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Thread: Pens sign defenceman Paul Martin for 5 years $25 million

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    Pens sign defenceman Paul Martin for 5 years $25 million

    Shero said that the team had $11 million to spend in free agency (we are $12 million under the cap, but he typically keeps $1 million in reserve for minor in-season signings due to injuries). Martin and Michalek together eat up $9 million of that, so there is only $2 million left something minor like Eaton or Guerin. Our major free agent moves are now complete, and we gave Philly our 2011 3rd rounder for nothing, since Dan Hamhuis will be signing elsewhere.

    Right now, our blueliners are Letang, Goligoski, Orpik, Martin, and Michalek. We also re-signed Ben Lovejoy this off-season...he'll be working on a 2-way contract this coming season and then a 1-way deal for the two seasons after that. Perhaps we plan to bring him up this year if we can't get someone like Eaton back at a reasonable rate. We are much more solid defensively, but losing our power play QB hurts nonetheless...hopefully Kris and Alex can step up on the man advantage for us.

    These guys better work out, because if they don't, 5 year contracts are tough to swallow. They are both experience vets who are in the prime of their careers, though (Martin is 29 with 6 years of NHL experience in New Jersey and Michalek is 27 with 5 years of NHL experience in Phoenix plus another half-year in Minnesota) so that is promising.

    http://www.tsn.ca/nhl/story/?id=326250

    PENGUINS STRENGTHEN DEFENCE WITH ADDITION OF MARTIN, MICHALEK

    7/1/2010 1:13:48 PM

    The Pittsburgh Penguins have beefed up their blue line significantly, adding defencemen Paul Martin and Zbynek Michalek.

    Martin, 29, had spent his entire NHL career with the Devils since breaking into the league in 2003-04. He inked a five-year, $25 million contract with the Pens.

    A strong blueliner on a team known for its defence in New Jersey, Martin was limited to 22 games in 2009-10 because of injury, registering two goals and nine assists.

    The Minnesota native was drafted 62nd overall by the Devils in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft.

    Michalek, meanwhile, signed a five-year, $20 million deal with Pittsburgh on Thursday.

    The 27-year-old native of the Czech Republic had three goals and 14 assists for the Coyotes last season.

    The 6'2, 210 pound blueliner helped the Coyotes to a successful venture into the post-season in 2009-10.

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    Re: Pens sign defenceman Paul Martin for 5 years $25 million

    http://www.nhl.com/ice/news.htm?id=533459

    Report: Martin to Penguins
    Thursday, 07.01.2010 / 2:38 PM
    NHL Free Agency 2010
    By Dan Rosen - NHL.com Staff Writer

    ESPN.com is reporting that Paul Martin has signed with the Pittsburgh Penguins to erase the sting of losing Sergei Gonchar to Ottawa.

    Pittsburgh lost Gonchar to Ottawa in the first hour of the free agent feeding frenzy, but GM Ray Shero has put Plan B into motion in the second hour by nabbing stay-at-home stalwart Zbynek Michalek first and now Martin, the former Devils’ defenseman who has similar skills as Gonchar but is seven years younger.

    Martin also comes off the roster of one of Pittsburgh’s Atlantic Division rivals, and that always helps.

    Martin, a second-round draft pick of the Devils in 2000, played his first six seasons in New Jersey, piling up 163 points and a plus-55 rating in 400 games. He was limited to only 22 games this past season and had to back out of playing for Team USA in the Olympics due to an arm injury that required surgery in December.

    In losing Gonchar, who was an unrestricted free agent after five years in Pittsburgh, the Penguins lost their top defenseman and power play quarterback. Martin, though, should slide in as one of the Penguins top blue-liners and a key man on the power play.

    Eleven of his 26 career goals have been scored with the man-advantage. He led all Devils’ defensemen with 18 power-play points in 2008-09 and 14 in 2007-08.

    Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

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    Re: Pens sign defenceman Paul Martin for 5 years $25 million

    According to ESPN.com's free agent defensemen rankings, we ended up with the #2 and #5 available defensemen. We lost the #1 available defenseman, and were unable to reach an agreement with the #3 available defenseman after acquiring his rights in a trade with the Flyers this past weekend.

    http://sports.espn.go.com/nhl/column...rre&id=5340897

    Free agency: Top defensemen
    By Pierre LeBrun
    ESPN.com

    The 2010 NHL free-agent market opens at noon ET on Thursday. Here's a look at the top defensemen who are set to become available:




    Sergei Gonchar
    Age: 36
    Finished 2009-10 season with: Pittsburgh Penguins
    2009-10 salary: $5.5 million
    Breakdown: We find it perplexing just how many Penguins fans don't seem the least bit concerned that the veteran Russian blueliner might be headed to the free-agent market Thursday. It's clear those fans don't understand just how important he is to Pittsburgh's transition game. Never before has the NHL been more of a puck mover's game than it is today and Gonchar remains one of the best in that craft. Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin will not be happy to lose him if that is indeed what happens.



    Having said that, we completely understand the hesitance of GM Ray Shero to hand the defenseman a three-year deal given the 35-and-over rule in the CBA, which stipulates the entirety of the contract will count against the team's cap regardless of whether the player retires before the end of the deal. Three years would be a huge risk. Gonchar's agent, J.P. Barry, was holding out for three years in talks with the Pens, although he allowed that a two-year deal would work at a higher salary base. The stalemate after last Friday's negotiating session in L.A. provoked Shero to acquire the rights to Dan Hamhuis, perhaps paving Gonchar's exit. One thing is for sure: With a two-year deal, Gonchar remains the No. 1 blueliner on the UFA market with 50 points in 62 games this past season. In our mind, this guy shouldn't take a pay cut.





    Paul Martin
    Age: 29
    Finished 2009-10 season with: New Jersey Devils
    2009-10 salary: $4.5 million
    Breakdown: Talk about bad luck. Martin played out a contract year by appearing in only 22 regular-season games and missing the Olympics for Team USA. He capped it off by going pointless in five playoff games with a minus-1 rating, clearly affected by the long absence caused by the early-season arm injury. Not exactly what you want before possibly going to market for the first time in your NHL career.



    We say "possibly" because Devils GM Lou Lamoriello told ESPN.com over the weekend in L.A. he would keep trying until the 11th hour to retain Martin. If he does hit the market, we see Martin possibly fetching the biggest total contract of all the blueliners on the market despite his injury-plagued season; his two-way skills and prime-time age are an alluring combination in a league starved for just this type of defenseman.





    Dan Hamhuis
    Age: 27
    Finished 2009-10 season with: Penguins (via Philadelphia and Nashville)
    2009-10 salary: $2.5 million
    Breakdown: First thing to underline when looking at Hamhuis is his age: He's only 27. That has long-term deal written all over it. Whether it's in Pittsburgh (which owns his negotiating rights) before Thursday or somewhere else on the market after Thursday, we'll soon find out. What you've got in Hamhuis is perhaps the most all-around sound defenseman available. His detractors will tell you he's surpassed only 30 points once in his career (38 in 2005-06), but his power-play ice time was almost nonexistent this past season (his 25 seconds per game on the man advantage was sixth among Preds blueliners with Shea Weber and Ryan Suter earning big chunks of time).



    But Hamhuis is a defenseman who can do a bit of everything and he has a lot of hockey in front of him. He's in store for a nice raise. All things being equal, Hamhuis would like to return home to Canada, but he certainly won't turn a blind eye to any of the offers. The Los Angeles Kings should be one in a long list of suitors, if he hasn't signed in Pittsburgh.





    Anton Volchenkov
    Age: 28
    Finished 2009-10 season with: Ottawa Senators
    2009-10 salary: $3.2 million
    Breakdown: The tough Russian blueliner led the Sens in hits and blocked shots this past season despite missing 18 games, but his offensive skills were nearly nonexistent. It will be interesting to see what exactly he'll fetch come Thursday. He's your classic defensive defenseman, but is he worth $5 million per season? He will have a long list of suitors, and we'll find out just how desperate one of those teams is to add him. Hamhuis and Martin, of comparable age, offer more of a two-way game.




    Zbynek Michalek
    Age: 27
    Finished 2009-10 season with: Phoenix Coyotes
    2009-10 salary: $1.5 million
    Breakdown: Like Hamhuis, Michalek is only 27 years old, a key factor in his free-agent portfolio. He's really come of age after leading the Coyotes in ice time and blocked shots this past season. He is not a big offensive guy, but his first pass in transition is usually a good one. He's a solid top-four player who is just coming into his prime. If he doesn't re-sign in Phoenix (and Coyotes GM Don Maloney wasn't optimistic Saturday when he spoke to ESPN.com), then keep an eye on Ottawa. The Senators could be eyeing him as a replacement for Volchenkov, and he would be reunited with his brother, Sens winger Milan Michalek. Regardless of where Zbynek ends up, he'll be earning at least double his pay next season.





    Henrik Tallinder
    Age: 31
    Finished 2009-10 season with: Buffalo Sabres
    2009-10 salary: $3.25 million
    Breakdown: Tallinder is one of those reliable, quiet blueliners who hardly ever gets talked about; he just gets the job done. He was second on the Sabres in ice time and third in blocked shots this past season, key ingredients for a solid defensive player. In a conversation with ESPN.com on Saturday in L.A., Sabres GM Darcy Regier said he really wasn't sure how it would play out. D-man Toni Lydman is another UFA-to-be for Buffalo. Regier was hoping to get one of the two re-signed, but allowed the possibility both may hit the market unless their contract demands come down.




    Pavel Kubina
    Age: 33
    Finished 2009-10 season with: Atlanta Thrashers
    2009-10 salary: $5 million
    Breakdown: The Czech veteran led Atlanta in ice time this past season while also totaling 38 points (6-32); a lovely season, if under the radar, for the nonplayoff Thrashers. He's third in points for 2009-10 on this UFA blueliner list. In fact, he's put up 118 points in his past three seasons, averaging just under 40 points per season. He's had 30-plus points in seven of his past nine seasons. But he's older than most of the high-end UFA defensemen vying for jobs, so that will work against him. A short-term deal might net him close to what he earned this season; a longer-term deal would see him give a little on the salary.




    Andy Sutton
    Age: 35
    Finished 2009-10 season with: Ottawa Senators
    2009-10 salary: $3.5 million
    Breakdown: A couple of numbers jump out at you about Sutton. First, he was second in the entire NHL among blueliners with 204 blocked shots this past season and eighth with 197 hits. That's an impressive combo. On the flip side, he's 35; for a rugged, tough-as-nails blueliner, that's not a good thing. But there's still some hockey left in the 6-foot-6 Sutton. The key is to get him on a short-term deal.




    Derek Morris
    Age: 31
    Finished 2009-10 season with: Phoenix Coyotes
    2009-10 salary: $3.3 million
    Breakdown: Morris has bounced around the past few seasons, from Phoenix to New York (Rangers) to Boston and then back to Phoenix this past season after the Bruins soured on him. With money being tight in Phoenix, the veteran blueliner appears to be headed back to the market. He's got a good shot, can man the point on the power play, plays a physical game and is a good teammate. Gone are the days when he was a top-two defenseman (and he's likely looking at a pay cut because of that), but he can still help a team in a No. 3 or 4 role.




    Joe Corvo
    Age: 33
    Finished 2009-10 season with: Washington Capitals
    2009-10 salary: $2.75 million
    Breakdown: You know what you're getting in Corvo: a power-play specialist. With his booming shot, he's worth $2 million or so for a team that needs a boost to its man advantage. The Caps obviously don't need him with Mike Green and the rising John Carlson already on their blue line. Plenty of offense there, especially since superstar Alex Ovechkin also can play the point. A cheap power-play option for teams counting their pennies? Time will tell.




    Kurtis Foster
    Age: 28
    Finished 2009-10 season with: Tampa Bay Lightning
    2009-10 salary: $600,000
    Breakdown: Quick, name the player who's second only to Gonchar in points this season among UFA defensemen! It's none other than the unheralded Foster, who very quietly racked up a career-high 42 points (albeit on a bad blue line). New Lightning GM Steve Yzerman wants Foster back, but is also counting his payroll dollars carefully. Either way, it's a nice raise for Foster this summer, in Tampa Bay or elsewhere.




    Marc-Andre Bergeron
    Age: 29
    Finished 2009-10 season with: Montreal Canadiens
    2009-10 salary: $750,000
    Breakdown: He's headed to the free-agent market even though he scored 13 goals in 60 games for the Canadiens this past season. Perhaps the arrival of P.K. Subban has something to do with that. But with 34 points in only 60 games, some team's power play will have a need for this offensive blueliner.



    Pierre LeBrun covers the NHL for ESPN.com.

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    Re: Pens sign defenceman Paul Martin for 5 years $25 million

    gonchar's age doesn't put him #1 on that list IMO.

    the over 35 rule knocks it down some more. if he gets hurt for any lenghty period of time and or retires the cap hit stays for the lenght of the contract...too risky IMO

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    Re: Pens sign defenceman Paul Martin for 5 years $25 million

    Quote Originally Posted by NJ-STEELER
    gonchar's age doesn't put him #1 on that list IMO.

    the over 35 rule knocks it down some more. if he gets hurt for any lenghty period of time and or retires the cap hit stays for the lenght of the contract...too risky IMO
    Agreed. The fact that we would have had to give a guy who is already 36 years old over $5 million of our precious cap space for 3 full seasons even if he retired was the dealbreaker. Offering him a competitive 2 year deal was the right thing to do. He chose to go elsewhere. We got a couple of guys who are significantly younger and stronger defensively. Fleury is probably ecstatic that he has guys who will clear people out in front of him.

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    Re: Pens sign defenceman Paul Martin for 5 years $25 million

    http://penguins.nhl.com/club/news.htm?id=533615

    Adding Former Devil Martin Further Deepens Penguins Impressive Blueline
    Thursday, 07.01.2010 / 8:48 PM
    Features By Jason Seidling

    With one signature along the dotted line the Penguins were able to significantly upgrade their lineup, while at the same time putting a dent into the roster of one of their chief rivals in the Atlantic Division, by signing free agent defenseman Paul Martin to a five-year contract on Thursday.

    Martin, 29, comes to Pittsburgh after spending his entire six-year career with the New Jersey Devils.

    “It’s a little different feeling being in one spot for so long and playing against Pittsburgh in the same division,” Martin said. “That said people switch teams like that all the time. It’s the nature of the business. I’m looking forward to it. It should be fun.”

    Martin became the second high-profile free-agent defenseman to sign with the Penguins on the opening day of free agency, following former Phoenix Coyotes defenseman Zbynek Michalek, who inked a five-year deal earlier on Thursday.

    “Paul is a really smooth skating defenseman, great stick, good defensively, and his offensive production might be a little bit better than what he’s had in the past,” general manager Ray Shero said. “He’s a real solid all-around player. He can play lots of minutes, an effortless skater.”

    Much like Michalek, Martin likes the strength the Penguins have built on defense.

    “Pittsburgh has been able to win a Cup recently and that proves that Ray and his staff know what they are doing there,” Martin said. “I think adding guys like Michalek and myself will help out. If we can make the back end better and help out (Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre) Fleury that will help improve the defense. I think it is a good solid core here and it will be fun working with the guys.”

    While it was tough for Martin to leave a good situation in New Jersey, where the team had won four division titles and made six playoff appearances during his six years with the team, Martin found it enticing to join a Penguins team which still has a majority of the core remaining from its 2009 Stanley Cup championship team and plays in front of the top fan base in the National Hockey League.

    “Every time we came in there I thought the fans were great,” Martin said. “They always have a lot of passion and energy. I’m sure that atmosphere will only improve when we open (CONSOL Energy Center).”

    Whereas Michalek will offer the Penguins a defensive, shutdown presence, Martin is more of a two-way defender capable of chipping in both offensively and defensively.

    The 6-foot-1, 200-pound blueliner has scored 30 or more points in three of his five full NHL seasons while posting a plus-55 rating in 400 career games. The Minneapolis, Minnesota native projected to have his best offensive numbers this past season, but a broken forearm limited him to just 22 games.

    Martin first fractured his left forearm blocking a shot against the Penguins at Mellon Arena on Oct. 24, then suffered a setback in December when he had to have surgery after it was determined the bone wasn’t healing properly. Unfortunately the injury, which sidelined Martin for 59 games, caused him to withdraw from the United States Olympic Team.

    However, once Martin returned – ironically against the Penguins on March 17 in New Jersey – he came back with a bang. Martin scored that night against Pittsburgh and finished the year with two goals, nine points and a plus-nine rating in 13 games to close out the season.

    Martin believes his strong finish proved he has fully recovered from his forearm injury and provides a glimpse to Penguins fans as to what he will provide Pittsburgh throughout the next five years.

    “I was just happy to get back on the ice it had been so long,” Martin said. “To be able to put up some points while not playing that many minutes just coming back felt good. Everything is good with my wrist and it is 100 percent so that is good that I don’t have to worry about that. I hope to build off of that moving forward.”

    Martin is expected to see time on the point with the Penguins alongside youngsters Kris Letang and Alex Goligoski. The left-handed shooting Martin has experience with such a role after seeing plenty of minutes serving as the power-play quarterback at times for the Devils.

    Two years ago Martin recorded 18 (2G-16A) of his 33 points on the man-advantage. He hopes to see those numbers increase with the Penguins as he lines up with the likes of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Co. after trying to contain those guys for so many years.

    “They have so much speed, talent and offense there that I think it will make much easier because they make everyone around them better,” Martin said. “Hopefully I can contribute there as I work with those guys. Playing with them is a huge reason I am heading to Pittsburgh.”

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    Re: Pens sign defenceman Paul Martin for 5 years $25 million

    http://penguins.nhl.com/club/news.htm?id=533558

    Shero Upgrades Pens' Defense with Martin, Michalek Signings
    Thursday, 07.01.2010 / 6:17 PM
    Features By Sam Kasan

    It’s four days before the fourth of July, but the Penguins set off a few fireworks from the war room on the opening day of the NHL’s free agency period.

    Pittsburgh bolstered its defensive corps by adding two of the top blueliners available on the market.

    The Penguins signed defensemen Paul Martin and Zbynek Michalek each to five-year contracts that will also provide long-term stability at the back end.

    “This thing with Michalek came down right away. That was a guy we wanted to target,” general manager Ray Shero said. “It says a lot about Paul Martin – who had a lot of suitors out there – that he wanted to come to Pittsburgh, which made us feel good. It worked out quite well for us. With these two signing with our team, defense is an area of strength. Last year I don’t think it was.”

    Martin and Michalek join currently signed Pittsburgh defenders Brooks Orpik, Kris Letang, Alex Goligoski and Ben Lovejoy.

    When the season ended the Penguins had only three defensemen (Orpik, Letang, Goligoski) under contract for the 2010-11 season. The Penguins brass made a point to focus on the defensive position.

    With the re-signing of Lovejoy to a three-year deal two weeks ago and Thursday’s inking of Martin and Michalek, Pittsburgh transformed an apparent weakness into strength.

    “I think we did really well. Since the end of the season I’ve met with the coaching staff and our pro scouts, the area we addressed, and I was pretty clear over the last couple of weeks about addressing our defense,” Shero said. “By getting Paul Martin and Zbynek Michalek, I think we’ve done that. We’ve got a great corps of defensemen right now that are signed for a number of years. They’re at the right age I think. That’s the area we targeted to improve our team the most. Today, from our staff and coaches standpoint we’re pretty thrilled.”

    The signings will upgrade the team’s defense for the foreseeable future. The Penguins now have Lovejoy (2012-13), Orpik (2013-14), Letang (2013-14), Martin (2014-15) and Michalek (2014-15) under contract for the next three-plus seasons.

    “(Martin and Michalek) should be real solid additions to what we already have in Brooks Orpik and Kris Letang and Alex Goligoski,” Shero said. “That is a real solid defensive corps. We’re looking forward to having them play the blue line for a number of years for us.”

    Martin and Michalek bring diverse skill sets to the Penguins.

    Martin is a great two-way defenseman with underrated offensive ability. He put up respectable offensive numbers in New Jersey (five seasons with 20-plus points), despite playing in a defense-first system. His numbers and talent should only flourish under the Penguins up-tempo, attacking system.

    “Paul is a really smooth skating defenseman, great stick, good defensively,” Shero said. “Offensive production might be a little bit better than what he’s had in the past. He’s a real solid all-around player. He can play lots of minutes, an effortless skater.”

    Michalek is a classic stay-at-home defenseman that will provide a solid presence on the blue line. He’s a shot-blocking specialist (led the NHL with 271 blocked shots in 2008-09), and can play a shutdown role against the opposing teams’ top forwards.

    “Michalek is a right-handed defenseman that we really liked,” Shero said. “He’s 27 years old, a big body, 6-foot-2. He was really under the radar in Phoenix. He’s had a great career there. He was an under the radar swap with Minnesota a few years back, and he really blossomed in Phoenix under Dave Tippett. We’ve really liked him for a long time. Phoenix tried really hard to re-sign him. Unfortunately for them he became free. He was our first phone call today. We took care of that pretty quickly.”

    Now the Penguins will wait to see what is available at the forward position as free agency proceeds. But they can rest assure that the defense, which took a hit with the defections of Sergei Gonchar and Dan Hamhuis, looks as solid as ever.

    “We’re going to sit back over the next day or so and see what’s still out there from a forward standpoint,” Shero said. “This is something we’ve talked about for a month internally. We need to address our defense. I made it clear that we’d like to sign Dan Hamhuis and Sergei Gonchar. That didn’t happen. We’re really, really ecstatic to have Paul Martin and Zbynek Michalek. They’re at the right age and are under a long-term contract. I like the look of our defense today and moving forward.”

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    Re: Pens sign defenceman Paul Martin for 5 years $25 million

    http://penguins.nhl.com/club/news.htm?id=533544

    Ray Shero Transcript: July 1st Free Agent Signings
    Thursday, 07.01.2010 / 5:49 PM

    Ray Shero met with the media following a busy signing day on July 1st. Here is what the Penguins general manager had to say:

    On the team’s overall moves on July 1:
    I think we did really well. Since the end of the season I’ve met with the coaching staff and our pro scouts, the area we addressed, and I was pretty clear over the last couple of weeks about addressing our defense. By getting Paul Martin and Zbynek Michalek, I think we’ve done that. We’ve got a great corps of defensemen right now that are signed for a number of years. They’re at the right age I think. That’s the area we targeted to improve our team the most. Today, from our staff and coaches standpoint we’re pretty thrilled.

    On how hard it is to lose Sergei Gonchar:
    With Sergei it was really difficult. We went into the last day, really the last night, about 11:30 p.m. I texted Sergei and asked him to consider one more thing. It wasn’t meant to be I think. He’s had a fantastic stay here, five years, a Stanley Cup, classy and dignity, represented us really well. I’m really happy for him. They got the three-year deal they were looking for. Ottawa will be a great place for him. He’ll be missed. He is one of the best players to play an offensive position from the defensive side. That’s hard. We won a Cup with him. It’s going to be very hard to see him leave. But those are decisions that you have to make. Once we made that he moved on, so did we. I’m glad we both ended up in a pretty good situation.

    On why the two sides couldn’t reach an agreement with Gonchar:
    I offered two years. That was all we were going to do. He wanted three or more. I understand his position. He’s 36 years old. No hard feelings at all. It was just a position from his side and our side. Nothing was ever acrimonious, it was just business. I wished him well at the end, so did he. We’ll have great memories of Sergei Gonchar here. He’s been a fantastic player and maybe a better person on and off the ice. There’s not much more I can say about Sergei. A lot of respect, but in the end it was a business decision for both of us.

    On if the moves will help replace will Gonchar:
    Nobody is going to replace Sergei Gonchar. Sergei is an extremely talented offensive player, good for 50, 60 points. What we’ll get in Paul Martin, Paul is a really smooth skating defenseman, great stick, good defensively, offensive production might be a little bit better than what he’s had in the past. He’s a real solid all-around player. He can play lots of minutes, an effortless skater. Michalek is a right-handed defenseman that we really liked. He’s 27 years old, a big body, 6-foot-2. He was really under the radar in Phoenix. He’s had a great career there. He was an under the radar swap with Minnesota a few years back, and he really blossomed in Phoenix under Dave Tippet. We’ve really liked him for a long time. Phoenix tried really hard to re-sign him. Unfortunately for them he became free. He was our first phone call today. We took care of that pretty quickly. Both should be real solid additions to what we already have in Brooks Orpik and Kris Letang and Alex Goligoski. That is a real solid defensive corps. We’re looking forward to having him play the blue line for a number of years for us.

    On the top prospects contending for roster spots:
    There’s a time when we have to give these guys an opportunity. We’re going to sit back over the next day or so and see what’s still out there from a forward standpoint. This is something we’ve talked about for a month internally. We need to address our defense. I made it clear that we’d like to sign Dan Hamhuis and Sergei Gonchar. That didn’t happen. We’re really, really ecstatic to have Paul Martin and Zbynek Michalek. They’re at the right age and are under a long-term contract. I like the look of our defense today and moving forward.

    On who is likely to make the jump to the NHL:
    We’re going to talk to the coaches again over the next day. We have guys like (Eric) Tangradi that should be pushing for a spot. (Mark) Letestu proved he can do a good job last year. We have Dustin Jeffery, Nick Johnson. These guys are deserving of some looks. We’re a team over the last four years that I’ve been here that we’ve had no problem scoring goals. We’re always in the top 4, 5 or 6. But unfortunately our goals against is not where we want it to be. So we wanted to tighten that up and address our defense. Honestly I think the group of free agent defenseman was much stronger than up front. We didn’t see any real difference makers up front. To go out and spend our money for a supposed wingers for a lot of money or term didn’t make sense to us right now. Our chance was to focus on the defense and we wanted to add good players at the right age. I think that’s what we did.

    On the loss of Gonchar affecting Malkin:
    I have talked to Geno at the end-of-the-year meeting and I’ve been in contact with him. He has assured me that if Gonch doesn’t come back that that is Gonch’s decision and that he will be fine. He has a number of good friends on this team. He has been over here for four years now and he is out (living in Pittsburgh) on his own. Having said that, what Sergei and Ksenia did for Geno, you can’t pay that back. They will still be training together in the summer. Geno is going to be fine and he will be ready to come back and have a real good year for himself.

    On signing Michalek versus Volchenkov or Hamhuis:
    Michalek was a guy we really wanted to target. I traded for Dan Hamhuis with the intention of signing Dan Hamhuis. When that didn’t seem to be coming to fruition – and we tried really hard to sign him – we wanted to see what else was out there. We made it very clear that his best chance to be a Penguin was before noon (on Thursday). When it got past 12 o’clock I told their side that we would be making phone calls and offers. I said we would keep in touch. This thing with Michalek came down right away. That was a guy we wanted to target. It says a lot about Paul Martin – who had a lot of suitors out there – that he wanted to come to Pittsburgh, which made us feel good. It worked out quite well for us. With these two signing with our team, defense is an area of strength. Last year I don’t think it was.

    On looking at the free agent wingers out there:
    Yeah, I think so. We are going to re-group this afternoon and tonight and just kind of see. There didn’t seem to be those kind of guys who are going to make a difference for the kind of money they were looking for. We’ll take a look and maybe we can do somebody on a one-year deal at a low number or just give our players an opportunity and see what training camp brings or later in the summer we can make a trade.

    On Bill Guerin still being a realistic option:
    Yeah I talked to Bill Guerin today. If he is getting something he is going to call me and vice versa. I can’t say Billy is out of the picture at this point. We’ll see how things shape up. The one promise I have to Billy is if we are going to move in another direction we are going to call him and let him know and vice versa.

    On not making a deal for a player’s rights like the Hamhuis trade in the future:
    I would do it again. I have known Dan for a long time. We had drafted him when I was in Nashville. He is a good defenseman. It’s competitive to get defensemen when they are free agents. If I have to spend a third-round draft pick to try to get a step up on someone – which in the end we didn’t get Dan Hamhuis but we got two other guys. I had four days to talk to Dan Hamhuis and I didn’t have to spend time talking to him today. If I didn’t have that opportunity maybe I would have missed out on somebody. I think it worked out well. I saw Dan signed with Vancouver, which is very close to home for him. That is a great landing spot for him as well.

    On talking term and money with Hamhuis:
    Yes, we talked with him. But we never got close before 12 o’clock (Thursday). He went to free agency, which was his right. I made it quite clear that once you do that – the best chance to make a deal is before 12 p.m. Obviously we didn’t do that, but I am happy with the two guys we got. I wish Dan well.

    On improving the defense to help Marc-Andre Fleury:
    I think we have really upgraded our defense with these two guys and the guys we have coming back and into the foreseeable future. When I talk about defense, I talk about our forwards playing better defense and not having some of the turnovers we saw last year. I talk about our defense as a group being active in the rush. Paul Martin and Michalek made a really good first pass. That is what I am talking about. Marc-Andre Fleury and Brent Johnson – in Marc’s case – are going to have to do a better job than last year. That is going to be his goal. I know he is focused on that. If he comes back and plays to his capabilities we are going to be in really great shape.

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    Re: Pens sign defenceman Paul Martin for 5 years $25 million

    http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pitt.../s_688518.html

    Penguins bolster defense in Day 1 of free agency
    By Josh Yohe, MCKEESPORT DAILY NEWS
    Friday, July 2, 2010

    Josh Yohe is a McKeesport Daily News staff writer and can be reached at 412-664-9161 or via e-mail.

    Sergei Gonchar required almost an entire season to feel comfortable with the Penguins.

    It took the team only a matter of minutes to identify, sign and feel comfortable with his replacements.

    One of the most noteworthy summer days in team history occurred Thursday when Gonchar, so heavily relied upon during the Penguins' return to hockey's elite, bolted to Ottawa for a three-year, $16.5 million deal.

    With Gonchar gone and defenseman Dan Hamhuis looking unlikely to sign with the Penguins -- as expected, he inked a six-year deal with Vancouver later in the day -- Penguins GM Ray Shero responded with an impressive Plan B, jolting the Eastern Conference by immediately signing two of the open market's finest available defensemen in Paul Martin and Zbynek Michalek.

    "When I look at the defensemen on this roster," Martin said of his new squad, "I am very, very impressed."

    His new GM is pleased, as well.

    "I think we did really well," Shero said. "We're pretty thrilled."

    A number of unrestricted free agents remain in limbo. Shero has not ruled out the possibility of signing Bill Guerin or Mark Eaton, with Alexei Ponikarovsky, Ruslan Fedotenko and Jay McKee appearing far less likely to receive an offer from the Penguins.

    Defenseman Jordan Leopold inked a three-year deal with Buffalo late Thursday afternoon.

    Shero's first phone call yesterday was to Michalek's camp. The defensive-minded, physical 27-year-old soon agreed to a 5-year, $20 million deal.

    "We've always been so impressed with him," Shero said. "He's an under-the-radar guy."

    Michalek only seriously considered offers from the Penguins and Phoenix, where he emerged as a shutdown defender during his five seasons with the Coyotes.

    "It was kind of a no-brainer for me," Michalek said. "Let's be honest, the situation in Phoenix is unstable. Getting a chance to come here, with a new arena, a team that's always contending for a championship, having Mario Lemieux as my owner and getting to play with (Sidney) Crosby and (Evgeni) Malkin ... it was a once-in-a-lifetime thing for me."

    Martin, 29, is very familiar with the Penguins after playing the past five seasons with New Jersey. He wasn't, however, quite as familiar with the Penguins' financial situation as he thought.

    After seeing Michalek sign with the Penguins and knowing that Hamhuis, whose rights were acquired from Philadelphia last Friday, was still possibly in the fold, Martin had essentially crossed the Penguins off his list.

    "I didn't think there was any way they were going to make me an offer after seeing how the day was shaping up," Martin said.

    Shero, though, ultimately and correctly concluded that Hamhuis was intent on playing in his native British Columbia.

    And so, the Penguins GM offered Martin a five-year, $25 million proposal.

    "I couldn't turn down the chance to play there," Martin said. "I was talking with the Penguins, Devils, and a couple of other teams, but to play in Pittsburgh is just so great. I know how great the crowd always was at Mellon Arena, and I can't wait to feel the atmosphere at the new barn."

    Martin already feels comfortable with his new team. He frequently works out in his hometown of Minneapolis with another Minnesota native, new teammate Alex Goligoski.

    Also, Martin has fielded phone calls from former New Jersey teammate Mike Rupp, who assured him that playing in Pittsburgh was a wise move.

    "It just seems like a perfect fit," Martin said.

    Although the Penguins seem thrilled with their acquisitions -- and they are being praised league-wide as having perhaps the best day of any team -- losing Gonchar was not Shero's goal. In fact, the Penguins GM made a late pitch to the veteran defenseman Wednesday in the form of a text message.

    But it simply wasn't to be. Gonchar was adamant about receiving a three-year contract, and Shero wouldn't budge from his two-year proposal.

    "It was really difficult," Shero said. "I had offered two years. That's all we were going to. He wanted three or more. I understand his position. No hard feelings. It was just business."

    Despite losing one of the finest offensive defensemen of his generation, business seems awfully good for the Penguins these days.

    "I think this is a great team with a really good looking blue line," Michalek said. "Martin is a great player. We know why we were signed there. We were signed to help win a Stanley Cup, and that's what we'll try to do."

    Note: The Penguins finished 5th out of 122 professional sports teams in ESPN The Magazine's annual Ultimate Franchise rankings and ranked 1st in the category that considers players' relations with fans.

    The newest Penguins

    Paul Martin

    Position: Defenseman

    Shoots: Left

    Age: 29

    Height/weight: 6-1, 200

    Hometown: Minneapolis, Minn.

    New deal: 5 years, $25 million

    Career stats: 400 games played, 26 goals, 137 assists, 263 points, 114 PIM, plus-55

    Skinny: One the league's finest two-way defensemen, Martin is a slick puck mover who likely will see time on top power play unit. Solid defensively and an outstanding skater, he's a plus-51 in his past 146 games.

    Zbynek Michalek

    Position: Defenseman

    Shoots: Right

    Age: 27

    Height/Weight: 6-2, 210

    Hometown: Jindrichuv Hradec, Czech Republic

    New deal: 5 years, $20 million

    Career stats: 415 games played, 27 goals, 88 assists, 115 points, 192 PIM, minus-22

    Skinny: A rugged, defensive defenseman, Michalek is considered by many among the league's most underrated performers. He led the NHL in blocked shots two years ago with 271 and is viewed as a terrific penalty killer with evolving, respectable offensive skills.

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