Connect with us

NHL Free Agency

Agent: UFAs Should Be Drawn to Penguins



Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby gains Hart Trophy talk. More NHL trade rumors

Sure, he knows that the Pittsburgh Penguins are one of the NHL’s oldest teams.

And, yeah, he’s aware that they have missed the Stanley Cup playoffs for two years in a row and haven’t won a postseason series since 2018.

He also understands that they often must deal with significant constraints imposed by the NHL’s salary cap.

Doesn’t matter.

Not enough, anyway, to disabuse Rick Curran — one of hockey’s most veteran and respected player agents — of the idea that Pittsburgh is an especially attractive landing spot for free agents.

While that might seem counterintuitive to some, Curran’s rationale is rooted in a number of strongly held beliefs.

His list starts — as do so many things with this franchise — with Sidney Crosby.

“The fact is, Sidney Crosby’s getting older, but even though he’s getting older, look at the season he just had,” Curran said Friday. “From an ability standpoint, from a performance standpoint, he’s still as good as — if not better than — most of the guys in the National Hockey League.

“My feeling would be that, if you’re a team knocking on the door for a Cup, you’re going to attract the type of free agent who’s probably played 15 to 20 years, never won a Cup (but have) come close, and may feel that this is an opportunity to grab something before the curtain falls, which is within another year or two. You’ll recognize that category of free agent because it’s obvious — they’re older guys and they’d all like to be like (longtime Boston defenseman Raymond) Bourque, who went to Colorado and won a Stanley Cup. It’s a feel-good situation, and there’s nothing wrong with it.”

Curran was quick to note, however, that Crosby’s allure is not limited to players looking to write a final chapter in their careers.

“We have a couple of young free agents and our take on it is, for one of those young players, the opportunity to play with someone like Sidney Crosby — to play with him as a teammate, to learn from him, as a person — I just think that’s invaluable,” he said. “If you’re 27, 28 years old and you have an opportunity to go to a franchise that’s going through a bit of a transition, the opportunity to play with a guy like Sidney Crosby, to me that would be invaluable.

“And also recognize that, with the right attitude, that 27- or 28-year-old who would go with Pittsburgh and learn from Sidney might find himself being maybe one of the cornerstones of their transition. So there might be a wonderful opportunity for him.”

Curran, it should be noted, said he has no ties to Crosby, that he has met him only once. Consequently, his observations are based on what he has witnessed and things he has been told by clients who’ve played for the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Crosby’s presence, however, is not the only factor Curran thinks can lure free agents here.

“I think (Mike Sullivan) is a great coach,” he said. “I think (assistant coach) Mike Vellucci has put his time in. I know from conversations with clients that they have a great level of communication. I know that (Sullivan) is a great communicator; not so much in a loud way, but if he says something to you, you know he means it. … There are so many of those guys out there who say what they say, but they don’t mean it. You never really know where you stand with them, because they’re so full of (crap). Whereas if a guy like (Sullivan) looks you in the eye and tells you something, you’d better listen, because he’s telling you the truth.”

Curran also offered a strong endorsement of Kyle Dubas, who is nearing the end of his first year as the team’s president of hockey operations and general manager.

“I think Kyle Dubas is going to do a really good job,” he said. “I know some of his personnel; I think (assistant GM) Jason Spezza is someone most people in hockey always saw as having a (front-office) future. … They’re not sitting back. They want to be competitive, particularly with the personnel they have and with Sidney still there. … They’re looking to try to improve every year and that, in effect, attracts other people.”

Curran, whose client list of Penguins players stretches from Mark Recchi to Gary Roberts to Jeff Carter, declined an offer to offer his assessment of Pittsburgh as a free-agent destination anonymously, saying that, “Anything I have to say, I’d say it to anybody.”

Another agent, who asked that his identity not be revealed, largely echoed Curran’s evaluation, with one noteworthy caveat about joining a team whose lineup is built around aging veterans Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang and Crosby.

“I would 100 percent recommend Pittsburgh,” the agent said. “They have the culture, the coaching, the staff works hard, they’re honest with players and agents. … If I had a guy looking for a (long-term) deal — yeah, there would be some hesitation (because of) the situation with the Big Three — but I have to admit Kyle does a good job of finding guys. It’s an attractive place to play. No one ever says a bad thing about Pittsburgh, right?”

Precisely how much the Pittsburgh Penguins will be able to invest in free agents remains to be seen, but Curran said free agents should not focus solely on their paycheck when selecting a team.

“Whenever I have a free agent and we’re looking at different scenarios, I always tell the guy to look at it like everybody is giving you a dollar,” he said. “The same dollar. Don’t make your decision on the dollar. Make your decision on so many other criteria.

“What kind of an organization is it? What are the people like? Do you know anybody on the team, who’s a former teammate? Do you know anybody who’s a current teammate who knows anybody who’s a former teammate? What is the practice facility like? What is the travel like? Where are they geographically located? Reputation-wise, are they a quality organization? Will they spend when it’s necessary to try to win? What’s their coaching staff? Is it somebody you know?”

The answers to those questions, he suggested, should be enough to steer some free agents this way.