Penguins Qualifying Offers, Sheary's Situation & Weekly Update

Monday, June 29, 2015
If not re-signed to an NHL entry level contract by Pittsburgh, Conor Sheary could get his NHL deal elsewhere this summer - as soon as Wednesday when the NHL's free agency period begins.
Today marks the deadline to tender qualifying offers and the Pittsburgh Penguins opted to qualify all but three of their nine restricted free agents. In addition to the qualifying offers, the big news today was the re-signing of pending RFA defenseman Ian Cole to a three-year extension worth $6.3 million ($2.1 million cap hit annually).

There has been plenty asking me about the status of AHL unrestricted free agent forward Conor Sheary, and whether or not there is mutual interest to sign him to an NHL contract. While I'm not sure how the ongoing talks between the Pens and Sheary are going, I do know that Sheary cannot sign an NHL contract until July 1st because of a limitation put on guys on AHL contracts signing NHL deals.

Tribune-Review's Penguins beat writer Jonathan Bombulie addressed the topic last week, citing a rule that guys on AHL deals can only sign an NHL contract before June 1st or after July 1st, but not in between those two dates. If the Penguins are to sign Sheary to an NHL deal, it will have come on Wednesday at the earliest.

Sheary was very open with me at the Penguins annual development camp in Pittsburgh last summer, bringing up that he wasn't on an NHL contract and that was the ultimate goal - to prove to the Penguins he is worthy of one. After a 20-goal, 45-point rookie season in the AHL and a combined 23 points (11G-12A) in 23 AHL playoff games in the last two years, he certainly gives himself a chance to earn his first NHL contract. Whether or not it comes from the Penguins or one of the other 29 NHL organizations, time will tell.

For those curious, with three RFA's not tendered qualifying offers the Penguins currently are only on the hook for 35 NHL contracts if the retained RFA's also re-sign for 2015-16. That leaves the Penguins with as many 15 openings for an NHL deal, which certainly gives them room to add Sheary to a two-year entry level contract.

After the jump, a look at those who were tendered qualifying offers, a recap of the Penguins 2015 NHL Entry Draft and another AHL Penguins roster update as things are starting to become more clear on what to expect for the start of the 2015-16 season in the fall.

Qualifying Offers
The Pittsburgh Penguins extended qualifying offers to all but three of their nine restricted free agents, those being goaltender Eric Hartzell, defenseman Nick D'Agostino and forward Adam Payerl.

Tendered qualifying offers were defenseman Brian Dumoulin and Reid McNeill and forwards Beau Benentt, Bobby Farnham and Dominik Uher.

Hartzell fell out of favor with the Penguins late in the 2013-14 season and Matt Murray actually backed up then starter Peter Mannino in the AHL Penguins 2014 Calder Cup Playoff run.

Here's what I wrote about Hartzell in my end of the year prospect report on the goaltenders and defensemen:
The confidence in his game trailed off at the tail end of the 2013-14 season and Matt Murray came in from juniors and took the backup spot away from him during the 2014 postseason.
This season, Hartzell was an ECHL goaltender with average numbers. He did appear in two AHL games with the AHL Pens this season - one in late October and another in early November - but it was only because Jeff Zatkoff went down with an injury. In those two games, Hartzell went 2-0 despite allowing a combined six goals on 51 shots in those games.
With the emergence of Matt Murray and the addition of Tristan Jarry from the WHL, this could spell the end for Hartzell in the Penguins organization.
My notes/insights on Nick D'Agostino back on May 27th: 
Though hard to tell from his numbers, D'Agostino has improved as a player at the pro level from his rookie season a year ago to his sophomore campaign this past season. As an offensive defenseman coming out of college, it was expected that his deficiencies would come in his own zone and in his rookie season he looked lost at times when the puck wasn't on his stick.

In 2014-15, D'Agostino appeared more confident on the ice - though with the logjam of blue line prospects in the organization it seemed he wasn't given as much of an opportunity to show his stuff. There were a few times D'Agostino was sent to Wheeling to get some playing time, evidenced by four points (1G-3A) in five ECHL games this past season.

As a restricted free agent, it won't be hard to retain the former Cornell University product as there won't be teams looking to poach him to an offer sheet. The real question is whether the new Penguins management, who didn't draft D'Agostino, is willing to give him another year to develop his game and prove his worth.
Here's some notes on Payerl, who the organization raved about at the team's annual development camp the two summers prior, taken from part two of my Penguins prospect report:
It seems as though Payerl lost confidence in his game as well as lost the trust from the coaching staff as he was a healthy scratch in all but two of the AHL Penguins' regular season games in April. Payerl also found himself out of the lineup for the duration of the team's postseason run.

It will be interesting to see if the Pens tender Payerl a qualifying offer this summer. He's got all the tools (6-3, 218 and tough as nails) to be a power forward, but hasn't put it all together on the ice.
Penguins 2015 NHL Draft Recap

The Penguins were arguably the least active team at the NHL Draft at the BB&T Center in Sunrise Florida over the weekend. Despite all of the trade rumors swirling around big name top-six targets, the Pens stood pat at the NHL Entry Draft and selected players with their four total draft picks.

2nd Round (46th overall): Daniel Sprong, RW - 18 years old
2014-15 Season with Charlottetown (QMJHL): 68GP, 39G-49A, -23

Sprong is well traveled for an 18-year-old, having been born in the Netherlands and moving to North America at an early age. There are distant local ties as Sprong actually played one year of bantam hockey in 2011-12 with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights.

Friend and colleague Ian Altenbaugh has far more knowledge about the Penguins 2nd round choice, and he gave an in-depth, outside the numbers kind of prospect profile of Daniel Sprong over at The Pens Nation hockey blog. 

Here's some of Altenbaugh's initial reactions upon Sprong's selection on Saturday:
Daniel Sprong has some nice hands. Good offensive prospects. Definite skill pick. I've read conflicting reports on Daniel Sprong's defensive ability. Some say he doesn't do it. Others say he's underrated defensively. Good thing the Penguins didn't draft Sprong to kill penalties. 
5th Round (137th overall): Dominik Simon, Center/Wing - 20 years old
2014-15 Season with Plzen HC (Czech): 52GP, 18G-12A, Even

With a quick peek at the numbers, it's easy to see that Simon enjoyed a breakout season in his third year of pro hockey in the Czech Republic. In 2014-15, Simon more than doubled his goal total from the previous year - from seven to 18 - while also nearly tripling his point totals from 2013-14.

Simon turns 21 in August and is technically AHL-eligible to play with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins as soon as in the 2015-16 season if signed to a North American pro contract, be it an entry level deal or an AHL standard player's contract, but it seems unlikely he would join the AHL club as he is under contract with Plzen HC for another two years in the Czech Republic.

What I do know about Simon is that he played well representing his native country in the IIHF Worlds tournament this summer, with a half-dozen points in 10 tournament games with Czech Republic and occasionally a linemate with Jaromir Jagr.

6th Round (167th overall): Frederik Tiffels, Left Wing - 20 years old
2014-15 Season With Western Michigan University (NCHC): 32GP, 11G-10A, 14 PIM, +6  

Another 20-year-old AHL-eligible forward drafted by the Penguins, the German-born Tiffels had an impressive freshman season with Western Michigan following two years of hockey in the USHL.

Also similar to their 5th round pick Dominik Simon, Tiffels is another player that might not have high-end offensive skill but plays a solid two-way game. Tiffels brings size and speed to the Penguins organization and will likely return to college for his sophomore season in 2015-16. If he returns to college, he could still end up joining the AHL Penguins next spring on an amateur tryout contract (ATO) after his collegiate season is over to get a taste of pro hockey.

7th Round (197th overall): Nikita Pavlychev, Center - 18 years old
2014-15 Season With Des Moines (USHL): 42GP, 6G-10A, +1, 80 PIM  

The Penguins selected a second player who played hockey with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights junior hockey club (2013-14) in big 6-foot-7 Russian-born center Nikita Pavlychev. In his first full season in the USHL with Des Moines, he's been a physical specimen with his obvious 6-7, 207 pound frame towering over most of his opponents. Oddly enough, Pavlychev has been a fan of Evgeni Malkin growing up and even said he tries to model his game after Malkin's.

Updated In-House Free Agents List & AHL Roster Update

Back on June 20th, I mapped out an off-season blueprint for the Penguins organization with a focus at the AHL level. I updated that here with the free agents, but there's also a review of the AHL Pens summer transactions as well as some dates to remember and an explanation of the two types of free agents (UFA vs. RFA). If you missed the above link, take a look.
NHL UFA: Jayson Megna, Taylor Chorney, Nick Drazenovic, Pierre-Luc Leblond. Eric Hartzell, Adam Payerl and Nick D'Agostino weren't tendered qualifying offers will become UFA's on 7/1.

AHL Free Agents: Alex Boak, Danny Syvret, Ryan Parent, Sahir Gill, Conor Sheary and Clark Seymour

Signed Through 2015-16 Season

Obviously the fate of some players as to whether they end up in the NHL or AHL remains to be seen. This is a list of guys signed through next season that played primarily in the AHL last season.

Goaltenders (3): Jeff Zatkoff, Matt Murray and Tristan Jarry

Defensemen (6):
Brian Dumoulin (RFA), Niclas Andersen, Scott Harrington, Reid McNeill (RFA), Harrison Ruopp and Barry Goers (AHL)

Forwards (15): Kasperi Kapanen, Oskar Sundqvist, Josh Archibald, Scott Wilson, Brian Rust, Tom Kuhnhackl, Jean-Sebastien Dea, Matia Marcantuoni, Anton Zlobin, Dominik Uher (RFA), Bobby Farnham (RFA), Tom Kostopoulos (AHL), Carter Rowney (AHL), Adam Krause (AHL) and Ty Loney (AHL)


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