It’s been a little over 24 hours since NHL free agency started, and I have mixed emotions about what the Penguins did.
Christian Ehrhoff is a great defenseman. One year/$4m is a great price.
But the Penguins didn’t really need Ehrhoff. The Penguins need wingers.
If signing Ehrhoff means the Penguins can’t sign winger Nikolai Kulemin, that’s bad. Kulemin has history with Evgeni Malkin and could be a good fit.
Perhaps it’s time to trade Paul Martin.
GM Jim Rutherford says that adding Ehrhoff doesn’t affect Martin’s status with the Penguins. Maybe it should. Martin is heading into the last year of his contract. It’s said that Martin doesn’t want to re-sign with the Penguins.
Trade Martin for a good bottom-six forward. Use the cap space to sign Kulemin.
The Penguins currently have 11 defensemen that can play at the NHL level. That’s not depth. That’s stupid. If the Pens trade a prospect, it doesn't help the cap. Trade a vet. Play a prospect.
Who are the top six forwards? Malkin. Sidney Crosby. Chris Kunitz. Patric Hornqvist. Pascal Dupuis, if he’s recovered from knee surgery – and, at 35, he’d make a better bottom-six. Beau Bennett, if he’s healthy – which isn’t often.
Rutherford speculates that first-round pick Kasperi Kapanen could make the team, or that Nick Spaling could play top six. That’s desperation talking.
Like Rutherford said, the team we see at camp won’t be the team that plays in the playoffs. But this could be more than a one-year fix. Rutherford has done a good job so far. But the Penguins aren’t yet close to what they need to be.
Kulemin has not yet signed. Perhaps Rutherford can get him to take a cheap one-year deal and angle for big money next year after a season skating with Malkin.

Image Courtesy of Abelimages / 2014 Getty Images.