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Friday, July 25, 2014

Pittsburgh should be excited about Patric Hornqvist By: @LuigiLemieux

9:00:00 AM 21
Pittsburgh should be excited about Patric Hornqvist

Although it is still July and the sound of skates scraping ice is still a seemingly distant idea, Pittsburgh fans are already pining for October and eagerly awaiting the unveiling of our “new look” Penguins squad. Among the many changes we have seen the one that excites me more than any other may be the addition of Patric Hornqvist as a result of a trade sending second line winger James Neal to the Nashville Predators.

The blockbuster trade has been the subject of much discussion. Who won? Who lost?

Both won. For very different reasons.

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Thursday, July 24, 2014

A look at Kasperi Kapanen And The Rest Of the Pens' Young Forwards by @MadChad and @H_P_Hockey

8:00:00 AM 1

The Pittsburgh Penguins' rookie development camp has come and gone, and now it's time to take a hard look at what transpired during the week. During the scrimmage, I had the privalage to check up with Tony Androckitis, who covers the Wilkes/Barre Baby Pens for HighlandParkHockey.com 
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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

PI Exclusive: DK on Pittsburgh Sports, Change and the Future

10:28:00 AM 1

Monday morning the Pittsburgh Sports media scene was rocked by a seismic change. Dejan Kovacevic, columnist for the Trib, announced he was resigning from the newspaper to devote himself to a new online subscription-based venture. “DK on Pittsburgh Sports” will be a multi-media one stop place for sports fans to gather facts and leave opinions.

Dejan was kind enough to give Pens Initiative a first opportunity to talk with him about this exciting new journey. 

 PI:  This is a huge and risky change. Did you mull it over for a long time or did it evolve quickly?

DK:  Is it risky? I guess so, if it’s done without safeguards. The major corporate sponsor I’m expecting to announce next week really ensures a solid takeoff to the project. That’s so important. (Especially with two kids to feed!) I honestly don’t feel it’s nearly as risky as, say, continuing to focus about 80 percent of my energy into print newspapers, which have been on an ominous downward decline for decades now.

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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Rick Tocchet and Steve Downie Reunited in Pittsburgh by @ChicksDigHockey

9:00:00 AM 0

Rick Tocchet knows all about being a bad ass. Search him on YouTube and you can find enough scrums to keep you occupied all day.  No one would ever accuse Tocchet of being a goon but he began his career mainly known as a fighter. He worked hard to hone his skills and became known as a power forward who also happened to take zero crap. He topped the 30-goal mark four straight years for the Flyers and helped the club come within a game of winning the Stanley Cup in 1987. 

Steve Downie began his career as a crazy bad ass. Downie was selected in the first round, 29th overall, in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft by the Philadelphia Flyers. Not long after being drafted, Downie was suspended for five games early in the 2005–06 OHL season for an on-ice altercation with teammate Akim Aliu. During a practice on September 28, 2005, Downie blindly cross-checked Aliu in the face without warning, knocking out 3 of his teeth. Downie was ordered to undergo professional counseling.  

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Friday, July 18, 2014

Volunteers Needed for the Schaab Memorial Softball Tournament / Home Run Derby by @DXTraeger

5:55:00 PM 0

Umpires and volunteers are still needed for the 3rd Annual Schaab Memorial Softball Tournament in Harrison City, PA (by Penn Trafford High School).  This year's tournament will be held next Sunday, July 27th, with a rainout date of Sunday, August 3rd.

Mike Schaab and Nancy Schaab were both tragically murdered as a result of gun violence. Mike was shot and killed when returning from his lunch break at Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic on March 8, 2012. Nancy was killed only 16 months earlier on October 24, 2010. 

This 32-team, 1 day tournament is held each year to honor their memory, as they both loved to play softball.

The foundation has raised close to $40,000 over the past two years.  Without the support and efforts of our staff, this event could not possibly take place, so everyone is welcome to volunteer and participate!

Proceeds from the tournament fund a college scholarship for a local high school student who will attend the University of Pittsburgh, Mike's Alma Mater. A portion of the proceeds will also benefit other local charities, including (but not limited to) the Animal Rescue League, the Penn Trafford Recreation Commission, and the Penn Trafford Athletic Association.

This year, the tournament will feature a HOME RUN DERBY (with a cash prize) open to everyone, including non-players!  In addition, we will have NEW CONCESSION STAND TREATS and will also be bringing back our silent auction, basket raffle, and many more exciting games.

Those interested in attending or volunteering can sign up at the Tournament Website, or can email Michael Traeger.  Also, follow us on Twitter @SchaabTourney!

We hope to see everyone on Sunday!  Good luck to all of our players!

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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Sticks to Clubs Golf Event (@YTownPhantoms) Date Set by @ToonsBrian

6:13:00 PM 0
Per the Youngstown Phantoms, the Sticks To Clubs Youngstown Phantoms Golf Outing has been set to take place on Monday, August 4th at The Lake Club in Poland, OH.

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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Are Crosby and the Penguins Playing with Fire? by @PandaPSU

4:27:00 PM 1

(Photo courtesy of NHL.com)

Almost one week ago, we found out that Sidney Crosby would undergo surgery on his wrist to repair an undisclosed injury. News came out earlier today that after seeking further medical advice, Crosby would not need surgery. He will continue to undergo treatment and be monitored leading up to training camp in September.
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Penguins VS Rangers: Metro Rivalry Revisited. by @ChicksDigHockey

10:33:00 AM 0

When the Metropolitan division debuted in the fall of 2013 it was no surprise that the Penguins were the favorites to take it all. They dominated the east in the 2012 regular season. Surely, the early dismissal by Boston in the previous playoffs was an anomaly. 

After the Boston debacle, Ray Shero had tinkered with the coaching staff by adding defensive-minded Jacques Martin. He brought back Rob Scuderi to provide some veteran depth and shore up the defense. These changes appeared to have the Pens on track to make a run for the cup despite being injury-ridden and limping into the playoffs. 

But then the Rangers happened... from the bottom of the playoff heap they charged in.

Even though the Pens had 3 victories in hand, the Rangers rallied to take the series in 7 games. In the 89-year history of the franchise, New York had never rallied from being down three games to one in a Stanley Cup playoff series...but they did against the Pens.

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Friday, July 11, 2014

Sidney Crosby: The Decision (a fable)

10:15:00 AM 1
The majority of people who are reading this are for the most part sports fans. I say "for the most part" because while it may be implied that you came to read an article on a hockey website, you still may only be a fan of the Penguins. For that matter, you may simply be a fan of Crosby and/or Malkin by default being born and raised in Pittsburgh.

But assuming you are in fact a devoted sports fan, and particularly a Penguins fan, you know what it means to root for (arguably) the best player in the sport. It would be unthinkable, nay, unimaginable to see Sidney Crosby even considering another team...but what if that were a possibility?

With all the hoopla surrounding LeBron James, I want to hear from the masses among Penguins fans to see what they would think if in fact this was #87 waiting to make "the Decision."

Imagine if you will that it was last summer and Sid has not agreed to a contract extension because he wanted to keep his options open. Despite being the greatest thing to happen to the Penguins (some may even hockey in general) since Lemiuex, his childhood dream was to always play for the Montreal Canadiens. After all, his father was drafted by this team. Most kids from Canada (except Ryan Noble) only dream of playing for the team they grew up watching and loving. He's won two gold medals and captained the most recent one. The man IS hockey in Canada.

Picture it:

The media is swarming around whether Sid will remain in Pittsburgh or if he will abandon the team and city of Pittsburgh for the Les Habitants. Fans are hostile. Pens fans is on edge, nay, suicide watch. Pat Brisson is trending on every conceivable social media outlet. Teenage girls are making videos like this. ESPN makes it one of their their most important headline (second only to LeBron lunch).

But what about you? What would you be doing? How would YOU feel if Crosby left us?

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Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Sidney Crosby: Damned If You Do, Damned If You Do Not by @MadChad412

11:12:00 PM 2

Pittsburgh Penguin's superstar center Sidney Crosby  cannot win no matter what he does. On Tuesday night, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that Crosby had been playing with an injured wrist during the postseason and that he is now set to have arthroscopic surgery on his wrist. It is reported that Crosby tried to heal his wrist via physical therapy, but that apparently did not work. 
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ICYMI: Sidney Crosby Injured During Playoffs, Will Have Surgery

7:00:00 AM 0

Most of the sane people that were sleeping last night probably missed the big news involving Sidney Crosby. Dave Molinari, Pittsburgh Penguin's beat-writer for the Post-Gazette, reported that Crosby is scheduled to have surgery on his right wrist that a "source" said impeded Crosby's performance in the playoffs.
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Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Pittsburgh Penguins: Out With The Old, In With The New by @pghgirl15222

3:25:00 PM 0

Last season ended exactly like most have in recent years; with a stink of disappointment. The Penguins of the 2013 began as a team constantly finding ways to overcome injures that might have cost other teams their whole season. They finished with a record of 51-24-7, with a debilitating 529 man games lost. I am not certain, but I believe there was an average of 6 men lost per game.

This all changed after the Olympic break. The second half Pittsburgh Penguins team looked unfocused and sloppy. After a sub par post season, enough was enough for Burkle and Lemieux. They fired Shero and Byslma and hired Jim Rutherford to anchor their management. In this hiring, came a man who is confident about allowing the Penguins young defensemen get a chance on the big stage.

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Saturday, July 5, 2014

Rob Scuderi Re-Signed One Year Ago Today

5:09:00 PM 0

What a difference one year makes in the world of sports. Just one year ago on this exact date, the Pittsburgh Penguins signed Rob Scuderi to a four-year deal, worth $3.375 million per-year. Scuderi, who received the nickname "The Piece" thanks to his fantastic defensive performances during the 2008-2009 playoffs, helping the Penguins win the Stanley Cup playoffs, came back to the Pens after spending four years with the Los Angeles Kings. Scuderi, who is now 35-years old, has won two Stanley Cups as an NHL defenseman, and has played in the Stanley Cup finals three times with two different teams. 
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Friday, July 4, 2014


Pens All-America Team by @Nick422

1:30:00 PM 0
It's the 4th of July.  Sorry Candidia, it's America's time to shine!  And to celebrate the birth of the greatest nation ever* we'll take a look at the best of the Red, White and Blue to suit up for your Pittsburgh Penguins.

*your mileage may vary

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Free Agency Update: Blue Jackets Sign Brian Gibbons

12:26:00 PM 0
As the saying goes, "there ain't no rest for the wicked."  Despite a holiday the NHL moves on and the Penguins lose players.  This time it's Brian Gibbons.

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Thursday, July 3, 2014

Pens Initiative Grades The Pens Free Agency (So Far)

4:18:00 PM 2
As the Pens are in the midst of day 3 of Free Agency, we at Pens Initiative think it's time to take a look back and assess what has happened so far.

We know this off-season has brought about a new GM in Jim Rutherford and a new coach in Mike Johnston.  They also went through the draft and acquired some offensive talent there.  They traded away a fan favorite in James Neal for Patric Hornqvist and Nick Spaling while the team was rebuilt with the "gritter" edge that Mario wanted.

Here, we are just looking at the Free Agency period and all that has happened since July 1st.

Lee C.J. Sobotka@LCJS

Christian Ehrhoff was a fantastic signing. Granted, he was just bought out by Buffalo, but to sign him short term at a very friendly price (1 year, $4 million), it looks like a steal.  Blake Comeau, also on a 1 year term, will fit in nicely in the bottom six.  Getting Steve Downie was icing on the cake for me, as he is a player, much like Matt Cooke, that can bring a bit of edge to the Pens game.  His term of 1 year for $1 million is very cap friendly.  With acquiring backup Thomas Greiss for 1 year, $1 million and resigning Marcel Goc at a discount, I'm pleased at the acquisitions.

With how much money was thrown at the players the Pens decided to let walk, I'm just as pleased with the additions by subtraction. Niskanen was a decent though expensive signing for the Caps while everyone else's contract (Orpik, Engelland, Vitale, Jokinen, etc) were signed for over the top money.  Have patience, Pens fans.  These are cap friendly moves for good players and the future was not sold to acquire them.

Grade: B
Best Acquisition: Steve Downie
Future Focus: Trade / Buy Out Scuderi


Liz @ChicksDigHockey

What a crazy free agency. We may have known for a few days that favorites were leaving but had no clue who would end up in Black and Vegas Gold. Christian Ehrhoff was a delightful surprise signing.  To say he was coveted is an understatement. I will surely miss Brooksie handing out free candy but Ehrhoff is a fluid skater who can really move the puck. The signing of Steve Downie was another surprise. He will certainly fill the role of gritty bottom six guy. Over all, with the comings and goings so far, I give the Pens a solid B.

Grade: B
Best Acquisition: Christian Ehrhoff
Future Focus: Scoring Winger


Paul @Evil_Shero

The Downie signing is something that can go drastically bad if not handled correctly. Its widely assumed that former (and now current) coach Rick Tocchet lobbied in Downie's favor. For a fan base or media to chastise someone on their passed behaviors is ironically silly. Keep in mind "we (had) Matt Cooke" who no matter what he did after the Savard incident was branded with the mark of the beast.

Downie CAN play hockey he had 22g and 208PIM under Tocchet's watch and he's made it clear that he can unlock that person again. Downie also had a productive second coming in Philadelphia floating just under a point per game before sidelined with a nasty concussion.

I feel the upsides outweigh the potential downsides. The length of contract is a huge bonus as not being drown in poor choices for years to come. It could be a glorious risk or a dangerous way of trying to handle dynamite.

Grade: B-
Best Acquisition: Steve Downie
Future Focus: Top 6 Winger


Traeger - @DXTraeger

Lost in the shuffle of the of Christian Ehrhoff signing was the underrated acquisition of goaltender Thomas Greiss, previously of the Phoenix Arizona Coyotes.

Greiss enjoyed the anonymity one would expect from playing ice hockey in the middle of a desert, and he posted a very quiet 2013-2014 campaign consisting of 10 wins, a 2.58 GAA and a striking .920 save percentage.

Originally drafted by the goaltending savants that are the San Jose Sharks, Greiss has Olympic experience and a body of work that suggests he is capable of producing on a consistent basis at the NHL level.

With Fleury commanding $5 million a year and entering the last year of his contract, the Penguins and GM Jim Rutherford may be very tempted to go in another goaltending direction well before the 2015 trading deadline.

If Rutherford did decide to package Fleury, #29 would command a hefty return given the scarcity of quality backstopping in the NHL.  Such a move would free up salary cap room to shore up the team's eternal area of need- a scoring winger for Crosby or Malkin- and would open the door for Greiss to sign a long-term deal with the club and become Pittsburgh's featured netminder.

Grade: B
Best Acquisition:  Thomas Greiss
Future Focus:  Top 6 Depth


Brian Blystone - @ToonsBrian

New Pens GM Jim Rutherford finds himself in that precarious situation that nobody ever wants to find themselves: filling the role of someone who was previously loved while being saddled with all the problems that caused the departure of that same someone. Since his hiring just a few short weeks ago, people have been lining up to criticize nearly every decision he’s made. Frankly, the more he does, the harder it is to find fault with the moves.

Really, what does anybody know to judge this team to begin with? It’s an all new team, save the core of personnel that remain. Any judgments we make as to the quality of the moves made this free agency period can only be made using the previous regime’s mold as a baseline.

That said, I love what the Pens seem to be doing this off-season.

Call me a homer. Call me naïve. Call me anything you like, but the Penguins’ new front office have clearly put a premium on players that address clear team concerns from the past four or five years.

Thomas Greiss is a massively underrated goaltender that could be a starting goaltender in this league very soon. He is an undisputable upgrade to Jeff Zatkoff, not to take anything from Z.

Christian Ehrhoff could be one of the best signings of the off-season for any team for a few reasons. His buyout had less to do with performance and a lot to do with a restructuring Buffalo franchise. The signing was a proactive move by Rutherford and Co. because they saw – just like everybody else – that there would be some major shakeups at the blue line this year, with Orpik and Niskanen both parting ways,. But they realized that, while a youth movement sounds great, they would need some insurance defensively. Ehrhoff more than provides that safety net.

Steve Downie was an excellent second day pickup, particularly for the price they paid. Downie and his $1 million contract provide the Penguins that “grit” the team has lacked for several years. He’s what you might get if Matt Cooke, Deryk Engelland and Georges Laraque had a baby.

The minor signings for me were really Blake Comeau and and Marcel Goc. Both are fine signings, especially for the money. They add excellent bottom six depth with Goc taking a big discount to remain a Penguin. Goc, in my eyes, has been underrated since his arrival, as he’s not the type of player that fans typically expect a center to be. And Comeau has the ability to change a game at unexpected moments.

My grade for this Free Agency period for the Penguins, however, will be mostly based on the value. They signed five roster-ready players that will improve the team in areas that desperately needed improvement. And they only spent $7.9 million to do it.

Grade: B+
Best Acquisition: Christian Ehrhoff
Future Focus: Signing Brian Gibbons


Sean Griffin - @griffTHW

Jim Rutherford turned heads when he snagged Christian Ehrhoff almost as soon as free agency began.  The blue liner could actually serve as an upgrade over the departed Matt Niskanen while strengthening the power play.  Additionally, Ehrhoff’s arrival provides the Penguins with some flexibility with regards to how the club handles Paul Martin in the final year of his contract.

Up front, the acquisitions of Blake Comeau and Steve Downie combined with the return of Marcel Goc will serve to bolster the bottom-six.  The Penguins witnessed first-hand what Comeau brings to the table in the first round of the playoffs when the winger consistently punished Pittsburgh blue liners for nearly two weeks.  His 196 last year would have ranked third on the Penguins and will help replace the physicality lost with the departures of Brooks Orpik and Tanner Glass.  Downie, meanwhile, provides the Penguins with an agitator who will stir the pot, making the Penguins more difficult to play against.  His past experience playing alongside Steven Stamkos and Marty St. Louis exemplifies the fact that he possesses the skill and versatility to slide up and down the lineup, if necessary.  For his part, Goc will bring a prowess in the faceoff circle (53.4% last season), another option as a shutdown center and an ability to chip in the occasional offense.

Finally, Rutherford surprised many with the acquisition of Thomas Greiss.  His arrival will crowd the Pittsburgh crease but he could potentially handle a workload of about 30 games, relieving some of the pressure on Marc-Andre Fleury.

The only negative comes from the fact the Penguins failed to land another legitimate top-six forward to help mitigate the losses of both Jussi Jokinen and James Neal.  Rutherford, however, has positioned himself to potentially address that concern thanks to the moves he pulled the trigger on over the last couple of days.

Grade: A-
Best Acquisition: Christian Ehrhoff
Future Focus: Top-six winger


Excited Bob Errey - @ExcitedBobErrey

Jim Rutherford locked up arguably the most talented UFA defenseman in Christian Ehrhoff early with a very friendly contract then followed that up with several good value signings. Thomas Greiss is an underrated goalie who could very well steal starts away from Fleury by the end of the regular season, while Blake Comeau, Marcel Goc, and Steve Downie provide a cost-effective upgrade to what was an awful bottom 6 last year. Most importantly, the one year deals given out during free agency gives the team great flexibility going forward and positions the team to be in great cap shape for the 2015 offseason, when the full effects of the NHL's television deal with Rogers Communications should be felt. The only thing keeping the grade below an "A" is the failure to add an additional top 6 forward in the early going, though Rutherford has both time and several different ways of accomplishing that.

Favorite Acquisition: Christian Ehrhoff. Not only did Rutherford land one of the most talented players on the market, he did so at a great price that worked for a team was cap issues. Ehrhoff is the type of mobile, skilled defenseman who should be a great fit for new coach Mike Johnston, and he'll make a talented power play even more dangerous.

More importantly, the Ehrhoff signing presents options going forward. With Paul Martin reportedly unhappy with the direction of the franchise, Rutherford could potentially trade Martin and further bolster the forward depth, perhaps even managing to acquire a fit for the top 6. He could also decide to wait and see how things play out on the ice before making any moves, as a top 4 of Letang/Martin and Maatta/Ehroff could reasonably be included in the discussion of league's best top two pairings and would provide great strength on the blue line for a run at the Stanley Cup.

Future Focus: At this point in free agency the Penguins need to find a solution for the top 6 and re-sign their restricted free agents. The top 6 could be addressed internally, though the risk of relying on an unproven and injury prone Beau Bennett and a rehabbing Pascal Dupuis for two spots on the top lines would suggest another addition would be necessary. Though most of the top UFA options have already signed, there do remain players with varying degrees of potential and risk (Daniel Alfredsson, Lee Stempniak, and Dany Heatley among others) who could be worth a look if the money makes sense.

As for the RFAs, Rutherford would be wise to continue his pattern of handing out 1 year deals for the most part, though Simon Despres could be the exception who deserves a 2-3 year bridge contract if the team believes he'll blossom under the new coaching staff. The flexibility of bringing back the rest for one year at their qualifying price would trump locking them up long term, and I'd question even going that far with Brandon Sutter. Sutter will make a minimum of $2.7 million per year based on his qualifying offer, and with Marcel Goc being able to provide similar production for a much cheaper price ($1.2 million) it might make sense to shop Sutter around or even walk away from his qualifying offer and make him an UFA if it comes to it and save the cap space for use elsewhere.

Grade: B+
Best Acquisition: Christian Ehrhoff
Future Focus: Top-six winger


Let us know what YOU think by taking our poll and leaving a comment below!
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Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Free Agency Update: Penguins Sign Steve Downie

1:05:00 PM 0
The bottom line rebuild continues with another player joining the Pens on a short term deal.  This time it's known pest Steve Downie.

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Should Day Two Focus on Crosby? by @ToonsBrian

10:10:00 AM 1
    Day One of the NHL's Free Agency period went by in a blur and provided a little more insight to the changes the new Front Office would like to see things go.  For this Penguins team, however, the job is not quite done.

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Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Free Agency Update: Capitals Sign Chris Conner

7:46:00 PM 0
The Washington Capitals continue on their odd Penguins fetish, signing Chris Conner to a one year, two way deal.

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Free Agency Update: Pens Retain Marcel Goc

7:27:00 PM 0
In a day full of comings and goings at least one thing stayed the same: The Penguins reached a one year, $1.2 million deal to retain his services.

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Free Agency Update: Capitals Sign Matt Niskanen

5:07:00 PM 0
Matt Niskanen had a career year in the 2013-14 season with the Pittsburgh Penguins and as such he's cashed in signing with the Washington Capitals.

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Free Agency Update: Calgary Signs Away Deryk Engelland

4:01:00 PM 0
Stop us if you've heard this one: Calgary Flames' GM Brad Treliving and defenseman Deryk Engelland walk into a bar....

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Free Agency Update: Penguins Sign Thomas Greiss

2:11:00 PM 3
The remake of the Pittsburgh Penguins continues under general manager Jim Rutherford with the signing of goalie Thomas Greiss.

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Free Agency Update: Tanner Glass to the New York Rangers

2:03:00 PM 0
The bottom six continues to alter in Pittsburgh as another member of the team over the past few years which served in that capacity moves on with Tanner Glass heading to the New York Rangers.

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Free Agency Update: Penguins Sign Blake Comeau

1:46:00 PM 0
The Penguins have seen a large number of players leave and now they've added someone in former Columbus Blue Jacket Blake Comeau.

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Free Agency Update: Joe Vitale to the Arizona Coyotes

1:15:00 PM 0
Another free agency domino falls and another once Penguin is now former as Joe Vitale heads to the desert.

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Free Agency Update: Washington Capitals Sign Brooks Orpik

12:58:00 PM 0
The longest tenured Penguin is no longer a Pittsburgh Penguin.  Brooks Orpik has signed a deal to see him head to the Washington Capitals for five years at $27.5 million.

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Free Agency Update: Florida Panthers Sign Jussi Jokinen

12:50:00 PM 0
A source for many puns and other such jokes, Jussi Jokinen has taken his game to South Beach for four years at $4 million per season.

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Free Agency Update: Penguins Sign Christian Ehrhoff

12:27:00 PM 0
The first shots of free agency have been fired and the Penguins were one of the first shooters signing former Buffalo Sabre Christian Ehrhoff.

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