We’ve all heard the phrase “Christmas in July,” but there may not be a better use of the phrase than July 1 in the world of the National Hockey League.

July 1 is the beginning of the free agency frenzy and this could be a particularly interesting year for the Pittsburgh Penguins.

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The two most-coveted players on the market this year are Devils winger Zach Parise and Predators defenseman Ryan Suter.

Given the amount of money both are expected to command, it would seem unlikely that both, or even one of them lands in Pittsburgh. Various reports this morning have Parise demanding a $12 million signing bonus, which would practically eliminate the Penguins immediately, if true.

The Penguins are still likely to make a pitch for him, but there may be other options available on the market, including a guy like PA Parenteau from the Islanders.

Regardless of what happens, the Penguins need to address a couple of needs either via free agency or trade.

In my opinion, the biggest hole to fill is on defense. The Penguins did not play well defensively down the stretch and into the playoffs and were ultimately exposed by the Flyers. Defense has to be the main priority for General Manager Ray Shero at this point.

Another perennial hole the Pens look to fill is the top line winger for Sidney Crosby. Naturally, Parise on the wing would be a scary proposition for the other 29 teams in the league. However, the Penguins were the NHL’s top scoring team this past season, so offense isn’t really a big need.

Free agency starts at noon today and I’ll update this post with any major updates as they become available.

You can follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/sheavedice

UPDATE 11:24 a.m.

According to a TSN report, Jordan Staal signed a 10-year, $60 million extension with the Carolina Hurricanes. If that deal sounds familiar, it should. The Penguins offered the same deal to Staal prior to trading him at the NHL Draft last month.

His extension in Carolina tells me that he was fine with the $6 million per season salary, but did not want to play third fiddle to Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Sure, some may think this extension will create some bad blood between Staal and the Penguins.

Personally, I just don’t see it. I think if the Penguins would have offered him something in the range of 3-5 years at $6 million per, that Staal would have taken it. Accepting a 10-year deal to play behind two of the best players in the world and be forced into a 3rd line checking role with the amount of talent Staal has, can’t be appealing.

Either way, good luck to Jordan and thanks for all the great memories.

UPDATE 12 p.m.

Free agency is officially under way! I look forward to this day every year. Last year, we moved into our new house on July 1 and I followed all the coverage on my couch which had been broken down into pieces for the moving process. My how things change in a year.

UPDATE 12:40 p.m.

All’s quiet with the Pens thus far. Only some minor deals have been announced thus far with the most noteworthy being goaltender Jonas Gustavsson signing a 2-year $3 million deal with the Detroit Red Wings.

David Moss has also agreed to a 2-year deal with the Phoenix Coyotes.

Nothing groundbreaking to this point. This is clearly the calm before the storm phase of free agency.

UPDATE 1 p.m.

At this point, the Parise and Suter to Pittsburgh thoughts may be nothing more than a pipedream. Both want large money and bonuses that could see them get paid over $20 million in one calendar year. That’s a tough pill to swallow, but in a weak free agent pool, they can set their demands sky high and hope someone bites.

I just don’t see how the Penguins could pull this off, but you never know. Crosby has reached out to Parise as part of the Penguins’ pitch. However, they will not make an in-person pitch to Parise. Read into that however you want.

Flyers have made offers to Parise, Suter and Matt Carle, no clue how they would get more than one of them to sign, but that’s just me.

Matt Carkner and John Mitchell have also just agreed to terms with the Colorado Avalanche.

UPDATE 1:22 p.m. – Pens make first signing

The Penguins have made their first free agent signing. According to TSN’s Bob McKenzie, goaltender Jeff Zatkoff agreed to a two-year, two-way deal worth $525,000 in NHL and $105,000 in the minors.

Read more about Zatkoff here.

The Carkner signing situation above took a bizarre turn. McKenzie also said the team tweeted the announcement, but Carkner’s agent apparently hasn’t gotten any paperwork on it yet. No clue what’s going on.

TSN’s Darren Dreger is also reporting that bruiser Zenon Konopka has signed in Minnesota for two years. Terms of the deal have not been announced yet, but I wouldn’t be surprised if “an unlimited number of Mario Lemieux posters to tear up” was included somewhere in the language of the contract.

Joining Konopka in Minnesota will be Torrey Mitchell, who agreed to a 3-year deal worth $1.9 million per season.

Former Penguin, Colby Armstrong announced on his Twitter account that he has also signed a one-year deal with the Montreal Canadiens. The move comes on the heels of being bought out by the Toronto Maple Leafs. The move will reunite him with former Penguins coach Michel Therrien.

UPDATE 1:45 p.m.

The Dallas Stars have signed Ray Whitney to a two-year deal worth $9 million. Whitney has been linked in Penguins rumors for years, but you can now scratch his name off the list of potential forwards coming to Pittsburgh this season.

Update 1:56 p.m. – Penguins 2nd move of the day

The Pittsburgh Penguins have announced that they have resigned tough guy Steve MacIntyre to a 2-year, 2-way contract worth $625,000 at the NHL level.Pens sure are doing a lot to stock the farm, but nothing of any significance has developed for the NHL roster just yet.

This signing is rather perplexing though. In my mind, I would have spent the money on just about anything else. He only appeared in 12 games for the Pens last year and oh, by the way, this happened in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

In other news, Brad Boyes has signed a one-year, $1 million deal with the New York Islanders.

Still only about two hours into free agency and some of the big names are still out there.

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UPDATE 2:09 p.m. Pens Make 3rd Move Of Day/ Crosby Deal Official

According to Dreger, Riley Holzapfel has agreed to a one-year deal with the Penguins. Another move to stock the farm, but you can read more about him here.

The Penguins have also officially signed Sidney Crosby to a 12-year, $104.4 million deal. The deal was announced earlier this week, but could not officially be signed until July 1 per CBA rules.

TSN is also now reporting that Carkner has signed a three-year deal with the Islanders. Perhaps #CarknerWatch is finally over for the three people in the world paying close attention to it.

I’d love to know what happened with the Avs tweeting they had signed him about an hour ago. Perhaps someone hit the send button on Twitter a bit prematurely?

UPDATE 2:35 p.m. Pens 4th move of the day

Former Penguin Arron Asham has signed a 2-year, $2 million deal with the New York Rangers. I’m not surprised that the Penguins did not resign him considering how he went out in his final game with the club. 

What’s more surprising is that Asham will now have played for all five teams in the Atlantic Division in his career.

Also, the Penguins have signed forward Tanner Glass to a 2-year deal worth $1.1 million per year. Glass has five goals, 11 assists and 73 penalty minutes in 78 games with the Winnipeg Jets last year.

The Florida Panthers has signed defenseman Filip Kuba for a 2-year, $8 million contract as well. There’s another potential name on the blue line for the Penguins that is off the list.

A general observation so far today is that the bigger name players (Whitney, Kuba) to sign thus far are getting seriously overpaid. I can’t even imagine what’s going to happen with Parise and Suter now, but I still don’t think the Penguins get either of them.

UPDATE 3 p.m.

Dustin Penner has reportedly agreed to a one-year, $3 million deal to remain in Los Angeles.

As the TSN broadcast was wrapping up, both Pierre McGuire and Pierre LeBrun were alluding to the Penguins being confident in getting Parise. Still not sure how this gets done if Parise is asking for the $12 million signing bonus up front, but that’s the fun in free agency.

UPDATE 4 p.m.

Former Penguin Alexei Ponikarovsky has signed a one-year, $1.8 million deal with the Winnipeg Jets. His departure could be the third hole the Devils will have to fill if they lose out on Parise and Martin Brodeur.

The Blackhawks have also signed defenseman Sheldon Brookbank to a two-year deal.

The Florida Panthers have signed tough guy George Parros to a two-year deal as well.

Goaltender Chris Mason has signed a 1-year, $1.25 million deal with the Nashville Predators to be the backup to Pekka Rinne.

UPDATE 4:11 p.m.

According to McKenzie, PA Parenteau has signed a 4-year, $16 million deal with the Colorado Avalanche. Parenteau was one of the guys high up on my wish list for the Penguins, but is now the latest name to be scratched off of it.

UPDATE 5:47 p.m. Penguins sign local product

The Pittsburgh Penguins continue to bolster their minor league system by signing defenseman Dylan Reese away from the New York Islanders. The contract is for one year and is a two-way deal.  If the name sounds familiar to folks in western Pennsylvania, it should. Reese is from Upper St. Clair.

Also, one player the Penguins may have been targeting should they come up empty on Suter was Bryan Allen. However, the Anaheim Ducks have signed him to a three-year deal worth $3.5 million annually. Allen was another on my list of hopefuls, but the waiting game continues on Suter and Parise.

Various reports out there are now suggesting that Parise will not be making a decision today and will likely make it on Monday.

The longer the waiting game goes, the more viable options on the market will disappear for the Penguin, which will force them to pursue trades in order to fill holes..

It’s pretty evident that the Penguins’ offseason plan is resting at minimum on what happens with Parise. For now, the clock keeps ticking.

UPDATE 7:47 p.m. Penguins make another addition to farm.

The Pittsburgh Penguins added yet another piece to the minor league system by signing Warren Peters to a one-year two-way contract.

Read more about Peters here.

In other news, Sheldon Souray has signed a 3-year, $11 million deal with the Anaheim Ducks.

The Vancouver Canucks lost Sami Salo earlier in the day to the Tampa Bay Lightning, but reloaded with defenseman Jason Garrison. The deal is reportedly for 6 years and will pay him $4.6 million per year.

Garrison was another guy I had on the list of potential fits for the Penguins’ blue line.

UPDATE 9:33 p.m. Pens make yet another minor league signing

The Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins have been the big movers and shakers on day one of NHL free agency. The Penguins have now just added forward Trevor Smith to the minor league pipeline with a one-year, two-way contract worth $575,000 at the NHL level.

Read more about Smith here.

UPDATE 10 p.m.

Calling it a night folks. Seems Parise and Suter will be waiting until Monday to open the floodgates on the rest of the free agent pool. Stay tuned everyone!


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