The Penguins are only a few days removed from being eliminated from the Eastern Conference Final, but already general manager Ray Shero is making plans for the future.
“Now as a manager, you look back and it’s a part of learning and getting better, learning from the loss in the third round, and applying that going forward,” Shero said. “It’s a lot of stuff to do in short period of time leading up to the draft June 30th and free agency July 5th.”
The Penguins have several key decisions to make regarding the club’s roster. The team’s top priority is re-signing NHL MVP and two-time scoring champion Evgeni Malkin as well as Norris Trophy nominee defenseman Kris Letang. Both players will enter the final year of their contracts in the 2013-14 season,
“With the Malkin-Letang situation, they’re both under contract for another year. They’re not going anywhere,” Shero said.
The Penguins also have several players that will be unrestricted free agents, most notably Pascal Dupuis, who enjoyed the two best seasons in his NHL career and expects a hefty pay raise from his current $1.5 million salary.
But other free agents include Craig Adams, Matt Cooke, Jarome Iginla, Dustin Jeffrey (restricted), Tyler Kennedy (restricted), Brenden Morrow, Robert Bortuzzo (restricted), Mark Eaton and Douglas Murray.
“This team is going to change, that’s the way it is,” Shero said. “It happens every year with the salary cap, free agency, trades. Change is sometimes good. Change is sometimes hard. The goal is to have a team that can entertain the fans, that can compete for a Cup and put ourselves in that position.”
In addition, the league-wide salary cap for the current season was set at a pro-rated amount of $70.2 million, and will drop to $64.3 million next year. The Penguins currently have $56.4 million committed to next season.
Shero will have to weigh the team’s long-term plan against their current framework.
“My goal every year is to ice a team under the salary cap that can compete and try to keep an eye on next year and the year after,” Shero said. “Also knowing we’d like to have a real good team every year. There’ll be changes as usual.”
Sometime in the following days, Shero will meet with his pro and amateur scouting staffs to discuss a battle plan for handling the roster and creating the best team possible.
“I’m trying to make sure we’re a team that our city is proud of, a entertaining hockey team that can compete for the Stanley Cup and put ourselves in that position every year,” Shero said. “That’s our goal moving forward.”