Pittsburgh Penguins Organization - Off-Season Blueprint

Saturday, June 20, 2015
Still early in the off-season, but the AHL Penguins roster is already starting to take shape for the 2015-16 season.
With the 2015 NHL Entry Draft less than a week away - this upcoming Friday and Saturday - I figured now was as good a time as any to map out the off-season for the Penguins organization. Stay tuned here and on Twitter (@H_P_Hockey) all summer long for the latest breaking news, notes and info on the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.

Some Summer Dates to Remember

Friday, June 26th - Saturday, June 27th: The 2015 NHL Entry Draft at BB&T Center in Sunrise, Florida. The Penguins currently own only four picks in the entire draft:
2nd round (46th overall)
5th round (137th overall)
6th round (167th overall)
7th round (197th overall)
Monday, June 29th: By 5:00 p.m. ET, restricted free agents (RFA) need to be extended qualifying offers in order for a team to retain their rights for the 2015-16 season. Any RFA not qualified by Monday evening will become an unrestricted free agent (UFA) when the NHL's Free Agency period begins on July 1st.

Wednesday, July 1st: At noon ET, all UFA's are free to sign with other teams.

Dates TBD (Mid-July) - 2015 Pittsburgh Penguins Development Camp at Consol Energy Center, Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. All of the top prospects in the organization gather in the summer for a week-long camp of morning practices concluded with a free, open-to-the-public scrimmage on a Saturday afternoon.

After the jump, defining restricted and unrestricted - the terms free agents are put under - and a look at how the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins roster is shaping up. A full list of the AHL Pens' off-season transactions, in-house free agents and the guys signed through the 2015-16 season.

Restricted Versus Unrestricted

"Restricted" and "Unrestricted" are two words put in front of free agents that put available players for the upcoming season in two very different categories.

My best explanation? A restricted free agent is a typically younger player who has an expiring contract that was either his first professional contract (aka an entry-level deal) or a subsequent contract in which  a team submitted a qualifying offer (see below) to the player from the previous year.

Teams have until 5 p.m. ET on June 29th to submit what is called a qualifying offer to their restricted free agents to retain their rights or else they will be come unrestricted free agents and be free to sign with any team they choose when the NHL's free agency begins on July 1st.

A qualifying offer is a raise of 110% the player's salary from the previous season if he made under $660,000 (NHL-level) or a raise of at least 105% if he made up $1 million. Players making over a million must be offered 100%. Still with me?

What you should get out of all of this is that a team's restricted free agents have almost no bargaining chips in their stack. If a team qualifies their restricted free agent, they retain his rights through next season. It is only after June 25th and no qualifying offer, that a restricted free agent becomes unrestricted and is free to sign with any team who is interested in him.

Unrestricted free agents, on the other hand, are only exclusive to the team the played on last season until NHL free agency begins. They can reject any contract their team offers and opt to hit the market and field offers from other teams. Thus, it is a little more difficult to retain unrestricted free agents than it is a restricted free agent.

I hope all of that made sense. If you are interested in finding out more or have any specific questions, feel free to ask and I'll do my best to clear the air.

Summer Transactions

Wednesday, May 27th: The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins made their first off-season signing of the summer, bringing back team captain Tom Kostopoulos for one more season - likely his last of professional hockey.

Tuesday, June 2nd: Former Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins head coach John Hynes officially named the next head coach of the NHL's New Jersey Devils. The Pittsburgh Penguins received a 3rd round draft pick in 2016 as compensation from New Jersey.

Monday, June 8th: The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins added to their size up front and overall depth at forward with the signings of Adam Krause and Ty Loney to separate one-year AHL contracts.
Wednesday, June 10th: The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins re-signed defenseman Barry Goers to a one-year AHL contract, bolstering the blue line depth at the AHL level. Goers proved himself worthy of a regular spot in the lineup last season. 

Monday, June 15th: The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins re-signed impending free agent forward Carter Rowney to a standard AHL contract for the 2015-16 season. In Rowney's first full season at the AHL level, he enjoyed a breakout year and played a strong two-way game. 

Monday, June 15th: The Pittsburgh Penguins signed 27-year-old Swedish defenseman Niclas Andersen to a one-year entry level contract worth $625,000 at the NHL level. Andersen brings a wealth of European professional hockey experience overseas for a crack with Pittsburgh in the fall. It's a two-way contract that pays him significantly less at the AHL level ($70,000 per generalfanager.com), which means he could end up with the WBS Penguins at some point.

Wednesday, June 17th: Early Wednesday morning, we broke news that the first Penguins free agent to sign elsewhere will be Andrew Ebbett. A source close to the situation told Highland Park Hockey that Ebbett has made the decision to play professional hockey overseas or the 2015-16 season. Some more digging lead to an article in a Swiss newspaper dated May 20th that mentions Ebbett as well as Cory Conacher are headed to SC Bern of the Swiss National A League. Conacher signed with SC Bern a day after my post on Ebbett.

Thursday, June 18th: A day after assistant coach Alain Nasreddine officially joined John Hynes' staff with the New Jersey Devils, Mike Sullivan named head coach of the WBS Penguins.

Tuesday, June 23rd: The Pittsburgh Penguins made their first re-signing of the summer and brought back Tom Kuhnhackl for one-year at $575,000 at the NHL level. It's a two-way contract which will pay him significantly less at the AHL level, where he will likely begin the 2015-16 season.

In-House Free Agent Options

NHL UFA: Jayson Megna, Taylor Chorney, Nick Drazenovic, Pierre-Luc Leblond

NHL RFA: Eric Hartzell, Reid McNeill, Brian Dumoulin, Nick D'Agostino, Bobby Farnham, Dominik Uher and Adam Payerl

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 (4): Niclas Andersen, Scott Harrington, Harrison Ruopp and Barry Goers (AHL)

Forwards (13): Kasperi Kapanen, Oskar Sundqvist, Josh Archibald, Scott Wilson, Brian Rust, Tom Kuhnhackl, Jean-Sebastien Dea, Matia Marcantuoni, Anton Zlobin, Tom Kostopoulos (AHL), Carter Rowney (AHL), Adam Krause (AHL) and Ty Loney (AHL)


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