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Penguins keeping team's core intact

by Dan Rosen

Pittsburgh Penguins GM Ray Shero said during his press conference Wednesday that he was hoping to get a deal done with restricted free agent goalie Marc-Andre Fleury in the "next couple of days."
Try one day.

Less than 24 hours after announcing the re-signings of both center Evgeni Malkin and defenseman Brooks Orpik, Shero came within one contract of completing his stated summer goal of keeping the Penguins' young core of players intact by reaching a seven-year deal with Fleury, the goalie who backstopped Pittsburgh to the Stanley Cup Final.

The only young, core player Shero still wants to get under a long-term deal is center Jordan Staal, but it's not as if that deal has to get done this summer considering Staal isn't scheduled to be a restricted free agent until next summer.

Fleury became a restricted free agent starting Tuesday, but the Penguins essentially took him off the market by offering him salary arbitration. The two sides were scheduled to go to an arbitration hearing later this month, but Shero indicated Wednesday that negotiations would never reach that point because a deal was not far off.

He was dead on, and Thursday it became evident that Fleury wants to remain a Penguin until he's at least 30 years old. He's 23 now and has already played in 173 NHL games as well as 25 Playoff games.

"At a young age, Marc-Andre has established himself as one of the elite goaltenders in the game," Shero said. "He is coming off a tremendous performance in the playoffs and he was one of the main reasons we reached the Stanley Cup Final. It's great news for the Penguins organization and our fans to continue to sign our core group of young players.”

Fleury was limited to 35 games this past season due to a high ankle sprain, but upon his return to the lineup for the stretch run he turned into the elite goalie the Penguins figured he would be when they drafted him first overall in 2003.

Fleury went 10-2-1 from March 2 through the end of the regular season, and then stormed through Eastern Conference Playoffs. He posted a 1.70 goals against average and a .938 save percentage, helping the Penguins to a 12-2 record entering the Stanley Cup Final, where Fleury and the Penguins ran into the Detroit Red Wings.

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS
2007-08 SEASON STATS

Category Rank (Conference)
2007-08 Points 102
(2ND EAST/4TH NHL)
Change from 2006-07 -3
Home Points 57
(1st EAST/3RD NHL)
Away Points 45
(6TH eAst/10TH NHL)

Though the Penguins were beaten in six games, Fleury finished the Playoffs with a 14-6 record and a remarkable 1.97 GAA, which was second behind only Chris Osgood's 1.55 GAA. His .933 save percentage was the best of any goalie who played beyond the first round.

"Pittsburgh is where I want to be," Fleury said via conference call. "That was the first goal when I talked to my agent about signing this contract. I told him I loved this city and the organization and the guys on the team. Sid signed a long deal here and so did Malkin. If I stay around, we should be in pretty good shape."

"Everybody is different. But, for myself, I didn't want to go out there and try to fight for a deal to get more. This is a lot and I am really happy with it."

Shero was thrilled to be able to keep Fleury for the long term.

"It says a lot for Marc-Andre. He's another guy who has bought in and wanted to stay here,” he said. "He's another guy who could have gone to arbitration and got a one-year deal and then maybe an offer sheet next year and go to free agency and go for the highest money if he could."
Not only did the Penguins re-sign Fleury, they also added a couple of offensive weapons. Miroslav Satan, who has scored 25 or more goals eight times in his career, signed a one-year deal. Satan tallied 16 goals and added 25 assists during the 2007-08 season, his third with the New York Islanders.

While Satan, 33, didn’t put up the numbers that were expected of him on Long Island last season, Shero is confident that a change of scenery — and the chance to play with the likes of Malkin and Sidney Crosby — could be just what the doctor ordered. Satan was originally selected by the Edmonton Oilers in the fifth round of the 1993 Draft.

"Miroslav brings skill, experience and size to our hockey team," Shero said.  "He is a player that has put up very good offensive numbers in the NHL. By playing with our core group of forwards he should only be able to build upon those numbers and provide offense for our hockey club."

Satan wasn't the only former Islander signed by the Penguins on the third day of free agency. Ruslan Fedotenko, who spent last season on Long Island, also signed a one-year contract. The 29-year-old had 33 points (16 goals, 17 assists) in 67 games, with half of his goals coming on the power play. He is best remembered for scoring both goals for the Tampa Bay Lightning in their 2-1 win over Calgary in Game 7 of the 2004 Stanley Cup Final. He had 12 goals during the Lightning's Playoff run.

"I think Ruslan is going to be able to play, as he has throughout his NHL career, on the top three lines," Shero said. "He can play anywhere in the lineup, so I think that's going to be a good addition for us. He has size and he’s won a Stanley Cup and been a good contributor in the league."

Clearly, Shero wanted to quickly ease the blow of losing Marian Hossa to the Detroit Red Wings. Hossa, who helped the Pens reach the Stanley Cup Final after being acquired from the Atlanta Thrashers on deadline day, signed a one-year deal with the reigning Stanley Cup Champions on Wednesday.

While neither Satan nor Fedotenko possess the skill of Hossa, both are certainly capable of contributing offensively. Fedotenko scored 26 goals for the Lightning in 2005-06, while Satan scored 35 times that season, his first with the Islanders. Satan also scored 40 goals for the Buffalo Sabres in 1998-99.

"These are one-year deals for both of these guys, so I think motivationally for these guys, they will really push themselves and it can be invigorating for their careers to get with a group of guys with a lot of skill," Shero said. "Both of these guys should be able to help us out. By signing these two players, I think it gives balance to our lineup."

Contact Dan Rosen at drosen@nhl.com.
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