PITTSBURGH, PA - NOVEMBER 11: Matt Niskanen #2 and Brooks Orpik #44, both of the Pittsburgh Penguins, warm up in camouflage jerseys to honor Veteran's Day before a game against the Dallas Stars on November 11, 2011 at CONSOL Energy Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
There hasn't been much news about the Pittsburgh Penguins UFA's or RFA's to be. In part, because there aren't too many of them. Matt Niskanen, Eric Tangradi and Brian Strait are all the most notable restricted free agents, and all are expected to be given qualifying offers, but no official news has broken yet. Until now, according to Josh Yohe of the Trib:
Pens have officially offered Niskanen a qualifying offer of one year, $1.75 million. Was turned down. Negotiations to continue
Nothing unexpected or out of character here, but interesting that some news breaks. We had heard from the Trib that GM Ray Shero wanted to start talking to Niskanen about a contract for next year, and now we'll see where it goes from here. The Pens will hold his rights through the summer, and it seems unlikely that any other NHL team will come a'callin with an offer sheet for the likes of Matt Niskanen.
Niskanen did lead all Penguin defensemen in games played this season (75) and was a surprising and steadying player for Pittsburgh in his first full year with the club. Though, obviously over-shadowed by 40-goal man and his trade partner James Neal, Niskanen proved he could be a decent NHL option and a pretty good player in any scenario.
The question will be just how the Pens can fit him in- as of now they have four defensemen with contracts making $3.5 million or more next year (Kris Letang, Brooks Orpik, Zbynek Michalek and Paul Martin) as well as vets in Deryk Engelland and Ben Lovejoy under contract. Youngsters like Strait, Robert Bortuzzo and Simon Despres are also improving and in the mix for full-time NHL jobs. Trades are possible, but as of now it's a cloudy and crowded picture on the Penguins defensive corps.