Monday, June 27, 2011

Penguins Don't Qualify Tyler Kennedy; Is He A Fit For Rangers?

The deadline for NHL teams to extend qualifying offers to their restricted free agents was 5:00 pm today.  In one of the more surprising decisions the Pittsburgh Penguins decided not to extend a qualifying offer to Tyler Kennedy.  There could be any number of reasons that the Penguins chose not to qualify Kennedy, but the move still makes little sense.  If the Penguins were truly afraid of what he was going to be offered in arbitration, they could have still qualified him and then walked away from the award.  At least by qualifying him they would have the right to match an offer sheet or collect compensation.  Strange move for a team that needs wingers and is now letting arguably their best forward in the second half walk for nothing.  The question now on the table: Should the Rangers pursue Kennedy as an unrestricted free agent?

Kennedy, 24, had a breakout season for the Penguins scoring 21 goals and adding 24 assists in 80 games.  The breakout for Kennedy was in large part due to the injuries to Sidney Crosby and Evegeni Malkin that forced Kennedy into a more offensive role and he responded.  Is he an answer for the Rangers in the top six? No.  Is he more of what the Rangers already have in the system? Probably. 

The key to the whole thing, as with most free agents, is what his demands are.  Kennedy is likely a third line player on a good team that has numbers inflated because of the drastic increase in opportunities based on the Penguins’ injury situation.  If Kennedy is looking to cash in big on his couple months of output, then the Rangers should stay away.  However, if the asking price is reasonable, then the Rangers will likely be interested.  Reasonable for Kennedy is likely going to end up in the $2-2.5 million range, which should make him more attractive than bringing back Ruslan Fedotenko for $1.5 million. 

As was said in my twitter conversation with @Juggs88 and @TheWrage, the determining factor, beyond price, is likely whether the Rangers believe that a player like Carl Hagelin can be ready for the season.  I think Hagelin can be so I would likely pass on Kennedy, but it never hurts to have depth.