The NHL Draft is over and the free-agent signing period won’t begin until noon Saturday, but this isn’t entirely an off-day for the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Not when they have to have decisions on whether to extend qualifying offers to their restricted free agents by 5 p.m. today.
That is a group headlined by NHL forwards Ryan Poehling and Drew O’Connor and defenseman Ty Smith, but also includes prospects Jonathan Gruden, Filip Hallander (who has signed to play in Europe), Colin Swoyer, Josh Maniscalco and Peter Diliberatore.
If a player is qualified, his team preserves the right to match any offer he would accept from another team or to receive compensation if it declines to match. If he does not get a qualifying offer, he becomes unrestricted and is free to sign with any club at noon Saturday.
Kyle Dubas, the Penguins’ president of hockey operations and interim GM, is expected to extend offers to Poehling, O’Connor and Smith, but it is unclear which of the others he is interested in keeping.
The Penguins retain exclusive negotiating rights to their pending free agents until noon Saturday.
Dubas has not indicated which of those he considers a priority to hold onto, and said that the acquisition of Reilly Smith from Vegas Wednesday was not an indication that the Penguins don’t expect to bring back Jason Zucker, their second-line left winger.
In addition to Zucker, the Pittsburgh Penguins’ unrestricted-free-agents-to-be are goalie Tristan Jarry, defensemen Brian Dumoulin and Dmitry Kulikov and forwards Josh Archibald, Nick Bonino and Danton Heinen.
If the Penguins do not reach a contract agreement with Jarry, finding a new No. 1 goaltender, whether via free agency or a trade, figures to be a top priority for Dubas this summer.
Minor-leaguers Drake Caggiula and Dustin Tokarski, both of whom made cameo appearances with the parent club last season, also have contracts that are about to expire and are expected to go on the market.