Henrik Talinder, Toni Lydman, and Jay McKee.
Volchenkov is the most appealing on the list, he's an absolute tank defensively and provides physicality, he blocks an absurd amount of shots, great positioning, good hockey sense, and great penalty kill acumen. Volchenkov will most likely command $4M - $5M a season, along with 5-6 years.
Martin is pretty a much better version of Jordan Leopold, in a short description. He's very mobile (Excellent skater), he's a good puck moving defensemen, and is very solid in his own end. He's a good two-way defensemen, I wouldn't label him as a shutdown defensemen at all. I'd love to have Martin, but his cap hit might be a little too much (Estimated $5.5M - $6.5M a season).
Michalek is a shut-down defensemen, who's probably going to be cheaper than Volchenkov. I'm going to assume Michalek will be atleast $3M - $3.5M, for 3-4 years. I'd personally take Michalek over Volchenkov due to his cheaper price tag.
The Penguins will most likely fill some spots on their line-up with prospects like Eric Tangradi, Dustin Jeffrey, Chris Connor, Ben Lovejoy, and Deryk Engelland.
I feel with the Penguins being 5th in the NHL in scoring last year and 4th in SOG in the NHL, that they don't NEED any major scoring wingers. I would be happy with Kunitz, Dupuis, Tangradi, Talbot, and Johnson on the top wings as long as our defense is improved.
I would have no problem with Gonchar being retained, as long as it's under $5M a 3 years or less. A shut-down defensemen is needed in my opinion, Michalek or Volchenkov can most likely fill that role. Lovejoy, Engelland, and Wagner will most likely fight for the 6th or 7th defensive spot next year, I look forward to that.
I look forward to see who the Penguins draft, and who they sign. Hopefully Ray Shero does the right thing, and gets drafts a winger in the 1st round and signs a shut-down defensemen via free agency. I'd also like to see Gonchar back, as long as it's for the right price and the right amount of years, but I highly doubt Gonchar comes back. I can see Gonchar going to Ottawa or the Islanders personally.
Forward wise, it doesn't matter to me. As long as they take care of the defensive problem first. You can't really predict who the Penguins will sign, because it all depends on if they retain Gonchar or how much his replacement costs or if they both are signed, how much is left.
It will be interesting to see.