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Pens busy in the lead up to free-agency

Posted By Amit Mann On Jun 23 2010 @ 7:35 pm In Pittsburgh Penguins | No Comments

The Penguins have been busy the past few weeks, signing plenty of young talent while deciding to keep a feisty veteran around for at least three more years. For starters, Matt Cooke was signed for three years with an average of $1.8 million per season.

While he may not be the biggest scorers (15 goals last season), he has proven his worth in the playoffs with his aggressive play and excellent penalty-killing. A week earlier the Penguins also signed 2009 fourth round pick Nick Petersen to a three-year contract.

The 20-year-old posted 79 points with a plus-46 rating in 59 games with the Saint John Sea Dogs of the QMJHL. At right wing, Petersen can help the Pens with their depth on offense but do not expect an immediate impact from him.

He will need some time to get used to the NHL game and will hopefully spend some time in the AHL before making the jump to the big club. To the back end now where Pittsburgh has been busy getting pieces together for the upcoming season.

While they’re both AHL defencemans, they could become full-time NHLers in the near future. The Pens signed Steve Wagner to a two-way one-year contract worth $500,000 and he will look to fill in the sixth or seventh defenceman’s role.

They also signed Ben Lovejoy to a three-year contract worth $525,000 per season. Lovejoy, 26, spent most of last season with the Baby Penguins but was called up for three games and was impressive posting three points and a plus-8 rating.

 He is believed to have a guaranteed spot on the team and with the appearing departure of Sergei Gonchar, the Pens can use his smooth skating. Gonchar has been reported to be on his way to San Jose and it could be finalized by the end of the week.

Pittsburgh power play will certainly change with his departure and this could mean moving Evgeni Malkin to the point if they cannot get another defenceman with a good shot from the point.

I am curious to see what Pittsburgh does to improve to the team that was not physically big enough to contend with Montreal and likely Philly. As mentioned they need to get bigger upfront and they could use a shutdown defenceman to play against the best in the NHL.

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