Courtesy of Point Park University

Rutherford’s priorities: Aston-Reese, Pettersson


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It wouldn't be entirely accurate to label these the "dog days" of the NHL calendar.

Not unless the dog in question isn't interested in doing anything more strenuous than napping.

OK, so front-office activity around the league hasn't stopped completely -- there still are contracts to be negotiated, arbitration hearings to conduct, personnel moves to consider -- but the pace is considerably slower than it was a month ago.

Or, most likely, will be a month from now.

"We just got through the draft, got through free agency, and guys start to take a little more time away from the office," Jim Rutherford said today. "So it's a little bit slower at this point."

Rutherford's short-term priority is working out contracts with forward Zach Aston-Reese and defenseman Marcus Pettersson, both of whom are restricted free agents.

Ideally, he said, he will finalize a deal with Aston-Reese before his arbitration hearing, which is set for Monday.

"That will get resolved, one way or the other, by Monday," Rutherford said. "You always try to settle it (before a hearing). Arbitration is not any fun for anybody, so we'll see."

Assuming that Aston-Reese's contract, regardless of how it is reached, and that of Pettersson fall within the parameters the Penguins anticipate, Rutherford said he does not anticipate having to make a trade to open salary-cap space to sneak in under the ceiling of $81.5 million for the coming season. lists the Penguins with 22 NHL-roster players -- 12 forwards, eight defensemen and two goalies -- under contract, with $842,500 of cap space available.

Teams are allowed to carry no more than 23 players on their active roster, and are not required to have fewer than 20.

"We won't be over the cap, unless there's an arbitration ruling that puts us there," Rutherford said. "We don't have to carry 23. With the 'place-holder' number that we have for the two guys we have to sign, we wouldn't be over."

That was a bit of a surprise. So was Rutherford's observation that the Penguins have come to believe that they might be able to sneak a goaltender through waivers this fall.

Conventional wisdom has held for a while that the Penguins would be looking to trade a goalie, most likely Tristan Jarry,  rather than risk losing one at the end of training camp for nothing more than a waiver fee.

Rutherford, though, believes that so many clubs addressed their needs in goal via free agency that they wouldn't feel the need to claim one off the waiver wire.

"The goalie market really changed," he said. "There were a lot of free-agent goalies this year, so teams weren't trading for goalies. I'm not as sure that, if we had to put a goalie on waivers, they wouldn't clear at this point because of the number of teams that picked up free-agent goalies. That market is kind of shifting all the time. I don't feel any urgency to move a goalie, prior to training camp or the start of the season."

The one Penguins goalie unlikely to turn up in trade talks, let alone on the waiver wire, is Matt Murray.

He is entering the final season of a three-year deal that has an annual cap hit of $3.75 million, but Rutherford said there are not currently any talks for a new one. Murray is scheduled to be a restricted free agent next summer.

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