Penguins ink Ian Cole to three-year, $6.3 million deal

Jared Clinton
Ian Cole (Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

Amidst news defenseman Christian Ehrhoff wouldn’t be returning to Pittsburgh for 2015-16, the Penguins announced Monday that they have come to terms on a three-year deal with blueliner Ian Cole.

The Penguins acquired Cole, 26, at the trade deadline this past season in a deal that sent Robert Bortuzzo and a seventh-round draft pick in 2016 to St. Louis. Cole was a first-round selection, 18th overall, of the Blues in 2007, but on a crowded Blues blueline that included Alex Pietrangelo, Jay Bouwmeester and Kevin Shattenkirk, there wasn’t room to keep Cole around.

Cole’s new contract, however, makes him cap-friendly for a young defenseman with what looks to be good potential. His three-year contract carries an annual cap hit of $2.1 million. Read more

Ehrhoff’s agent confirms defenseman heading for free agency

Jared Clinton
Christian Ehrhoff (Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)

One season after signing a one-year, $4 million deal with the Pittsburgh Penguins, Christian Ehrhoff is ready to be an unrestricted free agent once again.

According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Dave Molinari, Ehrhoff’s agent, Rick Curran, confirmed that Ehroff will be testing the free agent waters once again this off-season.

It had been reported earlier that Ehrhoff would likely hit the open market, with Curran telling Mike Halford of Pro Hockey Talk that he, “would suggest (Ehrhoff will) be available come July 1.” The latest report, however, solidifies that the 32-year-old blueliner will be heading elsewhere for the 2015-16 season. Read more

Rumor Roundup: Kessel, Skinner, Sharp & Bieksa trade buzz

Phil Kessel (Photo by Graig Abel/NHLI via Getty Images)

The 2015 NHL draft saw its share of trade activity involving established NHL players. Among the notables to change teams were Dougie Hamilton (Boston to Calgary), Milan Lucic (Boston to Los Angeles), Ryan O’Reilly (Colorado to Buffalo) and Carl Hagelin (Rangers to Anaheim). Even the rights of all-but-retired defensemen Flyers Chris Pronger was moved as part of a swap that also saw Nicklas Grossman shipped from Philadelphia to Arizona for Sam Gagner.

Despite this unusually high volume of players traded, several others who’ve been frequent fixtures in the rumor mill remain on the market.

On Friday, Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported multiple source claiming the Pens were interested in Toronto Maple Leafs right wing Phil Kessel. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Dave Molinari reports Carolina Hurricanes winger Jeff Skinner was on the Pens’ list of trade targets. Read more

Rumor Roundup: Lucic trade talk heating up

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Considering the increased trade speculation entering the 2015 draft, it’s only fitting Boston Bruins left winger Milan Lucic and defenseman Dougie Hamilton should resurface in the rumor mill. The Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch claims the Bruins are listening to offers for Lucic. The asking price is apparently “big,” though Garrioch didn’t mention specifics.

CSNNE.com’s Joe Haggerty notes there was talk of the Bruins shipping the 27-year-old Lucic to the New York Rangers for defenseman (and Boston native) Keith Yandle. Another rumor linked the power forward to the Vancouver Canucks for a defenseman. Haggerty claims Canucks blueliner Alex Edler was mentioned in previous Bruins trade rumors. He also wonders if the Bruins could target Kevin Bieksa or Dan Hamhuis.

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2015 Draft Preview – Pittsburgh Penguins need wings to fly

Kasperi Kapanen. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

Based on the past two drafts, the Penguins are firm believers in education. Perhaps it’s because the 2013 Frozen Four was at their rink, but the Pens have drafted almost exclusively NCAA-bound players lately. Only one 2013 draftee was from major junior (goalie Tristan Jarry of Edmonton). University of Nebraska-Omaha freshman center Jake Guentzel already looks like a steal.

PICKS:
Round 2, pick 46
Round 5, pick 137
Round 6, pick 167
Round 7, pick 197

SHORT-TERM NEEDS:
Wingers, sweet lord, wingers! The Penguins still head into nearly every off-season wondering how to find complements for Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, and the draft has not been kind in that regard. Beau Bennett is waiting to bust out, and he’s the closest candidate.

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Rumor Roundup: Hawks still trying to peddle Sharp and Bickell

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The increase in the NHL salary cap ceiling from $69 million to $71.4 million does little to help the Chicago Blackhawks escape from salary cap hell for 2015-16. They have over $64 million invested in cap payroll, leaving only $7.3 million to invest in new contracts. With restricted free agents Brandon Saad and Markus Kruger to re-sign plus several UFAs to re-sign or replace, the Blackhawks must shed salary.

It’s widely assumed left wingers Patrick Sharp ($5.9-million annually for two more seasons) and Bryan Bickell ($4-million annually, two years) are the likely trade candidates. ESPN.com’s Pierre LeBrun reports that, as of Monday evening, the Hawks weren’t far along in trade talks about any player.

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Rumor Roundup: It’s official – Matt Beleskey done with the Ducks

Matt Beleskey (Photo by Debora Robinson/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Anaheim Ducks’ efforts to re-sign pending UFA winger Matt Beleskey ended in failure. Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston reports the 27-year-old rejected the club’s best offer and is headed to unrestricted free agency on July first.

Murray told media members at Tuesday’s GM meetings: “We made a really fair offer. God bless him.”

Beleskey is coming off a career-best 22-goal season, along with eight goals in 16 playoff games. He’s completing a two-year deal worth an annual cap hit of $1.35 million. Given the lack of depth in this summer’s UFA pool, Beleskey could command more than $4-million annually on the open market.

It’s possible the Ducks could shop Beleskey’s rights before the July 1 free-agent deadline. If so, the Ducks could get a conditional draft pick if the winger signs with the team his rights were dealt to. It’s not much, but it will be better for the Ducks than losing him for nothing.

KESSEL TO…THE PENGUINS?
Hearing word that the Pittsburgh Penguins were among the preferred trade destinations of Toronto Maple Leafs right winger Phil Kessel raised some eyebrows in Pittsburgh. Joe Starkey of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review believes acquiring Kessel is something the Penguins should consider, though he acknowledges there are significant issues working against such a move.
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Rumor Roundup: Would the Capitals, Penguins or Islanders trade for Patrick Sharp?

Patrick Sharp. (Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images)

While the Chicago Blackhawks celebrate their latest Stanley Cup championship, GM Stan Bowman will begin the difficult task of determining which of his players become salary-cap casualties. The Blackhawks have more than $64 million invested in cap payroll for 2015-16. They must re-sign restricted free agents Brandon Saad and Marcus Kruger, as well as find space to re-sign or replace their unrestricted free agents.

This isn’t the first time Bowman’s faced this problem. Following the Blackhawks 2010 championship, he shipped out several salaried players to become cap compliant for the following season. While he doesn’t have to trade as many this time, he’ll still have to make the difficult choice of determining who must move.

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