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Q & A with Ray Shero: July 3, 2009

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins
Penguins general manager Ray Shero spoke with members of the media today regarding the team's recent signings and current state of affairs. Below is a transcript of that discussion.

You've signed Ruslan Fedotenko today. Can you talk about locking up your own free agents and bringing them back?

I think it's a great thing. I think it says a lot about Billy Guerin, Craig Adams and Ruslan Fedotenko to want to come back and be a part of this group. Adding a guy like Mike Rupp really adds to our depth, grit and character. All of these guys have won in the past. I'm really happy with our forward group and I'm really happy that the guys here last year decided to come back.

Doesn't it say a lot about players that are willing to take less money to stay with this team?

In Billy's case, I don't think he was looking to go anywhere else. With both he and Feds, I explained our cap situation and what we had to do. I think it was a good communication with both of them. We're familiar with each other. We won with both of them and it says a lot for them to come back and keeping us underneath the salary cap, and to help us get another championship here. Hats off to them and Craig Adams for wanting to come back.

Hal Gill and Rob Scuderi moved on for all the right reasons. I have nothing but great things to say about them. I'm very happy for them and their families. That's a by-product of winning underneath the salary cap system. I think it's worked out well for everybody. 

How much room to you have under the cap? Enough to make more moves?

We're still looking for another defenseman but we're going to wait and see on that, to see exactly what will transpire. We've been in touch with a number of guys that are unrestricted. Or we could make a trade. We'll wait and see. We have five defensemen signed right now so I think we're in good shape. We're just trying to find the right guy, the right fit for us. Maybe we'll give younger guys an opportunity.

Is it tough losing guys like Scuderi and Gill?

Yeah it is. Hal, we traded a second- and fifth-round pick, I got flack for that but it's OK. It worked out well for all of us. I was really happy for Hal because we saw him in a certain role and our scouts and coaches did a great job with him. He had a role here that he played very well. We won a Cup together and I'm very happy for Hal. 

With Rob, what a great story. We don't win it without those two guys. In Scuds' case from NHL standards, he hasn't made a lot of money. This is a great thing for him and his family. I don't know if you can find a nicer guy than Rob. To see him take advantage of the system and great year that he had and playoff he had is really satisfying. That's the system and I feel happy for him. 

Is there someone on the team now that can fill that defensive role?

I think it will be expecting more from Alex Goligoski and Kris Letang. Those are two younger guys that we have a lot of faith in. They're going to move up and get more ice time and having them healthy for an entire season, we hope. Our D had a good year for us and finished well. We're going to be looking for someone who can compliment those five. But we have a little bit more expectations for the younger players, which is normal, to improve and get better. 

Do you have an update on Sergei Gonchar's status from his knee injury?

No news is good news on Gonch. If he wasn't feeling well, he'd be calling me. I think he's fine. He only missed a couple games with that, which was great, and says a lot about him coming back and playing, helping us win. The expectation is that he's fine. I haven't heard anything different. 

Do you monitor the salary cap and use that in terms of the free agent market?

That's something that we do all year long, especially at this time of year it's critical. i'm sure all teams do, having an idea of where other teams are, where they're against the cap, if they're willing to move somebody or sign or trade someone. We monitor that on a daily basis and thank God for (assistant general manager) Jason (Botterill). 

Can you talk about how the front office changes will affect the team?

With Tom Fitzgerald, he was with Nashville for four years. He was our captain there. We gave him an opportunity to come here as player development director and he grew into way more than that for us. He jumped into the coaching situation last year, a dire need for us, helping everybody out. We would love to have him back in a coaching role but this is, personally, a better move for him and his family. He is a guy that will really be hands on, a go-to guy for me on personnel and decisions. He'll be a jack of all trades. 

Dan MacKinnon will be our new player personnel. He's moved up. We've been together for nine or 10 years. He was our director of pro scouting. It's time for his opportunity to do that, which really has been his role with me for the last few years anyway. We're really comfortable with both of these guys. 

Do you make suggestions to head coach Dan Bylsma as far as the assistant coach hire?

With Dan Bylsma, we've talked about what we're looking for in an assistant coach. He and Mike Yeo will go through that and start the interview process in another 10 days or so. Dan is on vacation this weekend, well deserved I must say. I will certainly have a say in it. But at the same time I want him to be comfortable with the person he's going to hire, and Mike Yeo to be comfortable as well. it will be a group decision but in the end I'll leave the final decision to Dan.

When will you open talks with Gonchar and Letang on extensions?

We'll take a step back here. We went to the Final and are concentrating on free agents. We'll have those talks as we move on. They're back-burner, yet front-burner items, if that makes any sense. They're both two important players for us. That will come in due time. 

With how Jordan Staal's contract went last year, is that generally how the process work out?

Everybody is different. With Ryan Whitney it happened June 30th before free agency started. He signed a six-year deal and in Jordan's case it was a little bit different. We went into the season and did it in January. We did it on the Father's Trip. We got his father involved. That worked out really well for both of us. Everybody is different. Once we get into it we'll have a better feel from Kris and Sergei as to where they are and what they feel comfortable with. We'll go from there. 

Is this year's free agency much different with locking the guys up instead of scrambling?

With Feds it really helps solidify us up front. It helps us out greatly. If we didn't come back we would have had to move on and go in another direction and fill (the spot) with a younger guy or a potential trade. Now he's back and he's a big part of our team.

Any thoughts on moving Paul Bissonnette back to defense or giving that spot to a younger player?

No thoughts on moving Paul back on the blue line. Not yet. Guys like Ben Lovejoy and (Brian) Strait, we'll see where they are in training camp. 

How is Eric Tangradi's health after his injury?

Eric Tangradi is coming along just fine. He'll be at our development camp. He won't participate fully I'm sure but he should be ready for training camp and we look forward to having him there.

Is there room on this team for Janne Pesonen?

We'll let the dust settle and see. I'll talk to Dan this weekend about it. I think Janne would have come more into play in the event that we weren't able to re-sign Ruslan. We really like Pesonen as a player but he's looking at some other opportunities as well. We'll talk about it next week. 

Is this a waiting game for signing a defenseman?

If we had the right guy I'd sign him right after this press conference. You have to get the right guy. As I've gone through with Billy, Craig Adams and now Ruslan, our cap situation is where we are. I have so much to spend on certain players to have some wiggle room with the cap for call ups and so forth. That's going to going to come into effect when we talk about a defenseman but more importantly is finding the right fit. There are some good players out there that I believe can be good fits on a short-term, one-year basis, for teams like Pittsburgh or other teams.

Are you looking for more one-year deals?

I think shorter term that's been, since I've been here, it's been one- or two-year deals. Sometimes (the player) makes the decision that they only want a one-year deal. Ruslan has worked a number of these in his case. I think this is his fourth one-year contract in a row. He's certainly not afraid to put the pressure on himself to have another good year. I think it says a lot about his character. 
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